a winnie sandwich

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Nearly every Friday night, our clan heads to our local Japanese-slash-Korean restaurant for dinner. It’s a relatively small place whose primary business is take-out. The dining room (even calling it a ‘dining room’ is a little grandiose) is therefore usually fairly quiet, especially at our early dinner time.

This past Friday, the girls and I decided that we wouldn’t let Daddy’s absence keep us from our Friday night routine. Closer to the truth, Mama decided that Daddy being away wasn’t gonna force her to cook, but why split hairs?

Armed with the safety net of Brooke’s iPod and earphones, we piled into the car and set off for the restaurant.

As always, our waitress, Winnie came over to greet us. As always, she brought a tattered bag of assorted crayon stubs over to the table before anything else. As always, Brooke reached into the bag and grabbed the red one. As always, Winnie asked Brooke what she would like to eat. As always, Brooke said, “Meeeeeeee I have chickenandricepleeeeeeeeease?” As always, Winnie asked what she would like to drink. As always, Brooke responded, “Meeeeeeee I have water pleeeeease?” As always, Winnie smiled and cheerfully said, “Good girl, Brooke!”

I love Winnie. And not just because she brings me spicy scallion pancakes that I don’t order (they don’t have any calories if you don’t order them. I read that somewhere.) or because she asks the sushi chef to leave the wasabi out of Katie’s tuna roll even when we forget to ask.

No, I love Winnnie because she adores my girls.

I love her because she makes a fuss over each and every picture that Katie draws for her and tells her that it is ‘even better than the last’ (or the last or the last or the last). I love her because she teaches the girls the names of the colors in her native Chinese. I love her because she faithfully and enthusiastically plays her part in our ritual every week. But most of all, I love her because she unconditionally accepts Brooke.

Not once has she looked oddly at my baby or questioned why she speaks to her the way she does. Not once has she asked why she wears her headphones when it gets too loud or why she sometimes shrieks in response to a child’s cry. Winnie’s smile has never flinched – not for a second – no matter what we’ve thrown at her.

As we got up to leave on Friday night, Brooke ran to Winnie and wrapped her little arms around her waist in a hug. Winnie’s face lit up, thrilled to have some Brooke love – even in the middle of the restaurant.

With a smile, I walked over to take Brooke’s hand and lead her outside. I was standing about a foot in front of them when – quick as flash – Brooke made her way around Winnie and hugged her from behind. Winnie looked behind her and laughed. I reached out for Brooke’s hand. Before I knew what was happening, Brooke had reached out, grabbed BOTH of my hands and pulled me into an awkward hug with Winnie. “We made a Winnie sandwich!!” she yelled.

Before I had time to catch my breath and register the fact that I was standing in the middle of a restaurant wrapped in a wholly unexpected embrace with our waitress, the impact hit. Any space that may have kept us at least minutely separated a moment before was long gone, along with my wind.

Katie had come running up behind me, wrapped her arms around all of us and yelled out, “Mama, now you’re the cheeeeeeese!!!”

Nose to nose, Winnie and I laughed so hard we nearly cried.

As we finally walked out I laughed at the absurdity of it all. And thought, “Wow, I really should have given Winnie a MUCH bigger tip.”

22 thoughts on “a winnie sandwich

  1. I find our kids on the spectrum to be an excellent judge of character. No amount of cookies, bribes or other items can make a kid on the spectrum like someone.

    Hahahah Jess you are the cheese!

  2. OK, I am free-associated wildly here, but my first thought on reading Katie’s contribution was “Farmer in the Dell” and how, most decidedly, if mama is the cheeeeeeese, the cheese does NOT stand alone. In many ways.

    Winnie sounds like a treasure, most excellent sandwich material. Yes, tip her lavishly next time!

  3. Hmmm Japanase-slash-Korean is one of my faves and I love me some seafood pancakes. You’re giving me a craving.

    But, oh, the post, and Winnie, yes she sounds great. I love the special people outside the family who are kind and genuine to our kids.

  4. the Tales of Brooke are always great. I love the way she opens up when she’s in her comfort zone, even though this can be an unpredictable thing. Really unpredictable. If you’re not down with cheese, you can be the lettuce instead. I’ve checked with the judges and a post-hug change is allowed.

  5. Very sweet. For all the challenging times, it’s so nice to have the offset … those places we go where people recognize and actually WELCOME us!

    Ours is the Outback Steakhouse. Jack loves the wings more than just about anything in the world. He walks around the house muttering “wings, wings, wings…” We go there every weekend. When we push open those brown wooden doors, the hostess always lights up … They always seat us in the corner, which works best for Jack. That random kindness just means so much!

  6. You are, indeed, the cheeeeeeese.

    I’m with Jenn. These kiddos ARE excellent judges of character, and their expectations are very high, as they should be.

    Winnie sounds like a lovely addition to the family routine (and I wouldn’t have cooked, either. Are you kidding me?)

  7. We so need more “Winnies” in the world. …and I so would have loved to be there for the Chilean sea bass dinner. You know how much I love it.

    Love you,
    Mojm

  8. for the record, i DID cook on sunday night .. an actual meal – chilean sea bass, sauteed broccolini and mashed potatoes.

    halfway through her dinner, katie said, ‘mama, thank you soooo much for making dinner. i know it’s not something you’re really used to.’

    doh

  9. Jess, you always frame your stories so beautifully! And, as always, I second everything that everyone else has already posted. 🙂

  10. Pingback: how was your weekend? « a diary of a mom

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