I arrived about 3-5 minutes after my scheduled shift time. I was asked to come for the first shift, so I figured this let them get a couple kinks out, including being ready, without me screwing them up by actually being late. I promised M I'd be sure I looked okay, lol, even added a touch of makeup. M and her class of 7th and 8th graders had prepared soups and bread for dinner, along with clay bowls they'd made and decorated, to raise money for a local hunger-related charity. (See Empty Bowls )
Ahhh, looking in the "restaurant," I saw lit candles, ringed with a blue ribbon, on each separated table. Each one also had a painted paper table "cloth." I was greeted warmly, the adrenaline high, the routine figured out. I was checked off the list and asked how many were in my party. (How many? Perhaps some RSVP'd without stating the number of people.) I said one, or, maybe two if M joins me, as I wasn't clear.
I was given a pamphlet on Bread for the City. http://www.breadforthecity.org is the charity that they chose to contribute their proceeds from this Empty Bowls project. They provide direct services to low-income people in Washington, D.C. (just meet income requirements). Their services include food, clothing, medical, social services, and legal services. Certainly there are programs closer, in our county, in our towns even, but nothing wrong with supporting this well-known charity. Later, (teacher) Mo said she hoped to have the students be able to volunteer with Bread for the City sometime, or at a minimum, bring the donation there in person.
"A" shows me to the table where the bowls are, for me to chose one. There is to only be one bowl given per family. I ask if he knows which one M has made. "J" is nearby, J being the guy I'm fairly certain M has had a crush on, and he and A look at the bowls. I like the one they show me, yep, has M's name on the bottom, I'll take ths one, please. White with differing-colored green stripes around the rim and down the bowl itself. I comment on J's haircut for conversation (M described to me in detail a bit ago, it'd been verylong). I'm shown to table 6, near a window, and A tells me that my waiter will be with me shortly. Yet, A returns, states that all waiters are busy, so he'll be my waiter:)
There are three soups to chose from, chicken noodle, Asian beef noodle, and a vegetarian one which is chicken noodle without the chicken. He brings me ice water, a plastic bowl with my soup, and a slice of fresh bread. Wow was that bread ever good, freshly made in their handmade bread oven. I borrow butter from the vacated table in front of me. M later tells me that about twice as many loaves were made as needed, seemingly it was just fun to do and there were sufficient supplies. The soup was tasty, then seemed especially peppery. Oops, I'd bitten on a peppercorn. M's good friend, Md, later laughed when she saw my small pile of peppercorns on my bread "plate" napkin. "The recipe called for whole peppercorns." Next time, perhaps they'll crush them in advance, or strain them out.
My tablecloth has swirls of beautiful blues on it and a drip of wax. Apparently, M decorated the tablecloth for the table in front of mine; I got a glimpse of orange and yellow and other bright curved colors. I chatted briefly with the couple, and later their young son, who sat there. They had chosen a polka-dot bowl. "J" waited on them, and the man commented on how J had seemed so professional. A family with two young children, one a girl, had a more handmade golden "bowl" with triangular points circling the top, with "jewels" added to look like a crown. I smiled to think of her chosing that one:) There were two little tables with table cloths of games, and crayons included. "Those are the kids tables." The "head of school" (principal) sits at the table behind me.
M stops by here and there, not thinking she could sit down so tries a taste. LOL, a lot of "tasting." "What, you didn't get my polka-dot one?" "I didn't know you'd made a polka-dot one; would you rather me/us have that one?" M enjoys the polka-dot style the past year or so. "Nah, it doesn't matter." Later, M learns she CAN (is supposed to) join with me, and brings her soup and bread. That was nice. I was practically done, but stayed sitting there, her talking almost non-stop inbetween bites. "I also made a princess crown one, but that one can't be eaten out of." I tell her what girl had chosen that one. M seems pleased, and had noticed that herself. (She'd destroyed her first bowl created as it didn't look right, oy, my perfectionist artistic child.) C is scheduled for a later shift. J stopped by, asked if we needed anything, and told M I'd commented on his haircut. I'm glad M was fine with that, shrugged it off "Anything new at school today? " Oh, J got his hair cut." Hmmm, has he noticed HERS from last Saturday? I'd told her what I paid (requested donation was $5., but I paid more.) M got even more excited, telling me something akin to them earning $300. or $500. with the first three families, and that most were contributing between $10.-$20./bowl (person).
Done, a somewhat goodbye, M went back to her duties, taking our now empty plastic bowls and shared cup, fussing at A for not cleaning it up for me/us, and me taking the bowl I'd bought. Admittedly, A had come by a couple times to check on me:)
Parents of one of M's long-time friends were seated near me, and we started to talk, for a while. She's a touch anxious about the class trip to New York City. It was good to touch base with parents again. It was fun to see the students execute this event. It was interesting to see the school community again, coming together, the younger students excited for the evening dining in the older students classroom, and then later they'd show off to their parents various lessons in their own classroom. It seemed time for me to go.
I walked into the other room with the door, and saw C there eating with M. She'd said she'd just sit with him and not eat, but I do think she was hungry and what the heck. M's back was to me, so I figured I'd not disturb her and go. C must have mentioned to M that I was there (or leaving), as M turned around. I smiled, "Good-bye, sweetie." "Bye, Mom." Sh and Si were walking up the pathway (guess they drove separately from C). Not wishing to be rude and ignore, nor knowing what else to say, I simply said to Si, "M's waiting for you!" I'm glad all of them came. I'm glad M came even, could be a part of this. It IS important. (I don't know why C is "allowing" M more things more this year, but, I do think it's better for her. Or maybe it'll be limited to school and stepdance functions, but, even that is better.)
The air felt warmer outside, the wind had died down, the clouds had come in, insulating the earth. It would snow, just not yet. I felt warm and good inside, too. (Did I mention that they planned this all, themselves?)
Update (yes, to the update): M was proud to relay that over $450. was raised, she wasn't sure exactly. She had to leave early (w/ C, Sh, Si), before everyone else in her class, 10 minutes before the restaurant closed (and also before cleaning up with others in her class). M wished, ultimately, that her little half-sister, Si, had gotten the princess bowl that M made. Ah, yes, that would have been nice. Even if M says they like the bowl chosen, also. Some of the handmade bowls were leftover, which is better than being way short. The change in plan to one bowl per group instead of one bowl per person saved them from being short.
M and I stopped by the next night, Wednesday, after her day off from school, to get a book she'd need for Thursday. (She had planned to get it from school Wednesday. Except we returned later, as she really needed TWO books for Thursday.) A note on a table where I'd walked by, implied C may not have RSVP'd for the dinner until the night of, via M? All the white candles with their blue ribbons were set up to look a bit like a Catholic church area where one lights a candle for someone needing prayer. A big board behind it indicated that one of the boys was to speak, as if ceremonial, for the death of their microwave. (I'm sure it was a bit humorous, touching and fitting for many of them, yet it seemed almost a touch sacreligous to me, too, not completely certain on this.) M stressed just briefly, had she missed this the night of Empty Bowls, or was this in preparation for the next morning's group meeting? The class had raised money the other Friday from a not-well organized bake sale (heading out the door, I'm asked if we can stop to pick up sandwich bags or plates, etc.), maybe some could go for a new microwave. Ends up, another boys family had an extra microwave in their basement. Their sacred lunch-making routines are preserved. :)