I don’t think I ever thanked Mrs. Costa or Mrs. Casey for all those lunches and dinners. I’m sure I said “thanks” but I still owe both of them a big THANK YOU for so many meals.
Grubbing a meal at your friend’s house was usually more about the inconvenience of leaving than the allure of a different home cooked meal. Maybe we just got the slot car track set up in Gary Costa’s basement or Tom Casey and I were engaged in a touch football game out front. Either way, staying over for a meal meant the fun would continue after lunch or dinner.
Running home for a quick meal opened the risk that your own mother would require you to clean your room or some equally horrible task before you could go back out and play. The odds were better if you just stayed away a few more hours.
There was more strategy in a meal request than you would imagine from an 11-year-old. Gary’s father, for example, got home from work early and dinner at the Costa’s started around 4:30. My father didn’t get home until 5:45 so dinner at the Carroll’s was always at 6 p.m. On a good night we could score a nice Italian dinner at the Costa’s and ride our bikes to my house in time for some roast beef.
If one of the dinner’s was a loser on our rating scale – we promptly made plans to eat at the other house. The trick was finding out what each mom was cooking before announcing our evening plans.
The conversation started with Gary asking “mom, can Timmy stay for dinner.” “He needs to call his mother first,” she would shout down the stairs. “Hi mom, can I eat dinner at Gary’s? Mrs. Costa says it’s alright,” I would say on the phone. “Ok but make sure you thank her and be home by 8,” she would respond.
Strangely enough there was always enough food at both houses as though our mothers knew we would be inviting company. Moms are smart like that.
As I got older, I spent many hours at Tom Casey’s home killing time in those years when we were too old for toys and too young for a summer job. PlayStation would have filled that gap so well but we settled on endless games of Cribbage and Chess and even Pong.
Even though she was cooking for eight children, Mrs. Casey never blinked at adding one or two at the end of the bench. On any given night, there was probably one or two Casey’s working or enjoying meals at friend’s homes just like we were, so it probably evened out.
I don’t remember what Mrs. Costa or Mrs. Casey cooked but I do remember there was always a friendly conversation that made me feel like one of the family. It was a glimpse into other people’s homes and routines and I don’t think I ever appreciated it enough. So, thank you moms for all those surprise meals and kindness. By the way, “do you mind if I sleep over tonight? I have a room back home that needs to be cleaned!”