Hot Dogs for Lunch

By Melissa Face

We were in the mood for hot dogs and chips. I picked Laney up from preschool, took her to the playground and the library, and asked her what she wanted for lunch.

“I would like a hot dog!” Laney shouted. “And plain chips! Not the ones that are too hot in my mouth.”

She was talking about the barbecue, and that was all they had on the counter of the local restaurant just down the road from her school. She asked me to buy them anyway.

Laney and I sat across from one another and ate our hot dogs and chips. They were simple and delicious and exactly what my 3-year-old wanted.

A lady sat down at a table next to ours and began eating her meal. “Those glasses sure are cute,” she told Delaney.

“Thanks,” Laney said.

The lady asked if they were an accessory or if she had impaired vision, and I explained that Laney is near-sighted and has an astigmatism.

“Well, they look great on her,” the lady emphasized.

I agreed.

“My baby has Asperger’s,” she told me. “He’s in school now and doing really well because I got him started in programs early.”

I commended her for being such a strong advocate for her child and told her that I used to work with students with disabilities.

“He’s actually my grandbaby,” she said. “I thought I was done raising babies.”

She sighed and took a bite from her hot dog.

“But what are you supposed to do when your daughter walks away from her own child?”

I just listened and took another bite of my hot dog.

“To her, it’s like she just asked me to watch her purse while she went to the bathroom. No different, really.”

She leaned her forehead against her palm and told me more about her family. “My grandbaby’s in kindergarten now and he doesn’t like the lunch, so I just feed him when he gets home, or I buy him a lunchable. He knows what he wants and has a pretty strong sense of self.”

We commiserated about picky eating habits and strong personalities. I knew exactly what she was dealing with in that respect.

“And my daughter has missed it all – the milestones, birthdays, Christmases. I don’t know how it doesn’t kill her soul. You know? It would kill your soul, wouldn’t it?”

I told her it would, and I meant it. I know exactly how fortunate I am to be there for the major events in my children’s lives. I am grateful to have every afternoon, evening and weekend with them, and I really appreciate my special weekday lunch dates with Laney.

Today she chose hot dogs.

Laney and I finished our lunch and moved on to dessert. At some point during our conversation, another customer anonymously paid for Laney’s ice cream. We indulged and continued talking with our new friend.

“I lost a baby to SIDS years ago,” she confided. “It’s one of the most painful things you can imagine. I thought I had maxed out on my share of suffering, then my son committed suicide a few years ago. You may have heard of him. He was a decorated soldier from Prince George.”

She pulled out a memorial poster from her purse. It was covered in pictures of him from high school and his time in the military. I told her that I never taught him, but some of my friends probably had. He was such a handsome and intelligent man, and he had achieved so much in such a short time.

I told her how sorry I was, and we chatted more about grief, pain and loss. We both questioned how so many people go through life untouched by tragedy, yet others have to suffer endlessly. We talked about staying positive, working hard and being grateful for the people we still have.

“My grandbaby is half white and half black,” she continued. “He asked me where he fit in at school – if he fit with the black children or the white children. I told him he fit in with all of them because he’s a human.”

We both said we wished more people thought the way we do, and the world would be a better, safer place if they did.

When it was time to leave the restaurant, I wiped ice cream off Laney’s mouth and we all walked outside together. I told the lady how nice it was chatting with her and it was a lunch I wouldn’t soon forget.

Laney and I pulled out of our parking space and waved goodbye to our new friend, a lady I bonded with because of our beliefs on raising children and treating people with kindness. Our similarities far outweighed our differences, and I was so glad I had been there to listen to her story, the things she needed to say. It turned out I was the perfect person to hear it all.

Thank goodness Laney chose hot dogs.

About this writer

  • Melissa Face

    Melissa Face

    Melissa Face lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and two children. She teaches English, writes essays, and spends a little too much time on Facebook. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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4 Responses to “Hot Dogs for Lunch”

  1. Ann says:

    Two women. Two moms. Two humans.
    A beautiful story. Both you and your new friend are setting shining examples for your children.
    Thank you for writing this. :)

    • Melissa Face says:

      Ann,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. This was a piece that I didn’t really choose to write; it chose me. Perhaps you can relate. Take care:)

  2. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    I agree with you and Laney. Hot dogs for lunch are great. And with you and your new friend: let’s treat each other with kindness. How kind you were to listen. Thank you for sharing with such beautiful words.

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