As a reward to ourselves for having a successful yard sale on Saturday, where success equals we didn't have to pack it all in because of rain, we headed downtown to our favorite restaurant for dinner.
This restaurant is lovely for many reasons, one of which is its cozy atmosphere. But that's not why we go there any chance we get: we go there for the food. Mmmm....Mmmm....food. Sadly, the state of my consumption lately is such that I'm not allowed (on punishment of probable upchucking) to eat as much as I'd like. There's simply no space left in my midsection to spare for such a passing whim as food. Still, I try. I'd like to think it's because I'm no quitter. But it's probably because I'm just a gluttonous fool.
We danced our way down the sidewalk towards the restaurant's front door early in the evening, before the crowdedness could begin to intimidate us and our enthusiastic children. And dancing is probably the most correct description of our forward motion. Mia stepped along joyfully while Justin tried to modulate his steps to hers. Lauren bounced and twirled and went in all different directions at once, while I waddled behind. I don't move forward so much as I zig and zag. It's tiring.
On one perfectly ill-placed step, I watched Mia, with all her sweet happiness at going to a restaurant, thud her toe into a raised snippet of sidewalk, and land squarely on all fours. I think she might have bounced, so forcefully did the sidewalk rise up to trip her dainty feet. The scream was terrifying. I zig-zagged forward as fast as I could, only to see two bloody knees and a wailing face. My baby...
Justin carried her to the nearest bench -- the one that sits directly beside the restaurant's front door -- and we assessed the damage.
Really, as a mother, I've seen my share of cuts and scrapes. It's usually the fault of concrete or asphalt, with the occassional gravel thrown in for good measure. This one, a concrete-induced malady of shredded proportions, was bad, and made me wish I had girls who loved sturdy jeans instead of cotton dresses. Blood pooled around her skinned knee and began to roll down her leg immediately. She screamed with each intake of breath.
My mother-in-law and I headed inside to look for a first-aid kit and some wet towels, hoping to find at least a band-aid. The manager kindly offered us our choice of band-aids, gauze, sterile pads, and peroxide, and followed us back outside to see how he could help. He stood by (with much good nature in the face of both a screaming and bloodied child) and passed me materials as I needed them, trying to talk Mia out of her terror.
And then, like a magical wizard with tricks up his sleeve, he offered the words that would be our lifeline back into the realm of calm: "Do you think a big cup of hot cocoa would make you feel better?"
Yes! I was about to say. I'd LOVE a hot cocoa! But since everyone was looking to my injured child for confirmation, I knew I should keep my mouth shut. She nodded her tear-stained face and burrowed into Justin's shoulder. The shoulder-burrow is the surest sign of healing, you know.
With bandages in place and tears drying up, we finally entered the building. Our table was waiting, our seats were ready, we were hungry. A feirce injury will do that to a family. We ordered our favorites and sat back to chat before dinner arrived. Mia was engrossed in her coloring page, Lauren played with a small rubber frog, and everything was perfect. The candle in the middle of the table glowed as fairly as any moon on a sweet autumn evening, throwing our previous upset into softened shadows. Mia was better. In fact, she was so much better that she talked at-length and in-depth about each detail of her fall. (And she played this conversation on repeat for the next day and a half.)
Around the corner, with a smile on his generous face and his hands -- BOTH hands -- full of giant mugs of hot cocoa, came the manager. If the candle was the moon, glowing peacefully, the cups of cocoa were shooting stars, forcing ooohs and aaahs from around the perimeter of our table.
This gentleman, this shining example of scrape-healing knighthood, placed the cups before each of my daughters with a flourish. He accepted thanks with reserve. He went back to his business with purpose.
And forever sealed the restaurant as among the very best our town has to offer.
You know all the news stories of children and families being discriminated against for their less-than perfect restaurant behavior? The stories that leave me sad for the state of understanding and hope and learning and acceptance? This was so far the opposite of that story. We were welcomed -- screaming, bloody, upset, waddling (ahem), flustered -- as a family, and shown the utmost care and generosity.
My daughters, if I do say so, were well-behaved that night, as is becoming more and more common with their maturity and understanding. Dinner was delicious, the cocoa was the perfect balm for the accident, and the night was glorious.
Especially since they couldn't finish their cups of cocoa, and I had to step in with offers of help.
Now, we're drawing straws as to who will take one for the team next time we go out to dinner. Sweet cocoa will be the death of our integrity, it seems.
If you're ever in Joplin, make sure to visit Red Onion Cafe. Tell them Sarah The Heavenly sent you. They won't have a clue what you're talking about, but maybe they'll take pity on your apparent madness and offer you a cup of cocoa. And be sure to have the Smoked Chicken Dip for your starter! That's an order.