Posts Tagged ‘one for the table’

My “Holding Hands” Personal Essay

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“Holding Hands” 

by Alison Grambs

A few months ago I was walking home from work along a side street of Manhattan. Casually strolling towards me was a distinguished man and woman who looked to be in their mid-seventies.

They were holding hands. I was holding my cell phone.

They were quietly talking to each other through matching warm smiles. I was not-so quietly yelling at my husband through the receiver.

The casual pace with which this couple strolled suggested they had not a care in the world. I, on the other hand, was feeling burdened by every care in the world as I ranted into the phone about whatever debacle had occurred in my life that day.

As the couple drew closer, gradually closing the gap between us, the path became too narrow to accommodate all three of us, and soon we were entangled in that awkward step-to-this-side-step-to-that-side dance New Yorkers get stuck in when trying to politely share a confined space. Toning down my fury long enough to acknowledge present circumstances, I shimmied to the right to give the pleasant couple room to pass. They simultaneously stepped to the same side, indicating I should pass. I waved them on with insistence, as if to say, You seem happy. I’m miserable. Please, go first. The kindly couple, however, remained fixed in place, more than happy to give me first passage. I nodded appreciatively, eager to resume my ranting to my husband on the phone, and moved forward.

My efforts were soon thwarted, however, by another oncoming pedestrian, this one wearing a coat so bulky she instantly swallowed up the entire physical space I was hoping to pass through. Soon, what seemed like an onslaught of additional passers-by were scurrying around the couple and me on both sides. There was nowhere to go. We were positively stuck in place. Once again, our impromptu threesome found itself shifting back and forth in what seemed like an endless waltz of “step to the left/step to the right” maneuvers, the couple holding hands throughout it all.

A quick study of the area and a solution became apparent to me. If the couple could just break hands for one moment, I could pass through the middle and get on with my life. A rolling of my eyes… an audible grunt… I wanted to do both, for everything about our silly situation suggested pragmatism take precedence over romantics. But this couple made it clear they were not letting go of each other’s hands for anything. And for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, I simply smiled and stood there in wait.

It got me thinking about how often my husband and I have been in similar situation, holding hands on the street, only to suddenly find ourselves caught up in a clumsy dosey-doe with someone approaching from the other direction. How often, in such situations, my husband and I err on the side of practicality, momentarily breaking our physical connection so that some stranger can shave maybe, oh, six seconds off his or her travel time.

Suddenly, such pragmatism seemed all wrong.

We’ve been married for over a decade now. Some of those years we held hands a lot; and some, not so much. There have been stretches during which we’ve felt incredibly close, and our physical interaction reflected that. Yet, like most marriages, there have also been stretches during which my husband and I have felt a bit disconnected. Work stress. Family stress. Money stress. Emotional stress. Life just has a way of getting in the way of holding hands.

And that is so very, very wrong.

We hold onto our smart phones… we hold onto our grocery bags… we hold onto our key chains… we hold onto our Starbucks coffee cups. But how easily we let go of our lover’s hands. Such a simple gesture, containing such a powerful message. And yet, it is often one of the first things we sacrifice in this modern world of multitasking.

So, it was with awe that I observed this couple before me on the street, unwilling to break their bond, even for just a few seconds. I suppose some New Yorkers would consider such a couple annoying, maybe even selfish. How dare they hold up traffic just because they’re in love! But to me, what they had was enviable. Although I’ll never know the details of their personal circumstances, I imagine couple had been together a long time. I imagine they had worked hard to find each other in this world – and worked even harder to beat the odds and remain a pair when so many other pairs were breaking in half around them.

I think of the widows and widowers I’ve known who can no longer hold hands with their spouses. Twosomes that turn into onesomes, parsed either by tragedy or romantic failure, forced to downgrade from a two-cup coffee maker to a single-cup coffee maker. No hands to hold.

It’s a gift of sorts, I suppose, to be able to hold the hand of someone you love. To intertwine fingers, press palm to palm, squeamishly embrace the sweatiness of each other’s skin on a hot day, or rub skin against skin to create warmth on a cold one. Holding hands is a silent way of telling someone that you’ve got their back. Such a simple gesture. So seemingly inconsequential in the grand scheme of the things; and yet, as integral to a relationship as talking, hugging, cuddling, kissing, or even making love.

