THE SECRET OF FRIDAY LUNCHES
Yesterday, I didn’t take my usual walk through the park. I walked to my bank instead. It took me through an area I seldom pass and I was surprised to discover the changes taking place. Several businesses, most of them restaurants, had sprung up and as I’m always looking for new places to take my mother for Friday lunches, I stopped at several to read the menus. It was 10:30 in the morning, so the restaurants were almost empty and the proprietors seemed eager to chat. Most of them told me business had been slow last year but was picking up. That was good news. I’m delighted to find these neighborhood eateries multiplying like mushrooms.
When I left the bank, I avoided the commercial area and walked along the neighborhood streets behind it. It was still mid morning on a workday so I had the pavement to myself. No cat appeared nor was any dog barking. It was a sleepy, foggy morning.
Half way home, a voice drifted toward me, a small voice… a child’s voice. I turned round thinking I was being addressed by some pre-schooler precocious enough to speak to a stranger. But despite the mist, I could see the street was empty. Continuing to walk, I craned my neck left to right as the intermittent voice grew louder. I saw no one.
At the end of the short block I was preparing to cross the street, when the child’s voice rose again bright and clear but behind me. Turning round, I found I was standing before a two story white wooden house, architecture typical of the area. But on that porch on that morning, a mother sat with her three-year-old old daughter on her lap. They were sharing a picture book, and the little girl, her long brown hair flowing across her face, was describing what she saw. The woman who held her was a pretty but made beautiful by her smile of encouragement.
When I saw the pair, I wanted to shout “Bravo.” But of course, I would never intrude on such a lovely moment. To me, on that misty morning, they were a portrait as touching as any painted by Duccio or da Vinci of Madonna and Child. The image will stay with me a long time.
It occurred to me as I left them to their private moment, that as the child grew up and the mother grew old — perhaps too old to fend for herself — she would have a daughter who would love her and care for her and take her to lunch on Fridays.
(First published 2/2/11)