Tonight was the traditional family dinner at Celia’s.  We started arriving right before our 6pm reservation, only to be told we didn’t have a reservation – even though Eileen had been called by the restaurant earlier in the day to confirm.  30 people on a Saturday night and no reservation.  Not good.

It only took a few minutes and a phone call to the person who had called us.  They realized their error, jumped into gear, and had us seated in minutes.

We had big people at one end, crying babies and little children at the other.  The side room at Celia’s is one of those places where the decible level is always just below that of a jet airplane.  Adding another 30 people in there just isn’t an issue.

The pitchers of Margarita’s started flowing, and bowls of homemade chips and fiery hot salsa were consumed while 2 servers expertly took orders.  Conversation never stopped, and a roar went up every time a new member arrived. More hugs and kisses, another pitcher or two of margaritas, another place-setting added to the table.  Just like home.

I actually changed my order this time.  For more years than I care to remember, I’ve pretty much ordered the same Combinacióne Grande – Enchilada, taco, and tamal.  Really good, always more food than I need, but… what the heck.  Tradition is tradition.

Tonight, I was a rebel.

I espied the Chicken Enchilada Mole and decided tacos and tamals were a thing of the past.  The description stated: Two chicken enchiladas topped with melted jack cheese, mole sauce and onions, served with rice and refried beans, cole slaw and tortillas. It was the onions that sealed the deal.  I like onions.

The enchilada was solid chicken.  Tender, shredded chunks of chicken that had been simmered in a rich sauce were encased in corn tortillas, topped with an adequate mole sauce, melted cheese and raw onion moons.  I only say “adequate” because I have had better, although not on the east coast.  The most authentic Mexican food you find around our area is a Taco Bell.

We ate, we talked, we drank and we laughed.  Plates were cleared and all of a sudden singing erupts in the room and plates with lit candles are placed in front of me and in front of Victor.

The whole room is singing “Happy Anniversary” to us in honor of our 14th Anniversary and almost-wedding.  Good thing I’m not the emotional type. I was pretty much ready to cry.  It’s those small acts that mean so much.

The plate was crunchy fried flour tortillas with cinnamon and sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream.  Really simple, but really flavorful.

I had a steady succession of little girls coming down to help me blow out the candle – again and again – and get a spoonful of ice cream spoon-fed from (great) Uncle Tim.  We then passed the desserts down to the kiddie end of the table for them to have at it.  It’s great fun to spoil them and then give them back.  I like it.

Two and a half hours after walking in – and a mere $586.57 later – we were on our way back to Eileen’s.

Thanks for the last dinner, Pop.