I had one of those quintessential, odd Vicki experiences yesterday. It’s been a while since a wave caught me off guard and I’m not sure I want to write about it, but I’ll get the story rolling, take a look back and assess how it might sound to those of you reading and then decide if it’s fit for sharing. You’ll understand when I explain.
On one hand I don’t want to freak anyone out or contribute further to growing notions that ‘this Vicki chick is a major oddball’. But…on the other hand, speaking my truth is one of my core beliefs. Still, I don’t like laying down the ‘deets’ unless I’m fairly sure I can do so without stressing anyone out. I’ve learned. Sometimes it’s better to button up. So…let’s see what happens as I rewind and share.
We have a tradition for hubby’s birthday – a major pizza feast at his favorite deep dish Italian place. He and sweet sister Lisa share the same pick and years ago, it became the ‘birthday place’ – their restaurant of choice – and we’re hot dog happy that we can celebrate by EATING IN at long last. Two years plus of take-out only for birthdays was tough on darling, disabled Lisa. She understood why, but still. It’s not the same. (And as an aside, but an important one, love and support to all who work – not just in health care – but in restaurants and service industries, generally, so ravaged by Covid. Sending love, just because.)
Back to hubster and Lisa…oh my goodness…those two can chow on fried calamari like it’s candy. Me? Not a chance. The aroma alone is a stomach swirler. Yuck. But I get it – they love it and dig in happily and heavily, enjoying their greasy, circular swirls of fishy-ness as I slurp my soup. What’s better than a well-crafted bowl of minestrone, I say. Especially when the second act, the entrée, is a pizza that requires weight-lifting skills. Cast iron skillet and all, it’s a heavy hitter and we love it.
But the food’s not the story. Anastasia is. She was our server and I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew her – and she knew me. When she approached our table, we locked eyes and she stammered as she greeted us and introduced herself. She gave hubs and Lisa a quick look in her greeting, but her gaze rested on me and I have to admit, I was doing the same.
That ‘wave’ I mentioned? It’s an overwhelming feeling I get when I’m picking up SOMETHING I can’t compute. It’s a rush of input with nowhere to go. When Anastasia shared her name, I thought, “Of course you’re Anastasia and you go by Stace. Hello there” and I swear she replied affirmatively, with her smile. Unspokens. And it freaked both of us out. She started rapid blinking, futzing with her pen and then a nervous grin – a smile so broad, it conveyed familiarity, warmth, and recognition. But of what?
I guessed she was an early 30-something. Maybe she was a former client? Former student? Daughter of a colleague? The entire time she stood by, taking our order, I racked my brain to sift through connections. I knew her and I could feel her thinking the same.
As a result, the whole ordering business was awkward as we sized each other up. Stace, by drumming her pen on her chin with her head cocked to the side. Thinking. As she listened to hubster’s rundown of our gluttonous order, she made notes but punctuated the process with eyes back and forth to me, and then an apology for being slow to get our drinks. Why? I think it was because her brain/head/heart – and mine – were preoccupied – doing the same thing. I know YOU and it’s a good connection – but what is it?
It wasn’t fear – or the geez, I want to run and hide from you vibe. I know that – like the time I was at the mall buying underwear and the 17-year-old ringing up my purchase was a young man I’d counseled. I knew far too much about him to reduce the embarrassment – for both of us. Not the person I wanted checking out my choice of skivvies, ya know? His red cheeks conveyed the same.
No, Stace’s ‘wave’ was something else and we both knew it but the extra quirkiness was this: Under any other circumstance, I’d just call the question. “Hey – you look sooo familiar. I feel like I know you!”. But not this time. Something held me back and I could see relief in her face when she returned with the smelly calamari and my soup. She still smiled, but it was different. It was relief.
When the time came to settle up, she apologized again and thanked us for our kindness and patience. Hmmm….it didn’t register as weird or overly familiar to hubs or Lisa but I got the message as she focused on me. Stace continued and said she’d been away from her job for months due to an illness but was grateful that her first table back…on her first shift back…was full of nice folks. Us.
At this point I’m thinking, good enough. We’ll let this rest and I smiled back. With hubs and Lisa nodding, I said “Our pleasure – lunch was terrific – and all the best as you get back into the swing of things at work.” It seemed like the right thing to do, given what she shared. No probing. Let it rest. And then this: She had tears in her eyes. Just like I do – right now as I type this. “That means a lot”, Stace said, “You have no idea.”
As we packed up our leftovers to go, Lisa needed a pit stop before heading to the car. I walked her to the ladies’ room, passing Stace on the way. You know that moment when you feel compelled to offer a hug, but you’re not sure about reciprocation, welcomeness? There was none of that with Stace. She leaned forward just as I did and with a quick embrace and a reminder from me to her to take care, the wave was over. Whatever it was.
In the car, ever-perceptive Lisa said this: “Vicki, isn’t it fun sometimes how you meet people and they’re like friends?” “Yes”, I replied. “It’s funny and magical and a good reminder of how important it is to take care of one another with kindness.” The hubster? Long ago he became accustomed to the randomness of life with Vicki – ‘in the wild’. “People find you”, he says. “They just do.”
From me to you – happy Monday – as I send universal goodness your way. Maybe you’ll be the one someone needs to find today. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be found. Either way, I’m sending love.
Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com