Every Friday night, the girls and I have a standing date at Real Food Daily. We are on hugging terms with the staff. During dinner, the girls color pictures and tape them to the cake stands and daily-special signs. We gossip with the crew, linger well past our meals and sometimes get hooked up with dessert. Last Friday, the girls colored enough medallion-sized pictures of animals to go ‘round. Most of the waiters, the counter staff and the general manager paper clipped them to their lapels. We brought cupcakes for them too, which seems kinda funny; to bring a vegan restaurant a dozen vegan cupcakes that were placed in the back and scarfed down by all, the restaurant desserts ignored.
When there is a new face in the restaurant, the girls initiate them thoroughly. "Hi-who-are-you?-I'm-Maya-this-is-Mina-We're-here-every-Friday-Whatchu-got-there?
the-commericials-for-Evan-Almighty?-Can't-wait-to-see-that . . ." It doesn't stop. She has full conversations with table neighbors too. She had such an in depth one two weeks ago that the young couple next to us became completely enraptured by Maya, in love, and proclaiming her the most joyful, enlightened person they've met. Maya starts conversations with strangers sincerely like this: "You are so pretty." Even when she was tiny, around 4 or 5, she would blurt things to the most down-trodden and miserable looking people; things like, "I love your earrings," and their entire face would brighten. She has that gift. So, she befriended this couple next to us at RFD and took it upon herself to offer that I bake them a dozen cupcakes and deliver it to their work the following week. They volunteer at a spiritual center around the corner from us. The guy was so excited about getting a dozen vegan cupcakes for his very own that it never crossed my mind to object. "Of course, we'll bring them by," I said. "I'll help sell them for you," he said, thrilled. And I said, "You know what, it's more fun to give them away."
There's a new host who works at Real Food Daily. I didn't notice him until Mina said, "Mami, Mami, look at him." "Who?" "Look, look," I looked. Mina said, "He is so handsome," and she peeped him out behind my hip. "Maya, Maya! Look at the new guy. Wow." Maya and I were charged by Mina's sparkling crush. Don't get me wrong, the kid was beautiful: About 20, olivish skin, green eyes, fantastic shag hair cut, but we were more interested in Mina eyes aflame with instant smittendome. We sat at our table and Mina positioned herself so she could stare at Mr. New Host. I looked up from the menu to find Mina still staring. "Dang, Mina." She said, "He's hot." And we all giggled into our waters. Maya ribbed her, which had zero effect on Mina. She felt not one shred of embarrassement for how she felt. She is a free one with her emotions. Since Mr. New Host is new, Maya had to call him over to initiate him properly. He sauntered over coolly, now with a tiny purple flower tucked behind an ear. It was a great visual combo and I thought Mina would fall off her chair. As he answered Maya's typical grilling, I noticed that maybe his tremendous looks had scooped out some brightness from his eyes, from his mind. He wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was sweet and attentive. Maya asked if he was a vegan and instead of answering he started unbuttoning his shirt. We raised our eyebrows, Mina's almost off her face. On a young chest, Mr. New Host revealed a tattoo of the arced word "vegan" in a 1930's style font with shaded sides. Collectively we breathed, "Cool." A tattoo discussion ensued and he also revealed an outline of the country Peru behind his ear, colored like the peruvian flag. That was half his nationality. When he left to do host duties, Mina flipped over her kid's menu and used the busted crayons to color a portrait of him. And on the way out, after our meal and our normal Friday night restaurant gossiping, Mina walked to the host podium even though Mr. New Host wasn't there. She picked up the grease pencil and wrote on the vinyl list of names, "I Love You." Head held high, she strutted out the front door. I thought, Right. On.
The following week, the girls and I did bring cupcakes to that couple's spiritual center. The guy didn't seem surprised to see us. I said, "You knew we wouldn't forget?" He said, "I didn't think you would." He inhaled two cupcakes right in front of us as his eyes rolled back. And that is my favorite form of thanks. He also had gifts for the girls, t-shirts that read, "Be Peace" and a Gandhi quote on the back; you know the one, be the change . . . ? The tray of cupcakes magnetized a co-worker who asked while biting into a shared cupcake, "Is she interested in taking some classes here?" Someone's always selling something, I thought, but much to my appreciation our new friend said, "I think these people have it down. The girls especially, they are remarkable." On the way out, Maya said, "Cupcakes for trade!" And I said, "That's the best ever!"
I love Friday nights.