Monthly Archives: July 2007

It Had to End Sometime

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Well, I finished it. And I don’t think it will spoil any of the plot if I confess to you that my rapt adoration of Neville Longbottom continues unabated.

In case you haven’t realized it, I am talking (as is almost everyone around me) about the long awaited Book 7 of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Paul and I are big fans.

We bought the book early on Saturday morning at Target (where he had long ago reserved me a copy as a surprise), and we spent the morning reading it aloud to each other, taking turns with the chapters. Lying on the couch with my head back, listening to Paul’s voice weave the words of the story before my mind’s eye, I remembered again the childhood joy of having books read aloud. It was fun, experiencing the twists of the plot together and stopping every now and then to discuss our new theories or to gasp over some shock. After about 130 pages, we put the book aside to take the kids to the mall, and when we returned, I picked it up again and continued reading, solo. I finished at about eleven o’clock last night, totally spent.

Now it is Paul’s turn, and even as I type this, he’s curled up reading in bed. With every swish of a turned page, I wonder what part he is up to now, and mentally I urge him to hurry, keen to have someone with whom to share all the chuckles and exclamations and tears I held back as I was reading, trying not to ruin the ending for him.

Nor will I ruin it for you.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the fun I had Friday night, when I showed up at Hastings’ Harry Potter Launch Party to take in the sights with my friends Marci and Amelia (a.k.a. Luna Lovegood—note The Quibbler tucked under her arm.)

Butterbeer flowed freely, and boxes of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans lined the store shelves, waiting for the brave-hearted, iron-stomached few. Everywhere you looked, children and adults in black robes and various magical accessories lined the aisles and flew haphazardly around the store, awaiting the chime of midnight and the chance to finally hold the last Harry Potter novel in their anxious hands.

Several celebrities attended. Harry himself was there, of course, although he kept changing sizes and ages and his scar itself seemed now made of silvery eyeshadow and now drawn on with a purple marker. I managed to snap a quick picture of him as he flew past.

Ron was also there, although his rat, Scabbers, had definitely seen better days. Apparently, someone had transfigured it into a rubber replica, and he was swinging it around in a most careless manner.

Characteristically, Hermione alone seemed to stand calmly on the sidelines, and very graciously allowed me to photograph her. I’m not sure why the photograph isn’t moving. Perhaps Canon hasn’t yet mastered the technology required for proper magical photos?

At any rate, the crowd was happily busy discussing their theories and questions as the minutes ticked away to the official release time. Who is R.A.B? Is Harry going to die? Which side is Snape on? And now that J.K. Rowling has enough money to buy her own country, what will she name it?Speaking of questions, my friend Amelia—I mean…uhh…Luna—is very good at Harry Potter trivia, one of the contests being offered to those waiting in line. She won enough temporary tattoos of Harry’s famous lightning bolt scar to start her own Harry Potter impersonator school. I, however, missed four or five questions before Amelia took pity on me and just gave me one of her prizes to stop me trying again.

Though I left before the magic moment (planning to buy my book later, remember), I’m so glad I was there to witness the glorious hubbub. It was entertaining to take part in such a landmark pop culture event, and to pause for a moment to celebrate the skills of an author whose fantasy world drew so many back to the joy of reading for pleasure.

Even if it did turn out that Darth Vader was Harry’s father all along.

May I Take Your Order?

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I was sixteen and hadn’t been a waitress for long when I realized that I was acquiring a very unique set of life skills. Things like:

  • fending off unwanted male advances with such charm and wit that they still wanted to tip me afterwards
  • making greasy fried steak smeared with lumpy, gray gravy sound magically delicious
  • French braiding my hair (the only alternative to wearing the dreaded hair net)
  • petting the fragile egos of temperamental cooks
  • carrying nine full plates at once
  • apologizing*
  • apologizing**
  • apologizing***

Not that those skills kicked in right away.

My first night on the dining floor, a crotchety octogenarian with eyebrows drawn down into a permanent scowl had to wait ten extra minutes for his steak, and spent the time amusing himself by making me cry. He called me an idiot, asked if I could do anything right, and demanded that I get him a waitress who knew what she was doing. It cut my people-pleasing heart to the quick. I had never had a grown-up be so mean to me before (and yes, at sixteen, I still thought of them as “grown-ups.”) He was like the real life version of Old Mister Smithers from Scooby Doo. I stumbled back to the line and managed to tell my supervisor that my customer wanted a new server before I burst into tears and ran for the back room, where I sobbed and swore to myself that my first night of waitressing would be my last. Fortunately, one of the battle-hardened, apron-clad warriors of the Shoney’s front lines came and found me there. She assured me that it would get better (and so would I), and by the time the sobs had subsided to sniffles, I was ready to give it another try.

