"There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child." ~ Erma Bombeck
Babe said we should sleep in on Christmas Day. Our grown children were in South Carolina with their little ones, so St. Nick had no reason to drop down our Saluda chimney. The kids and their kids planned to visit after the live greens had wilted and the fat man had long since flown back to the North Pole.
So it was early on Christmas morning while I dreamed of sugar plum fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care that my two hungry cats turned my stomach into a pincushion. Dragging my sleep-deprived body to the kitchen, I searched the pantry for a can of non-smelly cat food. Since it was Christmas, the kitties deserved to be treated to turkey ala Fancy Feast instead of mystery fish parts.
When I left the kitchen I almost stumbled over Babe who was sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree as though it were the Holy Grail.
“Whatcha doing, Babe?”
He looked at me like I had glitter for brains. “Waiting for you so we can open up our presents.”
I leaned over and kissed him smack on his smackers. He grinned.
“Can we open ‘em now,” he asked. “Can we? Huh?”
“What are you, five? Oh, all right, let’s do this thing.” My Starbucks had begun to kick in so I was almost ready for tearing into the carefully wrapped packages.
Later, after expressing gratitude for socks, ties and perfume that we didn’t need, we were both hungry for food that didn’t require cooking in my kitchen. We got dressed and hurried to the car.
“Where to,” Babe said playing taxi driver to his lone passenger.
“Waffle House,” I replied. “They’re always open.”
The diner known to every man, woman and child South of the Gnat Line was packed, the parking lot jammed with cars, motorcycles and pick‘em up trucks. A family of four got up to leave just as we arrived, so before leftover waffle crumbs could be swept onto the floor, we grabbed their abandoned table.
“Cheese omelet,” I declared to Donna, the server dressed in a red Tee with Merry Christmas, Y’all stamped on her bosomy front. “And leave the coffee pot.”
Donna looked at me like the aforementioned brain glitter was leaking out of my ears. “Not gonna happen, Girlfriend,” she said. “Not today.”
Undaunted about that missing front tooth of hers, Donna grinned and then winked at Babe. He ordered one of everything on the menu and then returned her wink.
I looked around at an assortment of people eating Christmas breakfast at the little house of pecan waffles and enough fat fuel to power us all to Mars and back.
Crammed into a booth was a group of bikers clad in red leather. They were happily chowing down on waffles, hash browns and milk. Milk? Go figure.
A young mom and dad seated at the table next to us were kept busy trying to keep their pajama-clad children from braining each other. I figured earlier in the day Dad probably told Mom, “Let’s eat breakfast out at the Awful Waffle.” Mom took three seconds to reply, “You had me at eat breakfast out.”
I saw an elderly woman seated near the back of the diner wearing a red wig that didn’t fit. She was too thin and her eyes matched the color of her wig. She was alone and looked sadder than anyone in the place. It broke my heart.
Donna appeared with a coffee pot and spilled some on the table. “Oops,” she chirped and Babe winked at me. There was a lot of winking going on that morning. ‘Tis the season …
Old friends stopped by our table for hugs and holiday good wishes. We hadn't seen them for a while and I wondered how we had allowed that to happen.
My omelet arrived loaded with cheese and animal fat. Babe dug into his eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and hash browns, and then asked Donna for non-fat milk. Go figure.
Between bites, I gazed at kids wearing pajamas and their exhausted parents wearing blood-shot eyes and droopy lids. Seeing them made me think about when my kids were young ~ all those late Christmas Eve nights spent searching for misplaced nuts, bolts and missing screws before we could put together the unassembled toys.
Had it been that long ago when instead of cats jumping on my stomach, tiny hands shook me awake with, “Wake up! Wake up! Santa was here!”
Where had the years gone?
We didn’t go out for breakfast on Christmas Day when my children were little. I made waffles and bacon and then threatened them with Time Out for life if they didn’t put down their toys and come eat breakfast at the table. Family life is different now, but that’s not such a bad thing.
As I looked at all the cute kids eating big mouthfuls of waffles and dripping syrup down the front of their pajamas, I smiled.
Seeing Donna proudly showing off her Merry Christmas, Y’all T-shirt, made me realize that happiness can be found wherever we happen to be ~ even in a diner that never closes.
So when Babe ordered every item on the Waffle House menu and the paramedics did not need to be called, I did a happy dance and asked him if he had saved room for fruitcake.
He swallowed a big mouthful of hash browns. “Don’t be silly. There don't serve fruitcake at the Waffle House.” He paused. “But we’ve still got some left at home, don’t we?"
Merry Christmas, y’all!