It’s Saturday, and I am, as so often happens, black-pantsed and white-shirted.
It is the garb of the serving class, and while I joke about the fact that the waist of those black pants fails to cover quite all my ribs and that the white shirt has the come-hither allure of a hospital gown, I nevertheless respect the uniform. One can only be so attractive while schlepping food, don’t you think? Still, I am a better, harder-working person while wearing the ol’ black-and-white. When I am dressed in such a manner, you can expect that I will treat you and your silly demands with respect, that I will laugh at your jokes, and that yes, indeed, I am both working hard and hardly working.
Thank you for asking.
It’s Saturday, and as is my wont, I’ve taken a side job. Standing in the shade of the Doubletree Hotel, we’ve set a lunch buffet out for the 160-or-so bicycle riders we are expecting at any moment…
I don’t expect to be engulfed by emotion; but suddenly, I am.
The Ride2Recovery group has just ridden 35 miles around Lake Minnetonka. Hailing from all parts of the U.S., soldiers recovering from grievous wounds glide into the parking lot. Two- and three-wheeled bikes. Companion dogs. Men on recumbent bikes peddling with their arms. Injuries evident by way of missing limbs or cruel, twisting rows of stitches. Bomb blasts evident by the surprising number of hearing aids.
I am overwhelmed with their toughness, with their bravery.
With their youth.
We stand next to each other, almost at attention, Minh and I. “!@#$,” I whisper. “I might cry.”
“You do, and I’ll punch ya,” she hisses good naturedly.
She’s right, but so am I. I blink away the tears and smile at the men coming through the line. “Turkey, chicken, beef,” I say, over and over, a response to their questions on the sandwich wraps. “Turkey, chicken, beef.”
They collapse on the grass, under the leafy spread of massive oaks, eat their lunch and talk between themselves. It is the kind of summer day you remember long after it’s gone: the cool shade, the bright blue sky.
Winter never happened. It has always been summer.
After 10, 15 minutes, Minh and I circulate among the men, offering to bring them more water, offering to take their plates.
A man with a prosthetic leg hands his plate up to me. “Are all the women in Minneapolis as pretty as you?”
I wink at him. “Absolutely,” I say. “Every single one of ‘em.”
His friends laugh.
We make the rounds, over and over. “Thank you, ma’am.” “Thank you.” “Thank you so much.” Every napkin I pick up, every plate I stack, is met with a “thank you”.
And every time, I say the same thing.
“No,” I say, smiling. “No, really. Thank you.”
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