“Tap… tap… tap.” I looked up to see a masked woman with a pen and a notebook ready to take an order. I lowered my window. “Hi,” I said. “Hello. Can I take your order?” she asked. “Oh, you’re open! Great!”
It may have been just 2-3 minutes earlier that I had parked in front of the slightly hidden Middle Eastern restaurant. The tiny restaurant looked deserted. There didn’t seem to be any customers and taped to the outside of the glass door was a small paper sign, “Temporarily Closed Due to Roof Damage...” Slightly disappointed that the restaurant was closed, I took a moment to look down at my phone. I hadn’t noticed the waitperson come out and up to my window. After taking my order, she went on to explain that the hail storm damaged the roof of the restaurant, but the kitchen was not impacted.
“You can come around to the drive through in about 10 minutes,” she ended. They have a drive through? I hadn’t noticed that before. My husband and I usually walk into the restaurant. Every time we went in, the owner came out to greet us, chat with us a bit, and then thank us for coming in. Always with a smile. We enjoyed the fresh food and because I’m not a big crowd person, I especially appreciated the small dining area. The owner’s friendly greeting was a part of the warm experience.
After the ten minute wait, I drove around to the drive through window for the first time. The same person who took my order opened the small window as far as it could open to greet me again. She then pulled out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, poured it like water into one hand then the other. She rubbed her hands together, making sure the alcohol coated her hands up to her wrists. After that, she picked up the credit card machine and poured a hefty amount of alcohol on that too.
I sat there witness to it all. Her meticulous and overt display of actions was mesmerizing. I watched frozen and didn’t say a word. Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was saddening. It was like watching some strange performance art, but it wasn’t.
“It’s all clean… the pen, too,” she assured me. Then she handed over the credit card machine. I reached out and took it carefully, inserted my card, and paid for the food. I handed it back to her. “I’ll be back in just a minute,” she said as she stepped away from the small window.
The window opened only moments after it closed. I looked up and the first thing I noticed was his smile. It was the owner’s big smile. He pulled himself through the small window and leaned out as if he were about to wave out to a waiting crowd from the window of a parade float. His smile was infectious. Pure joy is a good way to describe the expression on his face.
“Hello! It is good to see you again! How are you?” He asked. “Oh… hello! I’m fine, thank you,” I responded and returned a smile. “How are you?” I asked. “Good, good… good, everything is good, thank you,” he responded. His friendly smile and greeting was a part of every meal served before the pandemic, but today was slightly different. His greeting shined a bit brighter this time.
I drove home thinking about his greeting, the washing of the hands in rubbing alcohol, and the drive through window I didn’t know existed. Everything seemed slightly different. It seems our lives have slightly, but permanently shifted. All of our lives now seem altered by the catastrophic changes that continue around us.
The more I think about this small experience, the more it brings me hope. It is the hope that the good within each of us lives the ability to pull ourselves through a small window from a place that seems closed up, damaged, and shut down. It is possible to greet each other with just enough joy and kindness to move forward.
It’s a good thing to have set up a writing community, especially on a digital platform.
Tonight, as I sat down to write my last Slice of Life post for the month of March, I heard a “ding.” My phone called out to let me know someone has written. Email? Text? No, it was a notice that one of my students had published a piece of writing. I guess technically, this student is no longer my student. He moved away back in December and returned to Argentina. It had only been a few weeks of learning to blog, during those small chunks of time available for it in the classroom. It didn’t seem to be enough time, but I guess it was.
I love listening to words, especially when the words come from the mouths of the people who put them together just so. Sometimes, they unexpectedly come from the people you love. Some people make meaning from words in such ways when they speak. Words don’t carry much value when they come without heart. I think about the voices I’ve heard in my life, especially those that have made spaces nestled deep in my heart and mind. My mother, my father, my sister back home, there are voices that sit there until I call on them one at a time to come sit for a visit. Today, my sister Sandra sent me a text, just a message with the need to have words spoken out loud. I called to hear her voice tonight.
After yesterday’s slice, I noticed that my writing goes in and out of the reality of living through this pandemic and the beautiful things that I am grateful to have in my life. Maybe it’s an automatic defense to write about something else. Or, maybe I just need a break from this pandemic every once in a while. I’m sure when this is all over and time has spaced out our lives now from what our lives will be in the future, it will be easier to understand why. Until then, I will give myself grace and freedom to move in and out of pandemic writing.
Tonight I plan to bake. It’s late I know, but it’s Saturday and it’s been a while since I've put on my baker's hat.
These last couple years, my time in the kitchen has not been my top priority. My children are grown, my husband’s a great cook, and my teaching responsibilities just keep growing.
At 1:00 PM today, I meet with my class... most of my class. Today was my first time leading a Zoom session. There was just so much to set up, I didn't think about how it would all make me feel.
In yesterday's #SOL20 post, I narrowed my focus down to two questions. When I shared them
The list grew and grew, as I sat at my dining room table and jotted down all of the things I thought I needed to let my students know when we met online. One single video meeting took more prep work than I expected, much more that I really needed. It was going to be our first video meeting and I had no idea how many of my students would show up.
Yesterday, our community was placed on “shelter in place” orders, and we went out to make one important visit.
“Stop!” I held my hand up like a stop sign. “You have to stay away… We have to keep our distance,” I clarified. I felt the lump in my throat grow and I swallowed. I carried the blue canvas bag towards the grass, slid it off my left shoulder, and gently placed it on the grass. He stood there the whole time—watching, waiting, and clutching his hands together. It was an uncommon event. We don’t usually greet this way. He was so excited to see me when I stepped out of my car. He ran towards me and I had to stop him. I could see that he probably wanted to hug me.
The other day, I looked outside my kitchen window into my back yard and noticed my tiny crate mertle standing lifeless.