Friday, August 12, 2011

Table for One

Nearly nine years ago, my life transitioned and I began doing several activities on my own. One of these solo events was dining out. I discovered Yat Sing, a local Chinese restaurant. In the window, a red, lighted sign proudly displayed, “Best Pot Sticker in Town”, enticing prospective diners to stop in.
“Oh, wow! I love Chinese food!” I said to myself and walked in. The Chinese hostess, asked, “How many?” to which I replied, “Table for one, please.” While I obediently followed her to a quiet corner table, she asked, “Why you alone?” I let her know I just learned of Yat Sing and stopped in unexpectedly.
The waitress brought water and a menu to my table as we engaged in small talk. I asked her name and she said, “My name Peggy.” I told her my name is Debbie and we smiled awkwardly at each other. I was chuckling inside at her American name and she still felt funny saying it.
Gazing over the vegetarian section of the menu, my mouth watered as I hadn’t seen these items since I’d left the Hawaiian Islands several years prior. The entire section was my oyster. When Peggy returned, I let her know I was ready to place my order.
“What you want?” Peggy asked, smiling. “Yes, Peggy, I’ll have the veggie pot stickers, veggie spring rolls, fried rice with no broccoli or egg, spicy garlic string beans with no green chilies, won ton soup with no mushrooms, fried veggie noodles and green tea, please.” Peggy stood without a notepad and repeated my order free from missing an item. She asked, “You want half order pot sticker and dumpling?” I shook my head from left to right. While my eyes were large in amazement and anticipation, she said, “You sure no one else coming?”
It wasn’t long before every inch of my table was covered with pots, bowls, pans, plates, utensils, water and a tea pot. I was astounded at the amount of food sitting before me! Soon, one worker after another stopped by to gaze at me and say hello. Eventually, my table had particles of noodles, rice, sauces and crumbs scattered about. I’d eaten as fast as I could for 30 minutes before finally discovering I was full. Thank God, no one was with me! I asked for containers to take the remainder of my meal home. After paying, I waddled out the front door with a large plastic bag filled with left-over dinner to last the next three nights.
I’ve been to Yat Sing more times than I can count and have yet to bring friends. The truth is, I eat so fast when I’m there and I’m embarrassed. I’ve narrowed down what I order to just six veggie pot stickers and four veggie spring roles. Sometimes, I’ll splurge and order the spicy garlic string beans, (without hot peppers, of course). What I don’t want anyone to know is I can’t stand the thought of parting with just one of my precious Chinese food items.
For years, I was lovingly referred to as, “A human vacuum cleaner” by one and “Little Piggy” by another. Although I’d like to eat slowly and calmly while dining at my favorite Chinese restaurant, it’s not possible. If someone were with me, I’d have to secretly eat a meal before we went in so I could better pace myself. As a result of my eating style since divorcing nearly nine years ago, I gained 40 pounds. Although part of the excess weight has come off, I’m learning to think now before I dive into my plate – except when I’m at Yat Sing.
Recently, I went there for a quick bite to eat. The hostess greeted me with her usual warm smile, “I know, I know, table for one. Why you no fwends?” I confessed I don’t want to share my veggie favorites. She immediately came to my rescue with a brilliant idea, “Next time you come, bwing fwend. Order more what you love, then no more table for one.” 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home

         A feeling of security, comfort, peace, family, solidarity, familiarity, love and belonging enveloped me the moment my mother, Ross, my brother, and I moved to our new  home in Redding, California during the summer of 1973. My mother was newly engaged to Frank, who became Ross’ and my stepfather in December of 1974. At long last, I finally felt a sense of solid ground and permanent togetherness.
            Although I lived in this beautiful home on Alden Avenue just five years before graduating high school and heading to the Hawaiian Islands, I knew I could revisit the picture-perfect home I’d known. I’d spent those five years with the “Movie Stars”, my close girlfriends, in a world of non-stop activity, and indescribable unity. With our family’s homes right around the corner from each other, we knew another fun-filled event was only moments away.
            Life, however, drastically changed when Ross ended his life in 1999; the unraveling of my fond teen-age memories began. Two years later, my mother died, leaving my world a state of shattered disbelief. Shortly thereafter, the home I’d grown to count on was sold. Frank remarried and moved to Idaho. The life and memories I’d known until I was 41 came to a screeching halt.
            Since beginning my life as an adult, I attempted creating the feelings I’d known on Alden Avenue. While moving between Californian and the Hawaiian Islands, the security eluded me. I married when I was 36 and became a mother at age 37. Surely, now what I deeply longed for could be mine again. However, my husband and I divorced six years later, while Spencer, my son, and I remained on our ranch. Eight years after divorcing and 14 years since moving to our ranch, I’m still trying to create the life I deeply miss.
            It wasn’t until July 30, 2011, I felt the feelings I’d known on Alden Avenue. Donna Wishon, one of the Movie Stars, lost Wish, her father, a week prior. The Family of Friends I’d known the past 38 years came together to honor and remember Wish, a gentle soul. Donna’s family home is no longer as I’ve known; both her parents are now gone, too.
I was given the opportunity to stay over night in Katy Dunbar’s childhood home as her folks were out of town. Katy is another of the Movie Stars and Korki, her mother, was one of my mother’s close friends. I was relieved to park my suitcase away from any troubles for a day.
            Walking into the Dunbar’s home, I was instantly catapulted back to 1973 in a way I could never have imagined; I felt the missing pieces of my heart come together. I walked down the hallway and gazed at the family photos on the wall. I rolled my suitcase into Katy’s childhood bedroom while a flood of memories returned me to the days when the Movie Stars played there. Once again, I was in a picture-perfect home, complete with all for which my heart longed.
           The next morning, however, I awoke overcome with an aching sadness. I realized the love, security, safety, family, aesthetic beauty, familiarity, closeness and happiness I felt in the Dunbar’s home was only for a day. In a few short hours, I would leave behind all I desired for Spencer and me.
            Crawling out of the comfortable twin bed, I walked outside and sat in a chair to watch the automatic sprinklers prepare the lush yard for another hot Redding day. The birds jumped from one potted plant to another with seemingly not a care in the world. Behind the greenery of the yard, I saw the area, which once housed 4-H farm animals to pet. Across the freshly-mowed lawn, the sun rays streamed through the trees the Movie Stars and I raced through another lifetime ago.    
In my adult years, I’ve not felt what I had as a protected, teen-age girl; perhaps this is not to be as an adult? As a mother, I’ve not created a financially stable, nuclear setting for Spencer and myself. With foreclosure of our ranch on the horizon, a destroyed history of stellar credit and a mountain of bills too high to climb, I continue seeking the right choices. Where do we go from here? I look into Spencer’s eyes and pray he doesn’t sense my agony of defeat. Instead, I focus on what I have done for us.
            Is there a magic formula to soothe the longings in my heart? Is it in a book I may find at Barnes & Noble? Is it in a story I may write and stumble upon as I re-read my words? If given an opportunity to sit down with my late mother for a cup of tea, could she guide me to my answers?
When the nine Dunbar siblings walk into the childhood home they’ve known nearly 40 years for family gatherings, they understand what I’ve described. Their mother and father greet them with a warm welcome; the grandchildren race throughout, while making a bee-line to the Silver Egg, for a piece of candy.
I’m grateful for the life once lived – if only for a day. Knowing now what’s missing in my existence, I’ll continue searching for this hidden treasure. I hope to locate the map, guiding me to my home sweet home.