Thursday Takeout and Year End Musings

Thursday nights are Takeout nights.

Which is short for “Tara has had enough with the cooking of the things and needs a break, it’s almost the weekend, for goodness’ sake.”

Three nights a week our adventures and learning have us getting home later in the evening and one more has us getting home right around a late supper time. So Thursday, the last night each week of those adventures–that’s the night we drive through a drive thru and give thanks for folks who cook the food.

We recently have added a new place we can pick up from that is safe for our food allergies. Any day we can add another restaurant to our safe list, we dance around and celebrate with all the bells and whistles. It’s a very, very good thing.

A few weeks back, on a Thursday night, we went to the drive thru at this new place and ordered a smorgasbord of food to enjoy that night–and perhaps, when all was said and eaten, we’d be really lucky and there would be leftovers to flip for on Friday for lunch. When we pulled up, they asked us to hold for a minute. Gladly. I like to have the orders done and ready to relay, and, with preferences and requests coming from two in the car and one more via text message plus my own, I could use that minute wisely. It was probably a couple of minutes later when the voice asked me to go ahead with my order.

When we got to the window, they asked us to pull up ahead and said they’d bring it out. I think Text Message’s order required extra prep time, so there we were. Still, as I told them, “You’re cooking supper. I’m just really thankful for y’all because that means I don’t have to.” And I meant it. I don’t play with appreciation when I don’t have to cook. When you’ve learned to manipulate around food allergies in meal planning and prepping, there are times and phases and seasons when cooking is less fun and more tiresome.

We pulled ahead and waited only a couple of minutes. They were surprisingly quick. Also surprisingly, they had two young men bring out our food. One could have managed it I feel sure, but they both came out. They delivered our food, and then they thanked me.

They thanked me. Thanked us for being so nice about the delay and just in general, as “we’ve had some folks come through this evening and not be so nice…..so thank you, ma’am.”

That broke me. These two young men explained how they are understaffed and pulling double duty and how good it had been to be greeted with a smile and treated with kind words.

Y’all. I did nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. My Mama raised me to say thank you to the person who cooked my food. My Fella was raised the same way, because, bless him, no matter what I put on a plate or in a bowl, he always, always thanks me for the meal. It was second nature to me to thank the people behind the glass window and masks. I didn’t even think about it–it just happened.

Sometimes my children call me “extra” when I carry on conversations with clerks and staff in different places we go. (Or should I say “used to go?”) But let me assure you there was nothing “extra” in my tired, worn out, ready to be home, hungry “thank y’all for cooking supper for us tonight.” Not one bit.

And yet–it was seen as such.

I’ve carried this with me for several reasons over the past month or so since it happened. It struck me how an easily spoken kind word can have a huge impact on someone, especially someone who is having a rough moment. In a past year, I’ve chosen the word “intentional” as my New Year’s word. I suppose that’s what I found myself thinking after that interaction with those weather-worn young men. I need to be more intentional with those kind words. Make it second nature to speak kindness into the air to pierce the darkness and heaviness and negativity. The only way that happens is by practice, speaking those words as many times in a day as I can. It might even–ahem–require I speak those kinds of words to the people in my own home–the ones 2020 has found me spending more time with than ever before. Kindness. Kind words. Putting them out there–making it as effortless as breathing. That’s a goal. (And I’m not gonna lie, some days, the struggle can be really real.)

Something else happened that night. We said good night and were humbled by their appreciation for such a simple thing as thank you. We drove off and as we headed back to the main road, my shotgun rider called for me to stop–she saw someone running after us. WHAT?! Sure enough, one of the young men had chased after us, for quite a distance (it was very dark out and I hadn’t noticed him), to ask us to come back for a small portion of the food we had ordered but that hadn’t been put in the bag originally.

That.

My children, 13 and 16, noticed this. They saw him and his persistence in completing his job and doing it well. As I maneuvered the divided highway to turn around and go back to the drive thru, they talked about him and the great service that we had gotten that night. Those young men had been extra EXTRA, and we noticed. It made a lasting mark on my people and their hearts. I am so thankful for that and for those employees and their example.

As this year comes to a close on this very different sort of day–this morning was our Christmas morning (due to Covid quarantine) and tonight is New Year’s Eve, complete with games (gifts from this morning) and fun snacks–I am thinking about those young men. I think about what made that night memorable, and it boils down to a few things.

Honest. Transparency. Appreciation. Relationship.

