Yesterday was one of those days: not the kind that immediately gets off to a bad start, but the kind that starts out relatively well, then, say, within an hour of daybreak, starts a steady slide into a mess of a misplaced shoes, and “I don’t like waffles for breakfast!”, and just throwing all the dirty dishes into the sink because if you take the time to do them now–still have to get those shoes, you know–you’ll be late again to preschool drop-off.
So. Not a bad day, per se. Just one of those days. You picking up what I’m stepping in?
The situation hadn’t changed much by the time Quinn and I went to pick Saoirse up from school. We got there early, since I was the “Guest Reader” that day (So much squirming, these precious little kids do…), gathered up my eldest, and away we went. Every single day after we leave school, Saoirse asks if we can go to a “lestaraunt” for lunch. Every day, the answer is no, sweetie, we’re heading home to have the same thing you’ve eaten for the last 30 days because oh my gosh how boring is lunch but it’s the responsible thing to do. But today was a special day, since I got to read to my daughter and her classmates while my other daughter clung to my arm, and I got so see that preschooler daughter of mine in her natural habitat: with her friends, listening well to the teacher, peeking over her shoulder to see if Mommy was still there. I got all mushy and and mama-like, watching her like that. And because it was one of those days, and because Quinn had quietly watched the preschool class, taking in everything, excited and interested, and didn’t do a running belly flop into the middle of the circle time like I’d feared, and because she and my sweet Saoirse are absolute joy to me, I thought I’d surprise them by popping into a local restaurant–one of those sandwhich-and-soup type places–with her and Quinn to grab some “lestaurant” food. The children were so happy. Me? No dishes for me to wash, baby. Noooooo dishes. No dishes! No dishes! No dishes! I know this sort of spontaneous eating-out is the exact sort of expense I’ve been trying to avoid lately–I don’t stand around my kitchen every Sunday making bread for kicks, you know (but we gotta save some dough. Ha! Get it?! Dough?!)–but didn’t you hear me? No. Dishes.
So the tide of this rainy day turned. The girls charmed smiles out of every person who passed by. They ate, happily, and pointed out all the fish in a tank full of “Nemo”s next to the table. An older gentleman in a tie and sport coat, carrying a jaunty golf-sized umbrella with polka-dots all over it, paused with his wife beside the girls: “Well, look how sweet you two are!” I complimented him on his umbrella, secretly wanting to know where he got it because it really was that jaunty.
And then the check came. And then another server came along, swiftly grabbing it off the table before I had a chance to speak, leaving me sitting there, mouth agape, hand stretched out like someone who’s dog just wriggled out out of his leash and took off after the neighborhood canine floozy (yes, it’s happened, both here and in Baltimore, and yes, Luca is a much, much faster runner than I. Of course. He’s a dog.). Before I could close my jaw, my server came up to me, slightly shocked, and said, “Um. Your check has been taken care of.” I looked at her, then around. “Excuse me?” I asked. She smiled. “An anonymous stranger has paid for your check. He said it’s just a random act of kindness, and doesn’t want to be thanked.”
I may have teared up a little bit. And I looked around the room again, but couldn’t meet anyone’s eye. I’m almost 100 percent sure it was that gentleman with the umbrella who paid for us, and I wish I could’ve thanked him. To be surprised with that sort of sudden kindness was better than my little family’s free lunch. Way better. It’s like when someone rushes to hold a door open for you when you’re struggling with a stroller, or when our mail carrier brings all of the mail to the door with that box, plus the newspaper we didn’t have a chance to grab off the front walk that morning. But even this was bigger–maybe because it was so random, or because it involved money (do you know how strange it is to walk out of a restaurant without having paid the check? I felt kind of guilty), or maybe because in that moment I saw my little family as that person did: Just two small girls out with their mom, quietly talking, coloring with crayons, sharing their chocolate milk. It’s almost like that person took a snapshot and handed it to me. Here you go, he said. I got this. You take care of that.
That is so much better than not having to wash the dishes.