Six weeks later, my order times were considerably shorter, and my skin was considerably thicker. I could remember who ordered what for eight different tables and balance the bus pan on one hip while I juggled two water pitchers with the other. As my abilities increased, so did my confidence. Then the impossible happened: I started to enjoy my job.

Late nights were my favorite. The dinner rush long over, most people who came through the door wanted dessert, coffee, and some friendly banter from their favorite waitress. After a couple of months, I, too, had my “regulars”—customers who would walk through the door and seat themselves at my station, content to place their order and wait until I had a spare moment or two to chat before leaving me a generous tip. They knew my college destination, the name of the boy I liked, and my dreams of traveling the world, and I knew the faces of their grandchildren (photos whipped proudly from wallets, thrilled to have another interested admirer), their vacation plans, and their troubles at work. It’s amazing what people will tell you over strawberry pie and Maxwell House.

It’s been over ten years since the last time I put on a little apron and ran around in orthopedic shoes filling tea glasses. Aside from an inclination to tip liberally, I rarely think about my time waiting tables anymore. But a few days ago, this story about one lucky waitress and one very surprising tip caught my eye and made me smile big. Such generous hearts shine like jewels in this world.

It’s enough to make you forget all about Mr. Smithers.

*for accidentally pouring milk into a lady’s open purse. It was right under the edge of the table on which her glass was resting, and the hand I was using to hold the pitcher strayed a little as I was talking to her.

**for toppling a tray holding eight large, iced soft drinks into the lap of a very inebriated man. The casual observer might be forgiven for thinking I did it on purpose, as the fellow in question had been drunkenly propositioning me in a very ungentlemanly manner while I attempted to take his order, but I assure you that it was, in fact, an accident. He was quite irate. However, I managed to console myself when I saw the large tip left by his dining companions, along with a note thanking me for the best laugh they’d had all night.

***for flashing my underwear to the entire dining floor, including several small children, when I came out of the bathroom with my skirt tucked into the back of my panty hose. Actually, I think my fellow waitresses owe me the apology for that gaffe; they let me wait tables for five minutes with my Hanes exposed before I returned to the line to find them all doubled over in laughter at my expense.

Something New Every Day

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*When your four year old comes up to you and asks, “Do you want to do some science with me?”, it may seem cute, but it probably has something to do with toilet water.

*It’s a good idea to revisit the lesson on proper tooth brushing procedure from time to time, or one day you will look closely at your daughter and realize that, although her two front teeth are nice and shiny, the ones in the back are covered with yellow fuzz.

*Never assume that your child isn’t listening to your conversation, unless you want to get stuck explaining “tubal ligation” to your eight year old.

*Don’t leave little boys unattended in the bathroom stall for too long, or you may open the door to find them blowing raspberries against the tile wall. (Scrubbing their lips with a wet paper towel, though utterly useless, will still make you feel a little better.)

*Uniqua is the only Backyardigan who isn’t a known animal. Pablo is a penguin, Tyrone is a moose, Tasha is a hippo, and Austin is a kangaroo, but nobody knows what Uniqua is–not even the show’s creators.

The Longest Days of the Year

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You’ll notice I haven’t been around as much lately. The reason is unremarkable, and I can tell you what it is in two words: summer vacation.

Now I’m as big a fan of summer vacation as anyone, but the word “vacation” is a vast misrepresentation for anyone who spends the months of June, July, and August in the company of suddenly liberated elementary school students. Students, who, freed from the structure and planned activity of an 8 o’clock to 3 o’clock school day, fill the ensuing leisure time with plaintive whines of “I’m bored!” and “What’s to eat?”

So I feed them (but not fruit snacks on the hour, every hour, as is their preference) and I plan activities–trips to the library, picnics at the park, walks, movies, reading-together time, Lego construction projects (but not enough to fill every second of the day)–and yet, somehow, I still come up lacking in the Super Summer Mom department.

Did I whine this much when I was a kid? Maybe. My mom could tell you, I’m sure. I do remember being told, in answer to my own rare cries of boredom, that “only boring people are bored, so use your brain and find something to do.” As to snacking, my brother and sister and I usually just helped ourselves from the pantry, a temporary solution that often resulted in chaos and dismay in the evenings, when my mother discovered that every carefully planned menu for which she had grocery shopped was missing at least one key ingredient.

So, tell me–what’s a mom to do? How do you keep the summer grumbles at bay? I would love to hear from you.