Holding hands is often the first experience we have in our lives with physical intimacy, and just as often, the last. As newborn babies freshly transplanted from the coziness of the womb, it is the stabilizing touch of a parent’s fingers intertwining with our panicked tiny ones that softens the shock of the new world. Likewise, for those of us facing the end, it is the comfort of a loved one holding our quivering hand that sends us off into the beyond without quite so much fear. Hand holding is the casual squeeze between two acquaintances on a date that signals, yes, this could lead to more. It is the hand of a friend in need being held by the hand of a friend ready to serve that need. It is the healthy comforting the sick, the strong leading the weak, and the old guiding the young.

Yes, the holding of hands is all of these things… if we let it be. I remember when I was little, walking with my father along the intimidating streets of New York, my diminutive hand tucked deep inside his manly one. Sometimes my dad would slow his stride for me, and sometimes, it was up to me to just find a way to keep up, even if it required that I sort of job alongside him like a Secret Service agent in a Presidential motorcade. No matter how difficult doing so proved for me, however, I absolutely would not let go of my father’s hand. If his pace quickened, so did mine; if his pace slowed, mine did as well. And as far as I was concerned, any feisty New Yorker getting annoyed about not being able to pass, would simply have to go around us. Sure, I’d arrive at our destination drenched in sweat, my little heart beating under the weight of little palpitations. But I’d arrive there as part of a team, and that’s all that mattered.

In the modest lower Manhattan church my parents attend regularly, there comes a time during every service that the Reverend instructs the congregation to walk over to one another and wish each other The Peace. I spend much of my time sitting in the pew dreading this meet-and-greet being forced upon me by a higher power. My mother used to be the same way – a bundle of nerves worrying about who among the crowd would welcome our hello, and who might shrink away.

But now, as the years have forced our family to cope with more downs than ups, I notice the enthusiasm with which Mom now approaches this opportunity to touch hands with her fellow parishioners. The woman runs Iditarod-like lengths throughout the sanctuary to extend a warm welcome to friends and strangers alike.

I’ve always loved my mother’s hands. They are beautiful hands. Hands that speak with a gentle, but firm grasp, as if to say, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve felt a lot. I’m here if you need me. They are the consoling hands that still hold mine when I’m having a bad day (which is often at age forty-two.) They are the loving hands that still intertwine with my father’s after over forty years of marriage.

Back on the sidewalk, a few more passers-by continued to hold our awkward threesome in place on that narrow street. And still, the couple refused to break grasp of one another. I admired the heck out of that. When the sidelines eventually did clear, our eyes met once again as the three of us tacitly acknowledged the humor of the situation we had just shared. Then I stepped far to the left to resume my phone call with my husband, and the couple stepped far to the left to resume their stroll.

In real time, of course, our interaction was little more than a fleeting moment that couple has most assuredly since forgotten. But to me, it was nothing short of mind-blowing. We should take more walks, I announced to my husband, no longer mad at whatever I’d been mad at. And Jesus, let’s make a vow to not let go of each other’s hands so easily from now on, okay? I thought to myself.

Hand holding isn’t always easy, and it’s certainly not always practical, especially in Manhattan. But we will do it more often now because it is nothing short of a privilege to have someone’s hand to hold. Such a privilege should not be taken lightly.

As the couple passed by, and continued strolling down the block, I stopped to look back at them one last time and smiled. More pedestrians were coming towards them now, but they simply would not let anyone come between them.

Their hands remained tightly clasped.

I hope they do so for a very long time.

My “The Shroud of Tamago” Humor Essay

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“Shroud of Tamago”

by Alison Grambs

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, a gnarly mole on my shoulder was deemed ‘highly suspicious’ by my dermatologist. Although the biopsy results weren’t in yet, I prepared for the worst. Death. Just two months shy of my fortieth birthday a growth the size of a peanut was going to take me out – rob the world of all I had to offer it, and rob me of the third season of Jersey Shore. With death imminent I needed to get my affairs in order. There was a lot to do: sort out my will and testament; cancel my Netflix membership; and, most importantly, guarantee a good turnout at my funeral.

The funeral part was tricky – trouble was I’d been a bit snippy all year. Annoyed some people. Burned some bridges. If I didn’t make amends quickly there was a good chance I was getting buried with just the gravediggers in attendance. In need of a quick way to redeem myself with everyone I had pissed off, I decided to send out Christmas cards. I’d never done it before, but a joyful holiday greeting featuring a jolly Santa and his elves wrapping glittery presents seemed the perfect way to remind everyone of my wonderfulness. Cards, address book and pen in hand, I dipped in to a new sushi restaurant in the neighborhood to grab lunch and pen my final correspondence to loved ones.

