Saturday, December 31, 2016

CHRISTMAS AT THE WAFFLE HOUSE

 “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake
Christmas morning and not be a child.” ~ Erma Bombeck

My husband, Babe suggested that we sleep in on Christmas Day. Our grown children were in South Carolina with their little ones, so St. Nick had no logical reason to drop down our Georgia chimney. We decided to sleep as long as possible since the kids were coming to visit after the live greens were wilted and the fat man had flown back to the North Pole.
Early Christmas morning as I dreamed of sugar plum fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care, 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 a holiday, I would treat the kitties to turkey ala Fancy Feast instead of mystery fish parts.
As I was leaving the kitchen I saw Babe sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. He looked like he was in a trance.
“Whatcha doing, Babe?”
He looked at me like I had glitter for brains. “What do you think? I’m waiting to open presents.”
I sat down, 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? All right, let’s do this thing.” My Starbucks was kicking in so I could handle pretty much anything.
Later, after expressing our gratitude for socks, ties and perfume we didn’t need, we were hungry for something out, food that didn’t need 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 never close.”
The diner known to every man, woman and child South of the Gnat Line was packed, the parking lot jammed with cars, motorcycles and pickups.
A family of four got up to leave just as we arrived, so before it could be cleaned of leftover waffle crumbs, we commandeered the abandoned table.
“Cheese omelet,” I declared to Donna, the server dressed in a red T-shirt 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 winked at her.
I looked around at the assorted groups of people having Christmas breakfast at the little house of pecan waffles and enough fat fuel to power us all to Uranus and back.
Taking up two tables and hanging off the end, a group of bikers dressed in red leather were smacking on waffles, hash browns and milk. Milk?
A young mom and dad next to us were trying to keep their pajama-clad children from killing each other. My guess is that earlier Dad had said, “Let’s eat out at the place that’s open 24-7.”
Mom had replied, “You had me at eat out.”
I noticed an elderly woman seated near the back of the diner. She was wearing a red wig that didn’t fit and she was too thin. Her eyes matched her wig. She ate alone and looked sadder than anyone in the place. It broke my heart.
Donna refilled our cups, spilled some on the side. “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 to offer holiday wishes. It had been much too long since we had seen them, and I wondered where the time had gone.
My omelet arrived loaded with cheese and too much animal fat. Babe dug into his eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and hash browns and then asked Donna to bring him some whole-wheat toast. Go figure.
Between bites, I became more aware of pajama-clad kids and exhausted parents, evidenced by a Dad’s blood-shot eyes or a Mom’s droopy ones. I thought about when my children were that young and how we were up late on Christmas Eve searching for misplaced nuts, bolts and missing screws for all the unassembled toys from Santa.
Had it been that long ago when instead of cats jumping on my stomach, tiny hands shook me awake with, “Let’s go see what Santa Claus left!” Where had the time had gone?
We never went out for breakfast on Christmas Day when my kids were young. I made waffles and bacon and then yelled for them to put down their toys and come eat their breakfast. Family life is different now, but that’s not a bad thing.
As I looked around at all the kids in pajamas eating breakfast at the Waffle House it brought a smile to my face.
Donna, proudly showing off that Merry Christmas, Y’all T-shirt, made me happy and it made me glad to be exactly where we were that morning.
And when Babe ordered every item on the Waffle House menu and the paramedics did not need to be called, I smiled and asked him if he'd saved room for fruitcake.
He swallowed a mouthful of hash browns and said, “The Waffle House doesn’t serve fruitcake. Even on Christmas. But we’ve still got a few slices at home, don’t we?”

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