I was at the mall alone today, returning a few things from the holidays, looking at clothes that the “experts” say are in style (did anyone really perfect the poncho look?), and generally just enjoying shopping without having to worry about whether or not my kids would knock over an entire display of purses…when something happened that hadn’t happened to me in a while.
As I was leaving a store, I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I turned around a woman said to me, “I know you.”
And I said, “I know you, too.” But I couldn’t quite place from where.
“The country club,” she said, her eyes filling up with tears.
And then I remembered.
I know “the country club” sounds kind of high fa-lootin’ but it really wasn’t. In our neighborhood, the only way we could enjoy the pool in the summer was by joining the country club at the bottom of the hill. So when my husband and I moved to the neighborhood, we joined.
We quickly figured out that they had the best brunches in town. And the BEST part was that they charged each adult $10…but kids under 6-years-old were free. So, there was a time when we could take the kids for a nice breakfast…and pay $20 for a family of 5.
We couldn’t even eat at McDonald's for that much.
This was the best kept secret in town because hardly anyone ever went. So it was usually us, with our 3 toddling children, dressed up in their Sunday best, sitting down to a plate of endless eggs and waffles. And we got to know the staff there pretty well.
This was especially helpful to me when my husband was traveling. I could take all of the kids there by myself…and the waitresses helped me out. If I had to take one to the bathroom, someone would just sit at the table and make toddler-talk with whoever was left. There was a time in my life when that was the only meal I didn’t cook during the week because that was the only place I was brave enough to take the kids on my own.
But having her remember, after all these years…I just couldn’t believe it.
“I loved your family,” she said, her eyes watering. “I just couldn’t believe what happened. Your husband looked like such an amazing dad. I just loved it when you guys came in.”
As I always do, I waved away her concern about our welfare, assuring her that we were doing fine and that they kids were going on with life, as they should. But inside, I was touched. I was sad. I was remembering a time in my life that I just couldn’t believe was gone. And I was amazed that someone I had no idea we’d even made an impression on…remembered it too.
He is missed.