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Enough Al Fresco

The return of indoor dining is celebrated by our columnist and family.

Fran LoBiondo
by Fran LoBiondo

Things are looking up in this area. Restaurants are opening for indoor dining now, although some people still prefer to eat outside.

For our son Greg, no food is finer than Chili’s. We went through a whole summer of his efforts to change his world back the way it was before the shut down, and his disappointment when he could not.


“What, Greg?”

“Chili’s Original Crispers and French fries and Sprite?”

This, after several weeks of explaining that all restaurants are closed, and his day program, and his Saturday respite program all shut down, and no one’s there. Everyone’s staying home because there’s a coronavirus that could make us very sick.

Finally, Dad got tired of explaining, and wrote it down. Now when Greg starts to ask the same questions incessantly, we just pull out the sheet, and he can read it himself. But sometimes that backfires. He follows me around reading it to out loud to me.

Sometimes he gets sad because he thinks we don’t get what he’s asking. We get it, but it’s out of our hands. So we were excited when Chili’s advertised takeout service.


“Yes, Greg?”


“Yes, we can get Chili’s, but you have to eat it at home just like Taco Bell or Wendy’s.”

We still weren’t getting it. He got belligerent.


Weeks later, the place opened its dining room, and we went in with a smiling Gregory. He got his chicken crispers, his parents split a burger, and Mom ordered a celebratory Margarita, no salt.


We had several successful outdoor dinners with the family over the summer, and they were very relaxing. Our grandson, Ben, was quite the gentleman. He sat in his chair and ate his meal, and then it was time to explore. He grabbed his aunt’s hand and said, “Come on, Zia, you’re aposed to play with me!”

Zia Therese got up smiling and followed. Ben’s parents smiled as well. We gamely kept all flies and skeeters out of Therese’s drink until they returned from their adventures, flush and thirsty.

Gregory also was calm and happy to eat outside. Give him a big side of fries, and all is right in his world.

We are approaching the first day of autumn. Although there were so many cool things we missed out on since March, I am surprised summer went by so fast. I didn’t do much gardening, but I managed to keep two formerly indoor plants alive in the blazing heat, and I’m still picking fresh basil from my one plant. I have been steadfast in watering them each day, and they haven’t turned black and keeled over yet.

I hope we have a sunny, gentle fall with not too much pumpkin pie spice in my everything. A few of my most odious pairings—pumpkin toothpaste, deodorant, cheesesteaks, dryer sheets, kale omelets and Italian subs.

But I love the fall, its colorful leaves carpeting the ground we walk on, the scent of flowers still in bloom, and the last picking of corn and ripe tomatoes on the table.

I am tired of the summer clothes in my closet, but I dare not switch them for winter sweaters and jeans, because they might not fit me anymore.

My weight ping-pongs from season to season, and today’s baggy clamdiggers might be next month’s tightly stuffed capris. Neither is a particularly fetching look.

I only hope the new season brings us comfortable casual clothes in bright fall colors. I know what I like, but it’s not always in season.

We have three family weddings coming up from May to September, and I can only hope to luck out when I go dress hunting. Our mother’s fabric goal when shopping for a mother-of- the -groom dress was, “Nothing that sits on my hips and shines.” Because “A dress should be nice, but it also should do something for you.”

Try it sometime. It could save you a lot of time and money.

I wish everyone huge, cleansing breaths of fresh fall air.