This is one of the few mornings when I have a title prior to creating the content. “Table Hopping” slipped into my consciousness as I was mulling over yesterday’s conversation with Matt and Annie, my Vermont son and his wife. I’m thinking now it should become a title for a poem which is quickly forming in my mind as I write this sentence. The topic of “Table Hopping” came up because I’ve already completed a poem involving tables. In fact, the poem “Indigo Moon” which refers to two table-hopping episodes could well become the title for my next book. As I see it, “Table Hopping” is a sport just made for seniors. Most sports require youth and agility. Table hopping requires age and fragility. You have to look harmless and friendly. Nothing looks more harmless than an old man, gray-haired, shuffling over to your table with a smile on his face and eyes twinkling . Nothing IS more harmless. In this instance, my friend Rob and I had taken our two friends, Ed and Mikki, to lunch at an obscure little restaurant outside the village of Edison. A former gas station, it still sported the cement pad in front upon which the gas pumps had once stood. The inside was immaculate but funky, a sort of 1950’s look about it. In fact the young waitress still used an older cash register and took our lunch orders with a small pad and pencil. There were eight tables squeezed into the space with just enough room to get around. The restaurant, Edison Cafe, served breakfast all day so I had two eggs over easy with bacon. My friends all had hamburgers in one form or another. It was while we were enjoying our meals that I noticed across the room what could have only been a middle-aged mother treating her teenage son to lunch. Since it was midweek she’d probably picked him up at school.
I was prompted, without hesitation, to excuse myself and shuffle across the room to talk with them, apologizing for the intrusion and telling them why. It was because in the scene I was beholding, I saw my mother and me and I wanted them to know, to remember this moment, for the important event it was. It seemed like yesterday that my mother picked me up at school, drove us to a new franchise in town called “The Chicken Basket”, got two orders to go, along with a coke each, and drove a few miles out of town to park along the river to take in the view and to eat and talk. It was a very special moment, my mother taking time out of her busy schedule to be with me, to acknowledge my importance to her at a lonely time in her life, separated from her husband, living with me in a dreary apartment with an unclear future. I did not miss either the feeling that we were in this together, that she was a survivor, and that everything eventually would right itself and we would be okay.
I then went on to relate how I, when I became a father, made sure to pick each of my four children from school on their respective birthdays, treating them to lunch at the Shed, a popular eatery in Santa Fe where we were living at the time. When I completed my story, the mother quietly told me how much she appreciated what I had shared with them, tears in her eyes. She didn’t tell me her story. I didn’t need to know. I had done what I was prompted to do, listening to my heart. A few minutes later, after I had returned to my table and was finishing my tea, the mother and son departed the little restaurant but not before she had caught my eye, smiled and nodded her thanks.
I don’t really have anything more to add to the story except to say that this kind of of thing is happening more and more in my life where the ordinary slips over into the extraordinary. In the recent past I’ve had a number of extraordinary moments like this with Kornelia but at other times, too. It seems to be increasing with age, at a time when I’m paying more attention to what I’m feeling than to what I’m thinking. I’m paying new attention as well, to my body which, I’m learning, can provide me with a lot of data. But I have to listen and allow myself to be prompted.