Welcome to the Club

The Finer Things in Life

Cute sister Jaimie giving Izzy Ossetra caviar on a mother of pearl spoon. (caviar, baby puffs and milk in a bottle. aren't those the big three?)

A few weeks ago, I went with my sisters and my mom to this place in Disneyland called Club 33. It’s a members only thing with the crystal and shiny cutlery that usually accompanies anything that costs more than most people pay in rent. (That last sentence was written in my sarcastic voice. But some of my readers aren't hearing it. So I'm putting it in here as a note. Read description of crystal and cutlery as funny, not serious. Also....much more than I pay in rent, for sure. Now, go on with your regularly scheduled reading.) I grew up going there.. My dad used the membership for clients, but my family got to reap its exclusive benefits. When I was younger, you rang a bell to get into a small side door in Disney’s New Orleans Square. Once you announced yourself,

“Conley, Party of six.”

you were buzzed into a red velvet room with an iron worked elevator and a woman with a smile. My parents would take the stairs while us kids giggled up the halting elevator. Some of my favorite childhood memories took place at the top of that ascent. (Like the time Priscella Presley ate at the the table next to us. Which only ranked second to the time the waiter brought me seconds of the bacon that came with my lemon chicken.) I always felt like I was in such rarefied air. It was quiet and wood trimmed. The restaurant’s tables had white linen and shining silver and the waiters always brought out fancy shirley temple drinks with extra cherries. It was my first and most formative transformation of space. I spent every lunch hour there marveling that the I world I was in sat just atop another world that bustled and lined and sweated and thrilled. One wasn’t better than the other, it was simply instructive that they could be found on the same little street.

Into my teen years, the wonder didn’t really leave. I loved buzzing new friends into that side door. Talking like grown ups around a table set in a place that still held so much of the color of our childhood.

Nearly everything about Club 33 has changed and in adulthood things like Disneyland have lost much of their charm. But somehow this last time, surrounded by my sisters and our squealing kids, it all felt like it used to years ago. Zuzu was all wide eyes up the new blue staircase and Viola shouted BEYOOOIFUL at the blown glass flower lamps. There was still a white linen table covering and Zuzu held up the spoon to look at her reflection in its shine. Our waiter (a man named Robert that accurately predicted I would enjoy the pork belly wrapped pork loin) kept all the kids drinks well temple’d. My mom sat at the head of the table and while everyone talked and the kids yelled and the parents shushed and laughed, it almost felt like my dad was with us.

We chomped on caviar while the kids ate cheetos out of our purses. (We are nothing if not eclectic in our tastes.) At one point Izzy, my sister’s one year old daughter, reached for her little spoon full of fish eggs. We laughed and decided to see if she liked the taste. She did. All wide eyed and grunting for more, she smacked her hands against one another when she wasn’t give a spoonful of it in a timely mannery. Our waiter came to the table laughing.

“One of the waitresses said you are feeding that baby caviar. I want to see it. Do it again.”

And so my sister did and Izzy cooed and we all laughed at the ridiculousness of a baby that loves something that is $125 an ounce. The rest of the meal was lovely and chaotic and well met with Pirates of the Caribbean upon leaving.

While we walked around the park, I thought about that baby and the caviar. Why was it so ridiculous that she loved that spoonful of bright bursting tastes of the ocean? Should we be shocked when our children love the highly valued or shocked when they do not? And then the question that stopped me just long enough to get nearly run over by one of those moving trash bins...What am I feeding my daughters? (Listen, we’re entering the territory of metaphor here, I’m not talking about exorbitantly expensive foodstuffs. Heaven knows, that most of the time we are more of a beans and rice and “what else can eggs make?” kind of family.) I’m talking about the expectations and means they are served every day. What experiences am I teaching them to savor? Have I presented them with literature on a silver plate? Am I helping to expand their palate so that they can relish life, know that they deserve every rare and valued taste? Will I help them understand that sustenance means more than the processed messages and images and aspirations handed to them from society’s cacophonous table? Is it possible that they will leave my home able to discern between the well seasoned and the undone? Will they have been schooled enough in the process of living to be able to enter the kitchen (so to speak) and create the existence they want and deserve?

Suddenly, Izzy and her reaching mouth didn’t make me laugh anymore. It wasn’t so much funny as it was wondrous. A little thing, only been on Earth for 12 months, loving the taste of something that’s been enjoyed on record since the court of Genghis Khan’s grandson. Perhaps we are sent here ready to seek out the sweet and savor. Perhaps we need to start expecting our children to be ready for some of the things that we consider rare and elevated. We should spoonfeed them Dickinson and Swift and Dante and Shakespeare. We should sprinkle astronomy across their breakfast table and top their desserts with the questions of the ages. Those things all taste just right plated with the pantry staples of childhood like fairy tales and make believe. We should feast and break and join to feast again.

And yes, we should all cut ourselves a little more slack when they sneak the proverbial cheetos out of our purses. Not every moment can be a caviar moment, after all.

That’s nearly as important a lesson as all the rest.

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The blue stairs behind the blue door that lead up to Club 33.