(First posted at How Do You Do It? http://www.hdydi.com as part of the “Food, Cooking, and Eating” Theme week.
A month ago, we had dinner at the Calgary Airport. What better restaurant to have our last meal in oil and beef-heaven than at a steakhouse?
The waitress greets us with a cheery smile, asks us how many we are. “Four adults, two children,” I answer, pointing out L and R. My parents are sending us off before they head to Montreal the next day. As the waitress walks us to a booth, she asks if I prefer high-chairs or booster-seats for the children.
“What are booster-seats?” I ask, fully aware of my ignorance. “Little seats that you can move around. They add height to any other regular seat,” she replies, without a hint of condescension.
The booster-seats sound perfect. My kids hate high-chairs.
“Great! Come on over this way. I’ll get the brown paper laid out first, and then bring out the crayons.” She smiles as she walks away in her black pants, and black t-shirt; her blond pony-tail bobbing along behind her.
“Here’s the crayons, and some menus. You need anything else, give me a shout. I’ll be back for the order in a few minutes,” she assures us. How wonderful! L and R sit at the table happily, unrestricted; and they draw pictures with my parents.
When she returns, Maher asks if she can suggest any vegetarian options for my mum. She pulls her pen out of her apron and uses it as a pointer, “There’s the garden salad, the coleslaw, there’s a veggie fajita, and we can do most any of the starters’ vegetarian. You just ask me, and I’ll request it in the kitchen.”
“Fantastic!” he replies.
“One chicken fajita should be enough for the two children right?” I ask her.
“Plenty. Portion’s big here.”
We place the rest of the order, and just before she turns around to leave, she asks if we want the fries out first. Maher and I looked at each other and then up at her. She understands. “Yes please, and the guacamole, and anything that’s ready. They’re hungry.” We didn’t mention that they won’t stay put for very long.
She smiles, winks, and asks, “They twins?”
“Yes, 23 months old,” I reply.
“I have three kids. A four year-old, and two year-old twins. All boys.” She says with a gleam in her eyes.
“Really? That’s wonderful. So you know!” I sigh with a sense of relief that sweeps across me.
I don’t usually stress out about being at a restaurant with my toddlers. In China it’s easy. Children are welcome everywhere, easy-going restaurants for sure, fancy places are no exception. The hosts, even the guests happily chat and play with them. That’s not to say that I’ve had any criticism in Canada over the last 3 weeks, neither in Montreal nor in Calgary; but it’s on my mind that they have to behave a bit differently. I do my best to keep the situation as much under-control as possible, without making a big deal out of it. And with my parents there to help, at least we’ll all get to eat. But the mess we leave is always bigger than at the other tables, and our sweet waitress is the one who’s got to take care of it.
My stress dissipates after she hangs out longer, and after she tells us about her children. I feel a connection with her just for being a Mum of Twins. It’s not rational. But she understands what it’s like to be at a restaurant with excited twin toddlers. She’s not fazed by their loud chatter, their need to switch seats as they spill the water, and their desire to reach for the knives.
Part way through the meal, L needs a change of diaper. As we walk back from the washroom, the appropriately positioned toy store – right across from the restaurant — with a large poster of a crocodile eating a monkey, sucks Leila in. Before long, Rahul and two adults in our group join her. 15 minutes into the discovery, and a number of different dynamics later, I am back at the restaurant finishing up my meal, with my mum. I pick at the colourful bell peppers and onions from the children’s fajita, after I’m done with my own dish. It’s time to go though; time to say goodbye to my parents. I ask for the bill.
While I pay, the sweet waitress and I have a little chat. She’s the kind of woman who calls you honey. Not in a patronising sense.
“Who helps you with the kids?” I ask.
“My husband. He takes care of them in the day while I’m here, and he works at night. I was just talking to my co-worker over there,” she tilts her head towards another waitress, “Was just tellin’ her it’s been a week since I saw him. ‘N’ we live in the same house.”
“Man, that’s not easy,” I sympathise. She looks up at me, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. That’s when I notice the dark circles around her eyes.
“Have a good flight!” She waves.
“Thanks, and good luck with it all,” I pat her shoulder, and push our over-packed stroller out of the restaurant.
My mum and I walk over to the crocodile and monkey toy shop to pick up the rest of the gang. We slowly make our way to the security check.
Just this morning, L and R talked about a crocodile eating a monkey.
Have you had random mum connections that you still remember?
I had Desi of Valentine4:Living Each Day, in mind, the moment I was done writing this one. It’s for her. I read her most recent post, “Cry to Heaven,” last night, and felt helpless as she despairs. Sending her love. http://thevalentine4.com/2011/10/21/cry-to-heaven/