“HOW did you guys meet?”
Jon stops mid-garlic-smash with the blade of a knife and looks across the kitchen table at his partner, Nate. They raise their eyebrows at each other, and both of them look to their twelve-year-old daughter, Lizzie, who hadn’t paused in peeling a potato when she asked.
“Um,” Nate says. “It was before we moved to New York… so it was in LA.…”
“Funny story, actually,” Jon says. Nate looks to Jon and opens his eyes wide in a way that seems to scream, No, my God, what are you doing?, but Jon waves a hand at him and looks to Lizzie, who nonchalantly moves on to another potato. She looks at them expectantly, and Jon smiles, always a little gleeful and terrified when she mirrors an expression that is so unbelievably Nate, it’s hard to believe she’s real.
“I’ll tell you about our first date,” Jon says, turning back to the garlic he had abandoned momentarily. “Because, truth be told, we don’t really… remember how we met.”
“Really?” she asks as she looks to Nate for confirmation. “But—well, okay.”
“But what?” Nate asks.
“I was expecting something totally gross and romantic, but this sounds way more fun,” she replies.
“Oh honey,” Nate says. “Don’t even. When you know that it all ends here in our kitchen, with you peeling potatoes on a Saturday afternoon, believe me—it’s totally gross and romantic.”
“Totally?” Lizzie laughs.
“Like, so gross and romantic. Deep fried romance, and it’ll teach you something about—well, I don’t know if there’s a lesson in it.”
“So can I tell the story or what?” Jon asks.
“Yes, please, story,” Lizzie says. “How many more potatoes do I need to peel?”
“Every potato ever grown,” Nate says as he shoves a few more toward her. “Start now, you should be done by the time you can drive.”
“I’m going to look up lawyers to emancipate me during story time,” Lizzie says confidently. “The story’s just a big distraction, actually. I’m running away.”
“Come on, you guys,” Jon whines. “Now I want to tell the story! Lizzie, you can run away later, after the potatoes and our story. You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this story!”
“But she’s running away,” Nate says as he chops his assigned mixed vegetables. “Does she want to hear how we’re responsible for this state she’s in? The one she has to flee?”
“I’m bored already,” Lizzie interrupts. “Dad, can you check my e-mail for me on my phone? It’s right over—”
“No e-mail during family time,” Jon says sharply. “Okay, shut up everyone, I’m telling a story. It all started, um, I guess five years before you were born. No… more than that.”
“No, less, I think—I think it was four,” Nate says. “Right, because it was two years before—well, you’ll get to it.”
“Right, right, okay, so flashback: four years before you were born. Dad and I were still acting a lot—I was on this awful but popular prime-time drama, and Dad was filming episodes for TV shows that would never get picked up because that was his luck.”
“And one night—”
“My story!” Jon laughs. “And one night, our mutual friends threw a party and we… drank a little too much.”
“Gross, I don’t think I want to hear this,” Lizzie interrupts, scrunching her nose and determined to focus on the potato in her hand and nothing else. “This isn’t a kid’s story!”
“If you let me get on with it, you’ll see what a good job I did of editing this for your innocent ears,” Jon assures her.
“Because you’re twelve and that boy who keeps calling the house—”
“This isn’t about me!” Lizzie says as she laughs and turns a bright, bright red.
“Honey, I think you’ve peeled that potato back into… whatever potatoes grow from. Seeds? Where do potatoes come from?” Nate asks.
“I can look it up on my—”
“No phones during family time! Can I tell this story or what?” Jon asks.
“I guess,” Lizzie sighs. “So you and Dad drank too much, so what? Don’t make it gross.”
Jon glances at Nate, who looks up from almost slicing his finger off and grins at Jon, urging him on with the story now that there would be no more interruptions for at least five minutes. Jon clears his throat and says, “So your dad and I were at the same party, drank a little too much, and I woke up one Saturday morning, really hungover.”
“Oh, ew, was—”
“Ahem. It was 2007, and I woke up next to my new, first-generation iPhone, already proving itself to be my savior.”
“Wow, that’s old,” Lizzie laughs. “Did it have a keyboard? And like, buttons?”
“Not important!” Jon replies.
“Four buttons,” Nate interrupts.
“That’s it, total silence until the awesome story of how I met your father is over—no talking.”