As I reached across the stove to start the burners, I realized it had been 3 years since we’d cooked together.
Mom, now 74 years old, settled into the barstool and pulled herself up to my oversized kitchen island.
She was perched near the corner of the counter. Based on the way her little legs were dangling and swinging in a childlike, carefree manner, I could tell she was prepared for a nice long mother-daughter chat.
I busied myself with “the rinsing of the rice”, and we discussed all the years we cooked rice without rinsing it first. Might seem like a no-brainer to most folks. But for years, mom and I “gunked up” our rice cookers because we didn’t give the rice a nice-long-rinse beforehand.
Mom, aka: Dorothy, is the lady behind the hot dogs, cakes, and brownies we take to the Marion Street Bridge. Yet, due to some long overdue maintenance-type, surgeries…the last time she ventured out to the bridge to serve, had been quite a long time. Years in fact.
Three years ago, we had about 5 or 6 volunteers behind the tables serving up our food.
Sometimes, I would be forced to call people on Tuesday night…desperately in need of an extra set of hands to serve vegetables on Wednesdays.
These early days, are still fresh in mom’s memory.
I had been telling her about the Real Estate company that comes to the bridge on Wednesdays, and how the majority of their team comes out to serve. I had been telling her about the local restaurants that prepare food for us. I had been telling her how the crowds were getting bigger and bigger.
…she would get a far away look on her face as she tried to picture a bunch of Realtors under the bridge schlepping meatballs and hot dogs.
Mom and I used to work in the mortgage industry together, for years and years we worked our tails off. With crazy markets, and everyone experiencing a whole-new-level of busy these days…how does everyone fit this into their schedules?
I watched a little wrinkle form between the bridge of her nose.
“So these people come out and serve most Wednesdays?” She asked with her elbows propped on the counter.
“Yes, and they pick up food from local restaurants on their way out to the bridge.” I replied, as I measured the right amount of rice & water into my Instapot. (Btw…the Instapot is a fantastic rice cooker.)
As mom and I happily chatted away, my gleaming empty pots sat patiently waiting on the counter.
Grabbing one, I began building the Swedish meatball sauce for the 40lbs of meatballs I was bringing to the bridge.
I whip up about 40lbs of meatballs, 30lbs of veggies, along with 25lbs of rice, huge bowls of salads and other fixings. And sometimes, I get a wild hair to do crazy things. -->We all have a crazy side right?
As I started to get into my groove in the kitchen, mom and I settled into our usual cooking rhythm. Man I love cooking with mom!
Over the next 4 hours, the sauce, the meatballs, rice, veggies, and coleslaw came together flawlessly.
I loaded up the car.
Endless piles of dishes were washed and dried.
Mom hopped in the front seat.
With my little hybrid brimming with food, I whisked her off to the Marion Street Bridge.
As we were pulling up, she marveled at all the people.
Tables from a local church were all set up with clothes, essentials like toothbrushes, feminine products, blankets…you name it, they had it. Mom was shocked.
Then we turned the corner, and she saw all the people who were standing in line for food…
My how we have GROWN!
A line of people wrapped clear around the picnic tables <yes, we love our picnic tables! What a blessing!>. A long, long line of people. Patiently waiting for the food to be unloaded.
However, the most awe inspiring realization to mom, was ALL THE VOLUNTEERS.
Mom was flabbergasted.
We got her comfy at the end of the line handing out drinks…and she hustled for the next 45 minutes. I loved having her there. Can you tell? It-was-a-toe-curling-moment for me.
Some of my best and oldest friends were at the front of the line...
...keeping the hot dog momentum flowing.
Just seeing them putting hot dogs together makes me smile.
(There’s a real art to serving the hot dogs…it requires a groove, a focus….who knew hot dog buns could be so stubborn to come apart, especially when very-hungry-eyes-are-staring-at-your-every-move. It’s like trying to type when someone is staring at your hands. It takes talent people!)
The next 45 minutes were a blur of filling plates and cups.
Helping people move through the line.
Thanking people for coming out. (Yes we thank them for coming out!)
Standing back, I was watching completely inspired…seeing all these extremely busy professionals come together with focused effort - and feed a whole slug of hungry bellies under the bridge. It’s quite a sight.
This is what I live for!
These moments…filled with feelings and emotions….just like this.
I am blown away by what people can accomplish. I am thrilled with the amazing energy and attitudes they bring…these moments under the bridge are sheer joy for me.
It doesn’t matter what difficulties you have going on. If it happens to be a bridge day…well, those difficulties will slide right away for a little bit. You can’t think about your problems and be present under the bridge. Serving up delicious street tacos from Bari Restaurant, or scones from Pure Decadence Pastries…to some folks with all their belongings on their back (literally)…these people REALLY appreciate the meal. And, it allows you to let go of your own challenges for a bit.
If we hear “thank you for the meal” once, I bet we hear it a-hundred-times.
The moment flew by, and before I knew it, we were loaded up and pulling away.
Mom was shaking her head.
I could feel emotion oozing out of her smiling face.
“That was incredible!” She beamed.
“I can’t believe how much it’s grown. I LOVE how grateful everyone was. I can’t believe how great I feel!” She gushed all over my front seat.
I drove us out of the depths of the Salem bridges and basked in her praise.
Yes. It is awesome.
All the volunteers feel it.
It’s the most contagious feeling I’ve ever experienced. What a gift. What a blessing.
Here’s what we served:
- Pork Tacos Thank you Bari Restaurant!
- Swedish Meatballs
- Seasoned Corn
- Buttered Peas & Carrots
- Assorted Scones Thank you Pure Decadence
- Coffee supplies Thank you Costco
…and various other goodies that showed up at the last minute.
Thank you! Thank you!
Remember, it’s not what you do next week that matters. It’s what you're inspired to do in the next hour that can change your life.
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