After more than three decades in the restaurant business, I know a few things. Some of the knowledge I’ve gained is related to food – how to make a buerre blanc or hollandaise and what to do with an excess of vegetables (frittata, risotto or soup).
I’ve learned about wine and spirits and the significance of all the minutia that is involved with creating an atmosphere that welcomes guests and makes them want to return. All of this is important to being successful in the hospitality industry but it pales in comparison to what I’ve come to know about people.
As a server my focus, naturally, is on my guests. I sincerely want those that I take care of to be happy and I have been so fortunate to be able to wait on some of the same people since my long ago undergraduate days. They’ve witnessed my life and the connection we share crosses our respective sides of the table to a place somewhere in the middle. Many of them know which nights I work and I do my best to recall who likes to sit where and which glass of wine they enjoyed last time they were in. We’re familiar with one another.
Over the years, though, there have been situations which have proven that the most valuable thing I have learned about the restaurant business is that the people I have worked with are my family. We’ve shared annoyances, laughter and the stress of a life that is utterly unpredictable every single shift. At the end of the night, while counting money and emptying trash bins, we have connected over a glass of wine (or two) and then hugged good night before heading to our cars to return to our other families.
It’s been a really tough couple of months for my family. The losses right now are so utterly outweighing triumphs and joys that my heart is echoing with absence. As we come together again to support one another, to embrace each other in love and sorrow during a time which feels impossibly tragic, the ability of our industry to create connections between people eclipses in importance any other aspect of the job.
Each shift on the floor comes with the guarantee of there being something new to witness or with which to contend. At this time of sadness, it is vital that we also remember with that same certainty that we are a family. Always.
Don’t even approach my body unless you’ve first been between my ears. I’m 48, not 18.
True love isn’t roses and chocolate. It’s starting my car on a winter’s morning or bringing home pizza on a Friday night.
Love is buying me the Sunday paper on Saturday so I don’t have to go outside on a cold morning.
Love means being able to continue to believe.
If you peek at my Facebook account you’ll see that I have more than 700 virtual friends. Pretty impressive, right? Thanks to the wonders of social media, I am absolutely swimming in friendship! Look a little closer, though, and you’ll discover that many of my friends are people I don’t really ever see, except for online. Whether it’s due to distance or time, we simply don’t really have occasion to be together in real life. Does this mean we aren’t really friends? How do you define a true friend?
Over the years, I’ve learned that the number of friends I have isn’t really that important. No, that’s not really how I measure friendship. You see, it’s not about the counting of, instead, it is very much about the counting on. True friends are the ones on which we can rely upon to do as they say and follow through on their promises, regardless of how infrequently we actually see one another in person. Those are the people who add immensely to our lives. Each day brings a new opportunity to be that kind of friend. Count on it.
In 2001, I accepted a librarian position at Mohonasen High School. Although I only remained in the district for three years (the position which I currently hold became available and I had to go for it), I made some wonderful friends, worked with some cool students and was introduced to some great music. One English teacher, if you can imagine, during my brief tenure exposed me to Jeff Buckley, Wilco and the White Stripes. Talk about getting an education!
My middle son was a toddler when I got a bootleg of the White Stripes’ Elephant and the song Seven Nation Army quickly became one of the songs he always requested in the car. Repeatedly, of course. It didn’t matter because I wanted to hear it, too. Loud.
Fast forward a dozen years or so, New York City, that same son and I walking up 7th Avenue. We were on our way to catch Jack White at Madison Square Garden… My son is tall, maybe 6’1″ and he looks comfortable. It’s the third weekend in January that he’s been in the city and it shows in his confident stride. He’s got a new phrase he’s been running recently, “you be you,” he says. I love it.
I think I was 15 at my first show at the Garden, just like he is. Unlike Griffin, I never went to a rock show with my mother, not even in my imagination. Never. I understand that taking your kid to an adult-ish sort of venue can define one as a “cool” mom, and it’s a term I’m okay with except for the fact that I think it’s too small of a name.