The place was empty, and Jingle Bells was blasting on the radio. From behind a black curtain emerged a scowling waitress. She handed me a menu with a grunt, escorted me to a table with a grunt, took my order with a grunt, and stomped off behind the black curtain with a grunt. I wondered if she, too, was dying. A few moments later, she returned to slam down a variety of serving dishes containing my appetizers… with a grunt.

In between nibbles I pondered deathbed Christmas card etiquette. Do I mention that I’m dying? Include a “hold the date” notice for the wake? A reminder list of who owed me money? A snapshot of my murderous mole? Hungry and pressed for time I decided to keep it simple.  At the top of each card I inscribed the name of the recipient; at the bottom, my own. Then, in the finest penmanship I wrote out my profound holiday sentiment:

“MERRY XMAS!”

There. My legacy was complete. Everyone would love me again. As Frosty The Snowmanpiped in on the radio my mind danced with visions of weeping  mourners lining up in droves at my funeral, clutching my Christmas card against their chests! Grievers hurling themselves on top of my coffin, crying out that Christmas would never be the same without another one of my cards!  The post office issuing a commemorative Christmas stamp in my honor! 

The waitress stomped back to the table and slammed down my sushi plate. There was the usual clump of ginger. The blob of pale green wasabi. Three tekka maki rolls. Some salmon sashimi. An eel avocado roll. Some shrimp. A few of those plastic fake shrubbery thingies I always chewed on accidentally. But wait… something was wrong.

“Um, I didn’t order this,” I said, pointing to a lone piece of tamago at the center of my sushi plate.

“No return!” the waitress growled back.

“But I hate egg,” I balked, indicating with a wave of my hand that she was to remove the spongy yellow interloper immediately.

The waitress indicated with a wave of her middle finger that I was to shut my trap immediately. Then she stomped away, muttering something about my bangs as she disappeared behind the curtain.  Snapping apart my chopsticks as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer came over the radio, I leaned over the plate, preparing to fling the tamago off my plate and maybe hide it behind the napkin dispenser or something. 

That’s when I noticed the mouth.

I shrank back in disbelief. Were those eyebrows? Was that a nose? I poked at the egg with the tip of my chopstick. Yes, it was definitely a face. In fact, the face looked oddly familiar. The scraggly beard. The thin lips. The sunken cheeks. The anguished eyes pleading upward. The thorny crown. Although I could not be sure which version of the esteemed man this was residing in my sushi – Robert Powell- Max von Sydow- Willem Dafoe- James Caviezel – the resemblance was uncanny.  It was definitely Him….

Jesus. Incarnate in dairy form.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed.

I gasped. “Put what back?”

Put it back!” was all the Holy Tamago said.

Clearly, this was some sort of test to get into Heaven; and although I wasn’t a particularly religious person, I was smart enough to know that when Jesus gives a dying person a command – especially from an omelet – you obey it.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, its eyes bulging.

I began to put back everything I had moved on the table while writing out my cards. Perhaps Jesus was a stickler for proper table settings – some sort of hang-up from hosting the Last Supper? I slid my tea cup back to the center of the table. The ginger pot back to the right. The porcelain chopstick holder back to the left. The soy sauce dipping dish back to the upper right.

“There!” I smiled proudly as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town came over the radio. Then I gave the Holy Tamago the thumbs up sign.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, this time louder.

Disappointed, but eager to please the relic, I shoved the rice bowl to the lower center. The miso soup bowl to the upper left. The fake orchid to the right.  The pickled plum jar to the left. The Kirin beer bottle to the right. My half-eaten soba noodles to the left. My salad dish and gyoza trays to the middle.

“How’s that?” I asked, waving my hand around the table like Vanna White to show off my handiwork.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago groaned, its voice now raspy and strained.

Fine. I continued putting more things back. I flung my dirty napkin back on my lap, and the ginger dressing spoon back in its dish. I stuffed my chopsticks back in their paper sleeve, and slung my purse over the back of the chair. Then I jammed my address book back in my purse, snapped the cap back on my pen, and stuck the Bandaid I had flung on the floor back on my pinky.

“Done!” I announced, bowing my head reverentially to get some extra points. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was on the air now. I couldn’t help but tap my foot to it under the table. 

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago huffed angrily.

Great. Another person I had pissed off.  Desperate to please, I put my coat back on. My hat. My gloves. My scarf. Looped my belt back to the second hole. Rolled my sleeves back up, then rolled them back down. I pulled my bangs back off my face, tucked my hair back in a ponytail, and put my candy cane flavored lip gloss back on.

