The Grace of a Gift in the Morning

Yesterday morning at church I received a small gift from new friends. In an effort at clearing the clutter of their house Steve and Jim had a yard sale, but one thing Steve rescued and presented to me: a Texas trivet, the type of thing one finds in gift shops at every tourist attraction everywhere. It was Jim’s mother’s and tchotchke it may be, but I love it. It is Texas and new friends all rolled into one.

With windows and doors open to the gorgeous Fall day, Paul and I spent a few hours sorting and putting away our stuff that is finally (finally!) all in the same place at the same time. Growing complacent about our cat wandering in and out of the house to the sunny backyard ended with Paul hopping the fence to retrieve Ivan the (recently) Terrible, who somehow got himself over into the neighbor’s yard but couldn’t figure out how to get back, even for tidbits of lunchmeat dangled temptingly over the fence. But ill-tempered cat aside, it was a lovely day. Deciding we earned a break, we went to see Meet the Patels and then for dinner.

The film was every bit as charming as the reviews said, a delightful peek into one tightly-knit, Indian-American family and the giant extended family that is apparently anyone named Patel, as well as a wistful look at how immigrant parents hope to retain the culture-of-origin within their very American children. If it’s showing anywhere near you, go see it.

But dinner…. dinner was just a big ol’ mess of a chain steakhouse out of New York strip steaks (seriously?) and a spectacularly bad waitress. She was young, sweet, enthusiastic, and in desperate need of a career change. She was incapable of doing more than maybe half a thing at a time, disappeared for long stretches of time, I mean, seriously long stretches of time, left us sitting with salads before us but no forks, and insisted on saying things like, “What were we thinking of having?” when addressing us individually. It was all I could do to not say, “Well, I was going for the New York, but you’ll have to clue me in to your order,” but I managed.

But then…. oh, the possibility of delicious revenge! After two attempts we finally got the bill and she pointed out the corporate survey where we could go online and tell them all about our (horrendous) dining experience in exchange for a free appetizer or dessert. We were so frustrated and annoyed, as were all the faces at all the tables in her station (I noticed, having plenty of time to observe), and I was bursting with all the wonderfully terrible things I would say on that survey. But it was late when we got home so I didn’t do it last night, and I think that might have been best.

Texas TrivetThis morning I got up and saw my new trivet, a gift I kind of needed at just the right time. I know my personality is, shall we say, an acquired taste and I haven’t found many folks here who have acquired it yet, but here was thoughtfulness I could touch and see, and it made me feel a bit less alien. A tiny bit accepted. A small thing packing a lot of grace.

I don’t know why that poor sweet girl is in a job for which she is so ill-suited. She probably needs the money. If she doesn’t get better at it, she’ll need to find another job but it won’t be because of me. My impatience with her ineptitude is certainly the first-worldiest of first-world problems and if I have nothing else to offer, let it be simply paying forward the grace of my unexpected gift by keeping silent.

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