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.

Hey Girl

I originally wrote this when my Aub was away for a few days on 7/21/2008. I can only imagine how precious the Hey Girl will be in a few months, when she goes off to college.  As we prepare for her graduation tomorrow night, I am waxing reminiscent.   I realize that since I’ve written this, “Hey Girl” has been made popular by the Ryan Gosling meme, but for me, it will always make me think of Granny.  And my girls.

pic of coconut cake

My Granny holds a special place in my heart and memory. I still bake “her” coconut cake on her birthday every year that I have been able to. I think of her often and when I realize that she’s been gone over ten years, it takes my breath away. She was just as tough on us as she was loving, but that didn’t matter. Granny was Granny and always will be. I love my childhood memories of visiting her, but my most favorite ones are when I visited as a young adult, just the two of us, sitting and whiling away the time. We had serious talks, like when we both got rather vehement about the town’s Christmas decorations being put up before Thanksgiving could even be celebrated. Boy, that got her dander up. And mine too—so much so that I wrote a letter to the editor (at her goading, if memory serves). I think it tickled her. At least it got a smile out of her .
When I’d go to her door off the carport at her house in town—that’s what it will always be for me—her house “in town,” because, as we all know, Granny’s house is the one in the country—out on the farm at the end of that long dirt road I learned to ride my bike on. No matter whose name is on the title—it’s hers. But I digress. When I’d go to the door and knock—doorbells are for company (don’t knock on my door if you don’t know me)—I’d peek in and see her ambling over. In the beginning on her own, and later with her walker. She’d smile and I would too. I don’t know if she was always glad to see me—a new bride who just was seeking company in one of the places she considered home—but she never made me feel less than special on those visits. The first words that came from her were, “Hey girl.” I’m telling you it warmed the cockles of my heart. (Cockles? Really? Yep, look it up—it’s the fourth of fifth definition of the word.) I can still hear her voice, “Hey girl.” And the smile that accompanied the heartwarming melody went all the way up to her beautiful brown eyes. In that moment, I was home. We’d sit and talk and solve the world’s troubles in those times. I often would make her tell me over and over who so and so took after or how we were related to so and so. Later when she was bedridden and not doing too good, I’d knock and go in. When she’d see me, she’d still smile and so would I—“Hey girl.”
Now I know I’m not the only one she’d say that to, but the important thing is that when she said it, you were the only one. A term of endearment. That’s what it became for me, and I’m just starting to appreciate it.
Today I was on the road and missed a call from my treasured friend who was volunteering out in the heat for her son’s ball team. I quickly called her from my cell when I got her message. When she answered, obviously after glancing at caller ID, she answered, “Hey girl.” It took me back. Yes, it’s a term of endearment. I’ve said it myself without even realizing it. But only to my truest of true, “bosom” friends as they were once called. I say it in love and respect. It’s not something I say unless I know you and really care about you. You have to earn your “hey girl” with me.  I know that my precious friend had no way of knowing how much those two words touched me, but in that moment I was home, safe, and comforted in the warmth of our friendship.
My soon to be teenager has been gone for three days now for a wonderful mini-vacation with great friends from our overseas tour. I’ve called two nights in a row and she’s been out having the time of her life. We’ve all missed her. Her little one year old brother has been more vocal than he’s ever been, walking around tonight, hollering his nickname for her “Baba! BA-BA!!!!!” I thought when she left, Well, maybe she’ll come home and appreciate me a little more. I think the opposite may happen. She has a gift that she shares with us, her family, and that is missed. I’m thrilled that she is where she is, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, when I pick her up at the end of the week, the first words out of my mouth are, “Hey girl.”

That's my girl--ain't she a mess?

That’s my girl–ain’t she a mess?