“We good now?” I asked.

Put… it… back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, its body twitching and gurgling noises violently.

I leaned in. Yikes. The Holy Tamago wasn’t looking too good. Its face was all wrinkly now and its complexion had a slightly brown hue to it. At a loss, I scanned the restaurant for more things to put back. I righted the crooked photo of a Geisha that hung on the wall, and replaced the missing “L” in the word “Samon” on the chalkboard menu. I shoved all the chairs back under the empty tables, and rearranged the umbrella stand I had kicked on my way in. Begrudgingly, I reached into my coat pocket and returned the five mints I had swiped from the candy dish.

“How’d I do?” I asked, sliding back into my chair, eager to have this test over. 

Puuuut… it… baaaack!” the Holy Tamago wheezed, its gelatinous figure shivering intermittently.  

Oh dear. It was looking really sick now. Its brownish hue had changed to a deathly pallor – the corners of its once spongy and sprightly figure were now shrunken and taut. With the back of my hand I felt the Holy Tamago’s forehead.  It was ice cold. My God, it was dying! I pulled my napkin off my lap and gently laid it over the Holy Tamago to keep it warm. Then I grabbed a pen from my purse and wrote on the top of the napkin:

“DO NOT REMOVE!”

I scampered off to the restroom in search of more things to put back as a recording of Santa Baby began playing. Using what I could find in the supply cabinet I replaced the empty toilet paper roll, and stuffed more paper towels into the towel rack. Then I filled the empty soap dispenser with more liquid soap, and replaced a burned-out bulb in the ceiling. I put the toilet brush back in its holder while I was at it. Then I raced back and pulled back the napkin shroud.

“NOOOOOOO!” I yelped, falling to my knees and wringing my hands in the air. The Holy Tamago was shriveled up to about half its original size – its thorny crown fading from view.

Puuuuuuuut.itbaaaack, the Holy Tamago gasped weakly as its body started to convulse.  

“BREATHE!” I urged, dipping the corner of the shroud in my water glass, then dabbing it against the Holy Tamago’s mouth. With the tip of my chopsticks I loosened the Holy Tamago’s nori waistband to help it breathe. Then I propped the Holy Tamago upright, shoving the end of my straw into the Holy Tamago.

“STAY WITH ME!’ I pleaded, performing sushi CPR now – breathing slow and steady through the straw

Puuuuuuuut…iiiiiiiiiit… baaaaaack…” the Holy Tamago sputtered, choked and gasped, its beard fading into the egg.

 “I’M NOT GONNA LOSE YOU, GOD DAMN IT!” I screamed, then apologized for taking the Holy Tamago’s name in vain.

“STAY WITH ME!” I cried, pumping the Holy Tamago’s heaving chest rhythmically with the tip of my index finger.

The Holy Tamago coughed, wheezed, and choked. The features of Jesus’ face were fading rapidly.

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND! TELL ME WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO PUT BACK!” I screamed.

The Holy Tamago let out a long sigh as I watched the face disappear into the egg. Then it said a single word.

“Meeeeeeeeeeeeee.”

And then Jesus was gone. The tamago was just a tamago.

What did it mean? Where was I supposed to put the Holy Tamago? On a plane? In a hamper? Jesus had taken the time to come to me in omelet form to deliver some special message before I died – and I’d missed it.  I had failed the most important test of my life. Laying the napkin over the deceased tamago, I bowed my head and cried.

The grumpy waitress stomped back to the table and began clearing the appetizer dishes. Silent Night came over the radio. It had been a long time since I’d paid attention to the words of that song:

 

Silent night, holy night.

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Wait! That was it! I finally understood! The grumpy waitress reached for my sushi plate.

“PUT IT BACK!!” I suddenly heard myself shriek.

The grumpy waitress slammed the sushi plate back down.

“I’ll be right back,” I informed her, gesturing that she was not to remove the sushi plate.

Tossing my stack of holiday cards in a nearby trash bin, I raced out of the restaurant, down the street to the card store, and returned a few moments later. The waitress peeked her head out from behind the black curtain, then rolled her eyes, grunted, and disappeared again. I laid out the new set of holiday cards I had purchased across the table and admired the artwork. Gone was the jolly Santa cartoon. The elves. The glittery presents. In their stead,  a traditional nativity scene. I smiled at the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph kneeling beside the manger. Then I took out my pen and began writing in all the cards the words I should have written the first time around…

 “MERRY CHRISTMAS !”

