Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas Story

Briefly: 2007, I’m unemployed for the first time, living in Utah which was not a good place for me to be for any number of reasons. My unemployment benefits ran out in September 2007 and my stress over money and my situation was all consuming. The only thing greater was my belief that I had to get out of Utah. A dear friend lived in Portland and offered me his apartment for the Christmas holidays. I drove there in eight hours and there our story begins. Rather then work from my memory here is my actual journal entry from December 24, 2007 (it’s a bit long but don’t give up, OK?):

7:35pm: I can only try to explain what has happened to me tonight. I found a restaurant two days ago that was lovely and looked just special enough for Christmas Eve dinner alone. It’s called Serratto on the corner of 21st and Kearney. Blonde wood, lots of candles, high ceilings, wine bottles along the wall. Everything warm and glow-y. I arrived early tonight because the shops closed at 5 not  6 as I had hoped. Still, they had a table ready and I was seated. It was a table for two near the back half of the restaurant but with a view of the bar and the windows to the outdoors. My waitress was very nice and I decided to go with a split of champagne for dinner. At first she came back and said unfortunately, they were out of the kind I chose. I said I would think about a split of wine. She said she would bring me a glass of champagne on the house while I thought about it. Then another woman (the hostess, I think) came by and said they’d found more of the champagne, what would I like to do? I went with it. There was a table of 6 next to me and they were quite nice as neighbors. One of the women seemed to own her own shop and the older gentleman was 80- I couldn’t quite get the dynamic- but I was almost comfortable enough to join them. In between my salad and my entrĂ©e a woman came in and was seated across from me at another table for two. She looked a bit like Diane Keaton with streaked short hair, very well put together. I thought we must be in the singles row. She pulled out a book and started reading. I noticed that she did the same things I do to keep her hands free- balance a knife or saucer on the spine of the book to hold it open. Our meals progressed with me enjoying my champagne and a rack of lamb. I was completely in the moment, happy to listen to the people next to me, watch the people around me, and enjoy my surroundings. I looked at this woman on and off and thought that it could be me in 10 years and that would be just fine. She was happy being alone. On the bar a man had his glass of beer aligned in such a way that the flame from the votive nearby looked as if it was flickering inside the glass. I was a bit mesmerized.

After my meal, I decided to go for it and order pear and fig bread pudding. The woman across from me got up to leave and went to the back bar with the waitress to pay her bill. I saw them talking but thought nothing of it. The bread pudding was delicious and I ate what I could but not all. I was pleasantly buzzed and completely contented. The waitress came over to clear my plate and said, “I have something to tell you.” I asked what and she asked if I noticed the woman across from me. I said yes and hesitated. She said, “Well, she paid for your entire meal, including my tip. You can leave whenever you want.” I was stunned and could not speak. Finally I said, “What? What do you mean? Why would she do that?” She said the woman told her that I looked happy and was taking care of myself by ordering champagne and dessert. Then she said that the woman said, “She reminds me of myself when I was younger.” I almost freaked out. I touched the waitress’ arm and said, “No! I was looking at her thinking that could be me in 10 years and I would be just as happy.” She agreed, asked my name, told me hers was Heather and said she understood because she was an only child. By now both of us were crying lightly. I said I could not believe someone would do something like that. She said it was Portland, that people were kinder and nicer here. That it was a magical place. She asked if I was from here and I gave her a brief rundown on my situation. I asked for the woman’s name and she said she might be able to get it from the receipt but I did not pursue it. Her first name is Nan. The woman had told her to cover my bill before my bill came knowing that I might not accept so it was what it was. We talked for a bit more and I offered my Visa for a tip but she said she was very covered and that was all right. Then we welled up again, squeezed hands, and I got up to leave. I got outside and started to cry. Soon big heaving sobs. Who would do such a kind thing for a stranger? I have an obligation now to share that, pass it along. I am deeply deeply touched and grateful.

There is a lesson here but I can’t quite get to the core of it. On the one hand I want something desperately but cannot obtain it. On the other, when I least expect it I am given amazing gifts. What does it mean?

So I am satiated with delicious food and champagne and humbled by a stranger’s generosity. What a day. I feel as if I need to go off somewhere and contemplate this. There is something here to learn; something very important.

A lovely little miracle, right? All true. I hope each and every person reading this has something wonderful happen to them VERY soon. Even if it's tiny as long as it gives you hope and makes you feel loved.



 
 

Source: favim.com via Catherine on Pinterest

5 comments:

mamawolfe said...

We never ever know how we touch the lives of others. Thanks for sharing that lovely story. I can see from your bio that you stayed in Oregon-they made a good first impression!

Abby said...

This is just what I needed to read this morning, and I can't believe you've never told me this story before! I'm kind of glad that you didn't. It was a great gift to read.

Merry Christmas!

tweedlibrarian said...

What a wonderful gift to all your readers! I love this story on many levels - the kindness of Portland folks, the mirror of two women - one dining out alone and enjoying herself immensely, and the other noticing and appreciating it. I'm so glad you decided to stay in Portland.

I really do believe it's the small kindnesses in life that makes it better. Thank you for sharing this story!

And Merry Christmas

Sarah Mac said...

Merry Christmas Catherine - Im constantly touched by the kindness of others, some good friends and some strangers.

What a beautiful and heart warming story.

Wishing you much happiness. xx

Catherine said...

Merry Christmas to all you wonderful women! It was an incredibly special evening and i only wish I could have met the woman as we might have become friends in Portland.

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