Monday, November 14, 2011

Cafe Memories

I'm fortunate to say that I've been employed steadily, since the age of 15, except for the precious first year of Austin's life I chose to stay at home.  Looking back, I don't know how we survived financially but God certainly blessed us, and I'm ever grateful for those memories and time spent with him then.

Sharing a story this weekend with Noah about my first job, those years at Centertown Cafe have been on my mind.  I'm grateful Mom let me start working at such a young age because it instilled in me early a strong work ethic and an appreciation for earning a paycheck.  Waitressing was a tough job physically but the strength I gained from it was invaluable.  Tenacity from learning to show up, even on days you didn't feel like it.  Fortitude from facing strangers and turning them into friends.  Toughness in overcoming rude customers and bad tips. Durability from long hours on young legs, early mornings, and late nights.  Security in setting goals and saving from meager earnings.  Stalwartness from the life lessons shared with me by my mentor and first boss, Fry Holden.

Fry was a stern looking man, and one who could set fear in a young girl, still unsure how to read people.  My spine would stand at attention when I heard the large metal backdoor open and close, then the metal clink of his lighter, the aroma of his pipe following moments later.  He was a businessman, always heading to the cash register upon walking in the restaurant to see results of the day. 

A man of few words, he would have me spouting the events from the breakfast crowd or any news I knew he'd want to know, with just a glance.  After a few months, I learned how to get a smile out of him, sometimes a chuckle.  In the end, I considered him much like a father figure.  Fry was always there, for me, and all the girls who worked at Centertown Cafe.  He cared about us, but he was also quick to correct any behavior or attitude he didn't like. 

His was the first impactful death of my life.  I guess I was fortunate to not have a loss until very late in my teens, but it made it more difficult to process.  Though Fry didn't approve of absences and the school wouldn't approve it, I am thankful I stood my ground to attend his funeral.  I can still picture all of us girls arriving in Cafe uniform, complete with aprons each with lottery tickets to tuck into his casket when we said goodbye.  The cafe was never the same after his passing and it saddens me that the restaurant closed not long after.

I'll forever have fond memories though of my time there.  I treasure those loyal, regular cutomers, who became my friends.  Memorizing each of their usual orders, I'd have it cooking or at their spot before they made it to their seat.  Some would even call ahead to see if I was working because "I was the only one who could make a chef salad just right."  They shared stories with me and wanted to know mine, ready to hear how I did on a test or what fun I had on my day off.

And I love reminiscing about the funny times I spent with my co-workers, including my best friend.  Fortunately Fry trusted my judgement and hired her and I was thankful to get to spend evenings together.  I don't know whether we had more fun while the customers were there, or during close down each night, when we got to crank up the juke box and sing, dance, and act silly while mopping and scrubbing down the counters. 

Being a waitress will always hold a special place in my heart for these and many more reasons.  I'm grateful that my first job holds such treasured memories and just as thankful that my current job is one I passionately love.

Today I'm thankful for my job. I'm grateful to have a position that allows me to bring hope to others daily. I'm also thankful my mom let me start working at 15, which helped mold me and gave me an appreciation for a hard day's work. I'm especially glad my first job was such a positive experience, working for a great man, Fry Holden, and with a wonderful crew I'm still friends with today. ...Great memories from Centertown Cafe!


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