When I was done,  I called to the grumpy waitress and gave her permission to clear the plate. A sense of relief washed over me. Although the Holy Tamago was no longer around to see it, I had done the divine sushi proud. I’d finally put the right thing back, and could now die in peace.

The grumpy waitress stomped back to the table, and just as she lifted the plate in the air and pivoted toward the kitchen I detected the slightest quivering movement from beneath the napkin. As the plate slowly passed by me I surreptitiously lifted up the corner of the napkin and peeked in. To my shock the tamago’s bright yellow color had returned- its mouth and eyes and scraggly beard as vibrant as when we first met.

Thank you,” the Holy Tamago whispered.

“No,” I whispered, “Thank you.”

With that, the Holy Tamago shriveled up and died… again.

The next morning the dermatologist called. Turns out my mole was benign… disgusting, but benign. I was going to live! I thanked my dermatologist for the good news, and then I thanked Jesus- wherever he might be. I felt lucky to have met Him that day at lunch – even if it was just in omelet form. And since that day I make a weekly pilgrimage to that same empty sushi restaurant. My lunch order is always the same: an avocado salad, miso soup, gyoza, two tekka maki rolls… and one piece of tomago.

One day, I hope to see the Holy Tamago again.  But until then, I’ll just keep trying to get the grumpy waitress to smile. She hasn’t yet, of course. But thanks to my Christmas miracle there’s plenty of time.

Originally Published at http://www.oneforthetable.com/Oddities-and-Obsessions/the-shroud-of-tamago.html

My “To The Fruit Cart Guy On My Corner” Personal Essay

“TO THE FRUIT CART GUY ON MY CORNER”

by Alison Grambs

Dear Mr. Fruit Cart Guy On My Corner:

I do not know how old you are.
I do not know from what country you hail.  
I do not know whether you are married or single, straight or gay.
I do not know where you live.
I do not know if you have children.
I do not know whether you own a dog, or a cat, or a ferret.
I do not know where you get your fruit.
I do not know where you go when you need to pee.
I do not know if you use mousse or spray-on gel to get that Elvis-like wave in your hair.
I do not know what drives you to put blueberries on sale one day (2 cartons for $5) and strawberries on sale the next (2 cartons for $ 4)

Shit.

I do not even know your name.

But I do know this:

I know you have quietly become part of my daily life.
I know you make sure I smile every morning when I leave for work.
I know you make sure I smile every night when I come home.
I know you never run out of anything – or if you do – you apologize profusely.
I know you are there for me through the hottest of days, and the coldest of nights.
I know you always pet my dog, even when he rudely lifts his leg on your milk crate.
I know you care that your strawberries are fresh.
I know you care that your avocados are ripe.
I know you never snap at my old bitty neighbors who poke at your produce and then don’t buy anything.
I know your shopping bags make great garbage bags for my kitchen waste basket.
I know you sometimes give me 5 bananas for $ 1 even though your sign says, “4 bananas for a $1”.
I know you’ve saved me embarrassment at many a dinner party when I ran out of lettuce for the salad, or mushrooms for the soup, or cantaloupe for the dessert.
I know you are a decent man because you always tell me I look pretty, even when I don’t.

No, Mr. Fruit Cart Guy On My Corner,  
I do not know how you came to choose my corner.
Or why you stay on my corner so faithfully.
(There are an awful lot of corners in this big city of ours.)

But I do know I’m real glad you’re there.

My “Les Hamburgers in the City of Light and Strikes and Floods” Personal Essay

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Les Hamburgers in the City of Light and Strikes and Floods

by Alison Grambs

It was hard not to take it personally.

The moment my mother and I stumbled off the plane onto Parisian soil this past June, the city was getting away from itself in a most unusual way.

Too-close-for-comfort terrorism alerts were being issued to Americans traveling to France. Torrential and relentless downpours of rain were pummeling the streets. The Seine was flooding to a historic level. A strike by transit workers and airport employees was looming. Unseasonably cold temperatures were forcing us to forego wearing the Paris-style fashions we had dreamily packed in our matching luggage sets. And, in an emergency act of protecting its antiquities from drowning, the Louvre had the nerve to close its doors – literally as we were arriving at the ticket booth – rendering us unable to so much as snap a prized selfie of us surrounded by hundreds of other tourists snapping selfies of themselves snapping selfies with Ms. Mona Lisa.