You see, I take my kid(s) places that we both want to go because I’m a person who has interests. When my sons and I share experiences together we always learn something – about each other, ourselves, something. I love my sons, even adore them at times, but they aren’t my entire world. They’re who I want to share my world with. That’s what I want my children to take away from our outings and shows, trips and vacations.
As far as Friday night’s show in NYC, it was very much like time spent with my guys – really fun and not quite as much as I would have liked. Absolutely memorable.
Many years ago a friend in the midst of the disintegration of her marriage, told me she didn’t want to be responsible for her husband’s happiness. Since that time, I’ve learned what that felt like and I’ve heard other women say the same thing, although not always using the same words. Who are you responsible for making happy?
I’ve learned that I can contribute to someone’s happiness. I may on occasion even inspire another’s happiness. But, when it comes to making someone happy, I don’t think it is possible for me to make it so. The only person I have the ability to make happy is myself.
I may at times be self-indulgent, but I don’t believe I can accurately be described as selfish. When I think about making myself happy, it isn’t at another’s expense. In fact, if I don’t take the time to ensure my own pleasure with life, the only one who pays is me.
So? What made me happy today? A morning yoga class (more about that tomorrow), errands and chores, a long walk with my celebrity dog,* watching a hawk swoop across the road in front of me, cooking some simple and delicious food and the anticipation of a half-time bubble bath.
What did you do today to make yourself happy?
*Did you see Jeter in Thursday’s Times Union? He’s been recognized each day since his photo was published.
The day we first met Jeter
The youngest of my “boys” recently celebrated his first birthday and, while the occasion was a happy one to mark, I also noted the date with a tinge of sadness. That year certainly went quickly. When I thought about the number of years we got to love Cassidy (12.5) and started doing simple math in my head, I got a bit melancholy considering how few more years we can expect Jeter to be our baby. It simply doesn’t feel like nearly enough.
I don’t dwell on the lack of how much time remains, but I do find myself conscious of it. I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. The older I get, the more I value it. What to do with my time and who to spend it with are two of the most important decisions I make each day. What once seemed infinite has definitely evolved into being one of life’s most precious gifts. It’s true, time is a present and I’ve vowed to become even more discriminating about how I use it.
When it comes to time, how long are you willing to invest in someone? What length of time would you give a person to show you their very best? A week? A year? Or, are you of the mindset that we’re all works in progress and it is acceptable to wait forever? It’s a tough call, one we each have to make (and live with) ourselves.
How do we ever know if we’ve done the right thing(s) with our time? As my oldest son gets ready to make decisions about where to continue to his education and to leave home, I wonder how the time of our living under the same roof went by so remarkably fast. Is he ready? Did his father and I sufficiently prepare him for what comes next? Was our time together well spent?
Is there a way to ever truly know? Or, maybe a means to just slow down the clock?
While it may be early in the new year, I think we have a real contender for most ridiculous statement of 2015. Did you see the article in Saturday’s NYT about the day spas for children which are popping up around the country? Well, I’m not even going to address that topic because folks are free to spend their money however they like, but a statement made by a Colorado mother who treated her children to a day’s worth of pampering may just explain the sad state (and future) of our country. Ready? Here it is:
“I don’t want them to feel that my saying ‘no’ means that I don’t love them.”
Go ahead – read it again. Really?? Is that truly something that a parent fears? Are adults afraid to tell their children “no” because they are concerned that their child(ren) will somehow interpret denial as a lack of love? Please say it isn’t so.
When I say ‘no’ it means that I believe something isn’t possible, necessary or deserved. When I say ‘no’ it is often more difficult than simply saying “yes.” When I say “no” I do so because I believe it is the right thing in the long run. When I say “no” it most certainly does not mean that I don’t love you.
If the people in your life, children included, believe that the word “no” is an indication of a lack of love, no amount of beauty products or treatments will ever make that situation pretty.