Opinion

The stories aren't on the menu

The February day was brightened by an errant April sun, too late to be winter, too soon to be spring. The warmth streamed through the restaurant window and I was glad I had taken a table in the sunshine. The restaurant was one of those ‘breakfast all day’ places; every town has one or more. They have weathered signs displaying names like Dot’s Café, Morning Glory, Road Runner or Country Kitchen. They are the establishments where you can get apple pie at seven in the morning, bacon and eggs at four in the afternoon and stories all day long.
The waitress approaches my table, filling coffee cups as she comes. She has worked here forever and her familiar face and pleasant smile are as warm as the sunshine. It’s nice to have a few constants in a place where everything is changing so fast.
I find myself thinking about a poem from the 1960s by Shel Silverstein, ‘Rosalie’s Good Eats Café.’ He sat there at two in the morning and wrote verses about people as they came in, some of it speculation but most of it probably true.
There is a lady here this morning, sitting alone dipping her tea bag in the hot water as she peruses the menu. She is wearing shabby shoes, a worn cloth coat over faded slacks, a hand knit sweater and scarf. She opens her change purse and counts the contents then pushes the menu aside and orders an English muffin and jam. I would like to move to her table, hear her story, maybe I could buy her some breakfast.
Across the aisle, two young men in work boots and blue jeans stand and sling on their plaid jackets. They reach in their pockets and throw some bills and change on the table, wave at the waitress and leave. The woman sips her tea and looks over at the stack of pancakes and toast left on the young men’s’ plates and shakes her head.
A young mother is trying to get her toddler to eat some green stuff and he is refusing to look at her. Her frustration is growing. I recall when my wife and I took our two small, skinny children to the doctor because they weren’t eating.
Doc Gilham didn’t examine them. He told us the problem was babies raising babies. Children play when they’re happy, sleep when they’re tired and eat when they’re hungry. If they didn’t want to do it on our schedule, that was our problem. He told us to let them be kids. No prescriptions, no counselling appointments.
I am wondering if I should impart this wisdom to her, but by then she has made a game out of breakfast, the goop is going down and they are both laughing. She is a good Mom, he’ll be OK.
A shiny classic Pontiac pulls up and an older couple get out. I can tell they have been together a long time by the way he opens the doors for her and how she guides him to their table. They must be going somewhere special. They are gussied up, him with his pocket watch, her with matching jewellery. Then I remember they come from an era when you dressed up when you went to town. I wonder if this breakfast is a regular date.
The stories aren’t on the menu, but they’re there. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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