When I told them thank you for cooking supper, that I was worn out, I was being honest. My true self. Because Thursday night at the drive thru after a long week is as real as Tara gets. And in return, those young men felt safe being transparent about their evening. We all were appreciative of the other, and that right there set the stage for a good foundation for a relationship. And that relationship just might be why that young man chased me down. I really believe that. We are willing to go the extra mile for people we are in relationship with. Oh sure, I realize he might have been required to find me and ask me to come back, but the smile on his face behind the mask after that long run–that was all about the relationship. If ever so new, it was still there.

Whom can we be honest with about our struggles? Whom can we be transparent with and ask for help? Or offer to help when we see a need? Whom do we appreciate, even for the seemingly smallest of things? How can we let them know that? Let me just say, “I appreciate you,” are precious words to hear, especially on cold, dark nights when one is exhausted from all the day to dailies. They are magic words, because they can build a connection. And connections lead to relationships. And relationships? They are the lyrics to the melody of life, bringing meaning to and enriching our story.

Tonight as we end this year and turn the page on the calendar, I’ve chosen my word for 2021. (And no, the irony is not lost on me that last year’s word was “trash” and this year’s words were “make do.” I’m still shaking my head and laughing over that.)

My word for 2021 is extra.

Extra.

I plan to live it, give it, demand it, respect it, love it, and be it. Being extra has led to some of the most memorable moments of my life–and a Thursday night less than a month ago is one of them. May we be the people throwing out extra praise, running the extra mile to help someone, and may we live and love so extra that we are loved and treasured more than the extra packet of dipping sauce that is always a treat to find!

Much love and wishing you all a good year, one extra good day at the time.

December 25thmas and What You Didn’t Get For Christmas Day

Christmas of 2003 we were living in Japan, and I found myself trying to find the perfect gift for my 8 year old on her first Christmas away from Georgia. She was enchanted by American Girl dolls. After researching, I found that Gotz was the original maker of the dolls, and I found a beautiful Gotz Elizabeth Cady Stanton doll on eBay. I slipped a note to Santa about the doll and asked if it would be possible for him to deliver it for her. He promised to do his best.

Unfortunately, mail service being what it is overseas, Santa was delayed in bringing the doll for Christmas. He dropped it off when he and Mrs. Claus were on their way to vacation one evening the week after Christmas. The doll was perfect, and the story of her arrival while we were gone to our friends’ home one evening is a happy memory.

Over the years, we have created a new tradition that I trace back to that Christmas. There is inevitably a gift that doesn’t arrive in time. I may or may not have tucked something away and then not been able to put my hands on it on Christmas Eve…..I mean, maybe that’s happened. *ahem* So one year when there were a few things delayed, we started “What You Didn’t Get For Christmas” Day. Most years we celebrate it on or right after the 12th Day of Christmas–often it’s January 6th, Epiphany. It’s become a special tradition. It’s a time that is laid back and fun–it has become less about the gifts and more about the anticipation and the fun of a post-Christmas, once more before we put Christmas away, celebration. (Some years it’s been adapted to “What You Didn’t Give For Christmas” Day, and that was whole new kind of fun!)

I was thinking about What You Didn’t Get For Christmas Day last week when a small business owner wasn’t sure she could get something to us in time. I wrote her back and told her no worries, our tradition had it covered. It actually arrived two days after the seller mailed it, so score a win for the postal service. So now I have the choice to give the gift on Christmas or save it for WYDGFCDay.

But life had other plans. This year has been full of “other” plans, hasn’t it? If you, like us, realize that Christmas may not happen as or when you had hoped for and envisioned, maybe consider planning your own version of WYDGFCDay. (Sort of a Who You Didn’t Get To Be With On Christmas Day…..) Maybe Christmas has to take place later…..next week, next month. The thing that is most important about this day of celebrating the birth of Jesus~Light and Love, and we have been talking about this a lot this week, is who we are with, not when it happens. The love shared and memories made, not the presents wrapped under the tree (or enroute via one of the lettered delivery trucks).

So December 25thmas (as my youngest calls it now) may not be Christmas Day for us. And that is okay. I’ve thought a lot about the years my Fella was overseas at Christmas…..about those who work on December 25th and so their Christmas is celebrated another day–those on the frontlines of this virus who will be working and not see their families on the traditional day. I think about those who are sick and cannot be with the ones who matter most to them while the rest of the world celebrates.

So if your December 25thmas will look differently this year, know you are not alone. I hope that joy will find you no matter what your holidays look like, no matter what traditions you are missing this year. I hope that somewhere, sometime, you are able to make merry memories that one day will bring a smile as you remember them.

Wishing you all merry memory making!

Love to all.