by Karen Topakian
It was hot day. It was a sunny day. It was summer in New England. The grass was long and my father needed to cut it.
He returned home from his job, donned a white v-neck T-shirt and a pair of baggy grey shorts. He walked into the garage, pulled out the power mower and started to cut the grass in the back yard of my parent’s suburban ranch house.
Before he finished, my mother yelled that dinner was ready. In he walked to the kitchen, washed his hands and sat at the table ready to eat. Tiny beads of sweat had formed on his upper lip, his stomach growled ever so slightly. He was ready to eat.
My mother glanced over at him from the stove and asked, “Armen, what are you wearing?”
“Why?” he asked. (My family often answers a question with a question.)
“A T-shirt,” he said. “I was cutting the grass.”
“I know you were cutting the grass,” she said. “But you’re wearing that to dinner?”
“What am I supposed to wear, a suit?”
“Are those my only two choices?” she asked.
In a few moments, she placed a platter of ham steaks and sliced pineapple rings on the table.. My sister and I served ourselves. My parents ate without any further discussion about his attire.
A week later, after the rain poured and the sun shone, the grass had grown. My father returned from work, tired and hot from a long day, changed into a v-neck T-shirt and the same pair of shorts. He pulled the power mower out of the garage and proceeded to cut the backyard once again.
When dinner was ready my mother called to my father to come inside. He entered from the backyard, washed his hands, sat at the table ready to eat.
Again my mother asked, “Armen?” pointing at his T-shirt.
“What? I’m cutting the grass,” he said.
She shook her head, “Do you have to wear that to the dinner table?”
“I’m not changing my clothes to eat. I’ll be outside in another 20 minutes. I just have to cut the front yard and the side.”
She sat down at her seat carefully unbuttoned the five buttons on her white cotton three-quarter length sleeved shirt. Removed it. Hung it over the back of her chair and began to serve us our dinner: spaghetti with meat sauce and salad with Italian dressing.
“Alice, what are you doing?,” asked my father.
“I’m serving dinner,” she said.
“But you’re in your bra.”
“I know. If you can eat dinner in your undershirt, then why can’t I can eat mine in my bra?”
And that’s exactly what she did. And no one said another word about it.