Frankly, the City of Light was looking more like the City of Uh-Oh, and I’m fairly certain my mother wanted to cry. After all, this was the highly-anticipated mother-daughter trip she’d been planning for a year now. A vacation to celebrate our triumphant survival through a previous year of abysmal woes. A vacation that had already been postponed once and had a lot riding on it emotionally and spiritually. A vacation that, at this point, seemed would have been better spent in the Bahamas. Or Trenton, New Jersey.

It was a hunk of meat that turned things around for Mom and me.

After an arduous day of observing the architectural wonders of Paris through the nylon of our half-broken parapluies – navigating rather crookedly and grumpily through soaked streets with our equally soaked map – we were feeling lost and dejected. None of the plans we had set forth were working out. We were feeling quite the traveling failures. And starving to boot because, somehow, in a city defined by its cuisine and dotted with myriad cafes and bistros, we had managed to forget to eat for twelve hours. So, we dipped into a hole-in-the-wall eatery next door to our understated hotel and were confronted with an alarmingly limited chalkboard menu. Once again defeatedly, we ordered the only entree we could decipher with our Rosetta Stone vocabulary: Le Hamburger.

547649 wine serving“Sounds so Frauuuuuunch, doesn’t it?” my mother and I snorted in mocking unison – laughing for the first time that day as we waited for our presumably un-French food to arrive. The dig was directed at ourselves; two women who had been so sure they’d been dining on frogs legs and snails and steak tartare. Such delicacies had so far eluded us. Mere pipe dreams now. All we wanted to do was shove something down our gullets and go to bed to sleep until our flight the following week.

The jovial owner, a man with a slightly rounded belly and doughy face, brought us wine. Neither of us drinks, per se, so to be honest, those two glasses could have been filled to the brim with Tang, and Mom and I would have gulped it down with delight. But it was the gesture that we noted.

“Red or white?” he had asked us sweetly en français.

“I think we’re supposed to drink red with meat, non?” my mother had replied, sheepishly employing her best Rosetta Stone French speaking skills. After a day of taking wrong turns and wrong buses and wrong trains, she just wanted to get one damn thing right. “Is that what you recommend, Monsieur?”

“Yes,” I had added for emotional support in my best Rosetta Stone French. “Please provide whatever you think is best. Pretty much everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for us today. We cannot be trusted to make such an important decision. We are idiots.”

The owner had smiled genially, shooing away our self-consciousness with a swift wave of his hand in the air. Then he had disappeared behind the bar only to reappear with two bottles of wine. One white. One red. “Vous boire ce que vous voulez boire,” he had declared with a warm smile. “Qu’est-ce qui vous rend heureux!”

Then, realizing from the twisted expressions on our fatigued faces that we had no idea what he had just said, the owner had repeated his declaration in perfect English. “You drink what you want to drink. What makes you happy!”

And there it was. In one fell swoop, this lovely stranger had given my mother and me permission to relax. To go easy on ourselves. To enjoy.

IMG 1098And enjoy we did. Les hamburgers arrived a few moments later. Outfitted on buns so perfectly toasted, doused in a sauce so superbly balanced in both seasoning and consistency, and garnished with a side of potatoes-something so glorious that it redefined the words pomme de terre, it was as if these magical mounds of meat had been touched by the hand of God. Mom and I groaned with delight as we took in bite after bite. Who knew hamburgers could be life-changing? We asked the owner to extend our compliments to the chef… who, as it turned out, was him.

For a good two hours my mother and I sat at that hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Sipping our red wine, sipping our white wine, feasting on our very French hamburgers, and enjoying. Enjoying despite the terrorism alerts. Enjoying despite the torrential downpours. The Seine flooding, the looming strikes, the unseasonably chilly air. And from that night forward, my mother and I enjoyed every inch of Paris, delightedly exploring all corners of the City of Light and Floods and Strikes. If there was a Metro line to explore, we explored it. If there was a water-logged street to stroll, we strolled it. If there was an architectural site to admire, we admired it. If there was a local to chat up, we chatted him/her up. And yes, we even got to eat frogs legs and snails and steak tartare.

Despite the odds, the trip my mother had dreamed would be the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime proved to be exactly that: the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. The only thing we didn’t get to do was visit the Louvre, which remained closed for the duration of our stay. (Apparently, that sulky Mona Lisa chick is a scaredy-cat when it comes to a little water.) But we took one heck of an awesome selfie with les hamburgers!

Originally Published at http://oneforthetable.com/Paris/les-hamburgers-in-the-city-of-light-and-strikes-and-floods.html