Brooke and Anna in a picture that Brooke insisted that I take on the way out the door. They are hugging.
On Saturday night, Brooke had a sleep over at her friend, Anna’s house. When I picked her up on Sunday morning, I told her that we’d be stopping off at the deli to grab some egg sandwiches to bring home with us for breakfast. She said that she’d already eaten and I explained that no one else had yet, so we were still going to stop.
We got to the deli only to find it closed. I looked around, desperate to find something that would work. (Long story, but cooking at home wasn’t an option and we had about fifteen minutes to get home, eat, and get everyone to where they needed to be.)
I spied a bagel shop across the street and figured it was our best bet. I parked the car and we ran in.
A year ago, hell, six months ago, we would have had to leave immediately. The place was PACKED. The extraordinarily long line was moving quickly thanks to an astoundingly efficient counter staff, but no sooner was a customer served than were they replaced by someone new just coming in. As such, the line snaked through the small shop, doubling back on itself within the very narrow space. By the counter, it was worse. Those who had ordered and paid then waited in no discernible order for their food.
As soon as we opened the door, Brooke said, “I’m going to the bathroom. Where is it?”
I looked around. I spotted the door to the rest room in the far corner. I would be able to see it from anywhere on line. There was a fire door in the rear of the shop, adjacent to the bathrooms. A sign on that door said that it was alarmed.
“What’s the rule?” I asked.
“No leaving,” she said.
“Okay,” I told her. “I’ll be on the line.”
She headed off to the ladies’ room and, as promised, I waited on line. Eventually, she emerged and found me waving to her from the crowd. As soon as she reached me she said, “I will wait by the door.”
I looked over at the front of the shop. There was an oasis of relative calm right by the door. It was not far from the crush of people by the counter, but the contrast was stark. It was a nearly empty space.
“Not RIGHT by the door,” I said, “you might get smushed by people swinging it open. How about over there by the drinks?”
“Okay!” she said and headed off to stake her space by the cooler.
We made funny faces at each other while we waited. I mouthed, “I love you,” and she mouthed it back. She paced. She squealed. She bounced. She laughed at whatever was playing in her head.
When the crowd from the counter began to encroach on her space, she came over to tell me that she was going back to the bathroom. “I have to wash my hands,” she said. And off she went.
Our food was ready thirty seconds after she came back.
As we walked back to the car with our bagels, I welled up.
“Can I tell you something, kiddo?” I asked.
She said that I could. “But just one thing,” she said, “not lots.”
I had a lot to say – about how she’s been using these tools with such success lately, about how far she’s come, about how she never could have survived in there before – but it was easy to summarize.
“I’m really proud of you.”
“I’m proud of me too,” she said, “and there are no more stops.”
“No more stops,” I promised. “Just home.”