There's a little restaurant in town that we head to when we're not in the mood to feed ourselves. It's a small place where, if you really tried, you could probably listen in on the conversations at every table and booth in the place. What's more, you could probably jump in on the discussion, if you were so inclined, and no one would raise an eyebrow.
The place is owned by two, rail-thin sisters that once worked as waitresses for a competitor. Deb and I remember how these women worked their tails off in those days. They hustled to take orders and deliver meals. They joked with the regulars and doted on the occasionals to convert them into regulars. They must have decided their efforts would better serve themselves and bought a restaurant to go head-to-head with their old boss. Eating at the little restaurant they purchased feels like participating in a great, all-American, entrepreneurial allegory. Plus the food isn't bad.
Last night the lone waitress in the joint was taking care of seven people (eight if you count our baby). Allie ordered her usual: Mickey Mouse Pancake with blueberry eyes and nose with a single strip of bacon for the mouth. She washed it down with chocolate milk. Please, don't send me emails with links to food pyramids and nutritional studies. Allie doesn't eat like this all the time.
We all had good, reasonably priced meals. Allie was gabbing up a storm with the waitress. After describing, in great detail, what her birthday cake was going to look like, Allie asked our waitress if she was going to call her on her birthday. The waitress offered Allie a free cookie on her birthday if she stopped by the restaurant. Allie pressed for a phone call and asked where the woman's phone was. The waitress pointed to the phone on the wall and then mentioned the three other phones she has access to at home. We have phones at our house, too. Mommy and daddy have phones in their bedroom and clock radios. I have a clock radio in my bedroom and a light next to my bed. . . Allie continued, but what she was telling the waitress just kind of blended together in my ears. It's a sweet and very familiar tone full of machine gunned facts from a three-year-old's head that I've learned to manipulate into music.
By this time the other patrons were giggling at my daughter. This happens quite a bit. Many times a person, usually a mom, stops to get a closer look at the kids and graciously comments on how cute they are. Julia, of course, is oblivious, but Allie's head swells to gargantuan proportions.
Visiting Mom: You have beautiful hair.
Allie: I know.
[Stern look from Mom & Dad with Dad mouthing the words, "Thank you."]
Allie: Thank you!
Allie continued to hold court in the restaurant for another five minutes while we settled the tab and bundled up against a cold parking lot. By the time we got out the door and into the car Deb and I looked at each and agreed we were thankful Allie didn't issue informal birthday party invitations for everyone at the restaurant. Not to say that we thought people would actually come, but we still would have had to purchased extra Sleeping Beauty place settings just in case.