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.
Many years ago, Quinn was described by his grandmother as formidable. She was so right, he most certainly is. There are some other words that can be used to describe my forever baby boy – relentless, sweet, affectionate and funny. In honor of his 10th birthday, please let me share a few moments and memories which truly define my youngest son.
Quinn is sensitive and thoughtful. Unlike our current spoiled dog, Jeter, his predecessor, Cassidy, wasn’t given bed privileges. Recently, Quinn asked if it would be ok to place the urn containing Cassidy’s ashes on the bed just so she would know what it was like to sleep there. Pretty sweet, right?
Quinn is articulate and well-spoken. During one of our regular evening battles to complete his homework, he asked me to not yell at him. He explained to me that he is motivated by happiness and love. His self awareness is impressive and I can only hope that both of those emotions will always be present, in excess, in his life.
Quinn is growing up too fast and his sense of humor is often a bit too mature for his years. Having two older brothers makes for an abbreviated childhood, I’m afraid. Please don’t ask about the South Park fish sticks episode that prompted a call home from his teacher. Last week he told me that I had to stop treating him like a baby because he is “practically double digits.” I understand the inevitability of Quinn growing up but I really wish it could all slow down just a little. I think he’s mighty fine already.
Filed under birthdays, Boys
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.
- To run for my own pleasure without measure.
- To get out once or twice a month for the sole purpose of being social without the crutch of working.
- To eat quality food and drink copious amounts of water.
- To strive to get Jeter out and active as much as possible.
- To live an honest life.
- To both smile and cry more often.
- To keep practicing yoga.
- To read more “classics” to expand my cultural knowledge.
- To embrace the moment as frequently as possible.
- To remain cognizant of motion. Things may not always seem to move forward, but when they start moving backwards it probably is time to let go.
- To not settle for less than I want – or deserve.
- To love fiercely and tenderly.
- To learn more handy woman skills.
- To continue recording my journey.
- To understand and accept that what I want may not be possible, but what I have is pretty damn remarkable.
It’s a new year. Make it happy.
Not to take anything away from Mary, but I did my share of work yesterday, too. The morning began with tending to two loaves of bread, prepping the ultimately fantastic beef roast and driving a friend to the airport, all prior to attending a 10:00 yoga class.
After the sweaty release of 75 minutes of hot yoga and a grande latte, things really got busy. There was brioche dough to make for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls along with sugar cookie dough for a (I swear!) last round of baking. And laundry. And a joyous dog walk/run with Jeter which required a follow-up bath for him and a bathroom scrubbing for me. My final exertions, sweeping, vacuuming, and getting vegetables ready to accompany dinner complete, I made myself a bourbon sour and stepped into the clean shower to wash away the efforts of the day.
The house was filled with the aroma of beef stuffed with garlic, parsley and horseradish roasting and the boys had set the table with festive linens and holiday tableware. I sliced some of the beautiful bread I had baked earlier and prepared to sit down, confident that I had remembered every last detail. Until I smelled smoke. I first looked in the kitchen, but there was nothing out of the norm there. Next stop: the dining room where I found a very different story.
The bread basket had apparently been placed too close to a candle and the wicker basket, linen napkin and nearby placemat were all on fire. This was not a smoldering, it was a full-out flaming situation and I instinctively scooped up the entire mess and hastily made for the sink, yelling for some assistance from the boys. The flames were quickly doused and I headed back to the dining room to survey the damage, duly noting the freshly charred area which will perennially mark Quinn’s place at the table.
After the excitement passed, I confessed to Griffin that I wasn’t sure if I had reacted appropriately. Was picking up the flaming stuff and making for the kitchen the right thing to do? Should I have addressed the situation differently? He looked at me and asked “Did you put the fire out? Is anything else destroyed?” When I admitted that there had been no further damage, he assured me that I had done exactly what needed to be done at precisely the right time.
Which kind of brings me back to Mary and Joseph and that manger. Maybe if we keep our eyes open for guidance, be it from the brightest star in the sky or a wise young man (or 3) it really will all be fine. Merry Christmas.
For the first time in 18 years my home is devoid of believers. Let me tell you, it makes for a different sort of holiday build up. No longer is it necessary to hide the packages left on my front porch by the postal carrier. Now, I just stack them up as unobtrusively as possible, tempting the boys to shake and rattle them with full knowledge that electronics don’t really respond well to that sort of treatment.
While there is a certain freedom in no longer believing in someone, it is hard to let go of all the years of faithfully subscribing to a less than realistic possibility. Letting go of belief requires abandoning hope, or giving up, on some level. It’s hard.
When Quinn told me that he “knows that Santa isn’t real,” my initial impulse was to try to persuade him that he was wrong. I wanted the magic of Christmas to stay, even if just for one more year. After thinking about it, I recognized that while it is unlikely that Quinn will ever again truly believe in the fantasy of a red-clad, jolly old man, there remain many holiday traditions to which he can continue to hold firmly. Things like the gift of giving, the custom of a festive Christmas Eve meal and decorations, the gathering of friends and family and the sharing of joy and laughter.
I’d like to believe that each of my children will continue to believe, in some fashion, in magical possibilities. Despite his skepticism, Quinn has already shared that he intends to leave a note and cookies, “just in case.” You see, just as young Virginia was told so many years ago…
Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.
I’m afraid of the impression we’re making, we Americans, as I browse my favorite dirty little secret website, the Daily Mail UK, and read the post titles about America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Titles with words like shopping and bargains and outrage. Sigh.
This is what we’re telling the world that we’re about? This is how we celebrate a holiday based upon giving, upon sharing?
We don’t vote. Our nation essentially provides a potential voice to every person in the land. Why don’t more Americans use it? We’re apathetic about important things but we talk obsessively about women’s asses – Beyoncé, Kardashian, Lopez, Minaj…
The violence in this country is often unbearable. Young black men seem to die with far too great frequency. Violence begets violence. The more methods of communication we create the less likely we are to communicate effectively. Connecting feels harder than in the past.
And, it’s Thanksgiving. The tree branches are piled high with heavy, wet snow, some still with leaves. The lighting is striking, a sky made of cotton. It’s beautiful.
And my son was accepted into one of his chosen schools.
He can’t wait to register to vote.