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When a friend boasts, “I lost ten pounds,” I rub my belly and reply, “I’m pretty sure I found it.” That line always gets a good laugh. Over the holidays, I found way too many pounds that other people lost.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, because the only one I ever kept was: quit making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’ll choose a thing or two at the beginning of each year to give a concentrated effort to change. This year on the list: 1) Going to church (not just virtual) every Sunday. 2) Losing some of the weight that found me.
I decided to stop conveniently eating out; staying out of the drive-through lane at burger and taco joints is a good start toward achieving the latter. When I dine out, I want it to be more meaningful – not rushed. With busy lives, that’s not always easy to do.
I had a lot to do that Sunday, including a trip to the Twin Ports to run various errands. Staying focused on my concentrated efforts, I left my house at six in the morning to make the 7:30 a.m. mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior. I enjoy Father Ricci’s sermons; his messages apply easily to everyday life; and since Wisconsin allows indoor dining, I could go someplace to sit down for bacon and eggs with a short stack on the side.
After mass, I headed to a restaurant that serves breakfast on the east side of town. While driving on Belknap Street, I passed Julie’s Family Restaurant. I prefer to eat at a local establishment rather than a big corporate chain restaurant. I turned around and went back to Julie’s.
Inside, I chose a booth by a window. The couple across from me immediately caught my attention. The waitress came by with a menu, tableware rolled in a napkin, and a glass of water. “Good morning. Can I get you anything to drink while you look at the menu?”
“Yes, I’d like a cup of black coffee, please,” I replied, then tipping my head sideways, “and I’d like to get the ticket for the people in that booth.”
She glanced over her shoulder. “The older couple right behind me?” I nodded, yes. “No problem. I’ll have them both coming right up.” I couldn’t quit looking over at the couple.
When I finished eating, the waitress brought both tickets to me. Before going to the register, I approached the table of the couple. “Is this your first date together?”
“Oh, heavens no.” She replied, while he confirmed, “It’s our first date this week.” We all shared a good laugh about that. His answer sounded like something my dad would say.
“I hope I wasn’t staring at you two,” I said, then told the man, “You look a lot like my dad.”
His wife didn’t miss a beat. As if sticking a feather in her hat, she asked, “Is he a handsome man, too?” She and I had another good laugh; he just blushed.
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact, he was – where do you think I got these good looks?” After another laugh, I said, “I just stopped by to make sure you weren’t him,” then addressing her, “because you don’t look anything like my mom, and that wouldn’t be good if he were my dad.” We shared another good laugh before I headed for the register with both of our checks.
Outside, I glanced at the man one more time through the window. The waitress was standing by their table. He had a confused look on his face. I could almost read his lips, “He did what? Well, why did he do that?” I smiled and walked to my truck.
The following Sunday, I had a lot to do. I left the house at six in the morning. Father Ricci gave another great sermon, addressing the question, “What are you looking for?” After mass, I was looking for some more bacon and eggs. I headed to Julie’s for the encore – I even sat at the same booth. The same waitress came with a menu, tableware, and water glass. “Good morning. Can I get you anything to drink while you look at the menu?” I was hoping to find the same couple sitting across the aisle, but the section was empty except for me.
Some people came and sat in the booth behind me, but I didn’t pay any attention to them. I was busy studying the menu. Should I repeat last week’s order? “Ooh, what’s this?” I ordered the homemade hash browns, loaded with diced green pepper, onion, ham and smothered with cheese, “And can I get two eggs over easy on top?” The waitress nodded as she scribbled on her ticket pad.
Shortly after my food arrived, the waitress, along with an entourage, passed by with a plate of flaming breakfast – it might have been cherries jubilee flambe, I don’t know, I was too busy devouring my loaded hash browns. When the ladies started singing happy birthday, I came up for a breath of air and turned around to watch.
The wait staff was no Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but they weren’t bad either. Most importantly, a little blonde three-year-old boy was grinning from ear to ear; his sparkling eyes were nearly as big as the silver dollar pancakes in front of him. His grandmother, who brought him to breakfast, was looking on, smiling just as wide.
Sitting on his knees, he was barely tall enough to see over the edge of the table. “Make a wish, Johnny.” He took a deep breath and blew hard, blowing out the candle and relocating some of the whipped cream from his flapjacks to the tabletop. What fun to watch, and did I mention his priceless smile?
When the waitress came around with the coffee pot, I asked if I could get the ticket for the table behind me. “It’s already gone,” she said, “the staff all chipped in to buy their breakfast.” How cool is that? She topped my cup, laid my ticket face down, and moved on to the next table. The little boy was soft-spoken, but I smiled when she said, “Oh no, Johnny. You can’t eat the candle. Candles aren’t edible.” I had to wonder, whoever came up with the idea of putting flaming wax sticks on top of food?
Before I left, I turned around to wish Johnny a happy birthday. The waitress was back, not with the coffee pot, but a big can of whipped-topping. She added another swirling burst to each cake. “Wow, we didn’t get extra whipped cream on our pancakes when I was a kid. You must be pretty special.” Johnny laughed.
Walking to the truck, I rubbed my full belly. “This is not staying focused on your concentrated efforts, Thomas.” But man, was it good. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I again questioned, “Why do we put candles on a birthday cake?”
I ran my errands and drove home, reflecting on Father Ricci’s sermon. He started by saying, “I am fascinated to see people on fire…” I wondered if there was a connection; his reference to fire and the flames on Johnny’s candles. Of course, Father was speaking of someone’s passion for what they do, and Johnny was passionate about those flaming pancakes. I wanted to listen to his message again, but first, I wanted to quench that nagging question about birthday candles.
When I opened my tablet, I swear I heard a voice ask, “What are you looking for?” I typed into the search bar: the origin of birthday candles. As I looked at the myriad of results that popped up, I muttered, “I’ll bet Jesus never told anyone: Google it.”