Monday, May 12, 2008

Portrait #1: Middle America

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I took my grandparents out to dinner to celebrate. After all, I'm hardly ever driving distance from them, so I figured it would be appropriate to mark the date as something special. My aunt and uncle and cousin and her husband decided to join us. As the seven of us crowded into our booth at Applebees and started to study our menus, the food arrived for the table across the aisle from us. Three of the four people received their food, and the server apologised to the fourth person, saying his food would be out shortly. He was a man in his thirties or forties and as he talked to the server he waved his arms and gestured so as to make whatever point he was making about his food. I noticed his hands were slightly disfigured and he didn't seem to be speaking very clearly.

Then I noticed the woman across from him, who I took to be his mother. She wore khaki capri pants and a pastel gingham blouse. Sitting very straight and with delicate poise, her head was bowed in prayer. After a minute, the mother looked up and she and the other two members of their party began to eat. I kept glancing back at their table, and saw when the man's steak and fries arrived. Then I tried to not watch as all four of them ate but said little. The server brought them their bill well before they were done their meals, and the mother promptly picked it up. She carefully studied it and then paid. They left as soon as they were done eating.

I wondered why the mother-figure was paying the bill on Mothers Day, considering she was with people the right age to be her children, and my heart went out to her. She sat across from this young man who seemed to be somehow disabled, next to a girl who may have been her daughter. None of the younger ones seemed interested in much but eating their meals, but the woman sat quietly enjoying the company of the people she loved. She prayed even if noone was praying with her, and she treated them all to Applebees for Mother's Day.

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