This afternoon Husband and I went to a local Pizza Hut to meet with some friends. We were early. Friends were late. So we ordered the pizza to have it ready for them when they got there. We got our salads and sat down to eat while waiting. A group of people came in and sat down and were themselves quickly up to the salad bar to get their salad.
As they were circling the salad bar the manager came out and one of them said “do you have more lettuce?” The manager said “yes, but we’re saving it for tomorrow.” Laughs all around. It was a nice Pizza Hut humor. But there was a guy sitting in a booth 2 booths behind us and directly next to the salad bar who spoke up. He states, loud enough for everyone to hear: “last time I was here I got sick when I ate off of it. Yes I did. I got sick. Nope I won’t never eat that no more.” The manager went to get more lettuce. The lady who asked for more lettuce said “and you came back?” The guy in the booth kept mumbling but the people at the salad bar went merrily about gathering their salad makings and walked back to their table. Their table was catty corner to our booth. As one of the men from the salad bar walked towards the table we caught each other’s eye and tried not to laugh out loud.
He sat down. Looked at me and said “did you use to live behind my grandpa’s house?” He told me his grandpa’s name. My jaw dropped. Which made his wife laugh. I asked “which one are you?” He said “Bill”. I happily said “BILLY!” He pointed at a man sitting across from him and said “that’s my son, he’s Billy now.” I told him when I knew him HE was Billy.
I told his wife “he’s not seen me for at least thirty years. How did he recognize me?” He put his hand up in front of his face, palm towards his own face, circled his hand around in front of his face.
The Billy I knew said “I saw your dad in your face”.
For a second, not even a second, my life had not changed from the summer days at his grandpa’s and our family farm. I felt my dad smile.
His sister came to the table from the salad bar. We shared some stories. Nice comments about his grandparents, my dad and my brothers and sisters. His grandparents have been gone many years, and my dad, well it seems like a lifetime without him. He told his sister something about the “nail tree” and I was stunned. I don’t even think my brothers and sisters knew about it. But I did. And they did. I knew about it because of Billy, he took me to it and showed it to me. I climbed that tree a few times. Or more. And I have thought about that tree over the years. It’s the only tree I ever carved my initials in, with someone else’s. And no one ever knew about it. And now no one ever will. The tree is gone.
I exclaimed a couple of times how surprised I was he recognized me. Thirty years. Where once I weighed less but appeared a little rounder, and my hair was long enough to pull back and braid down my back. Now I likely weigh more but look leaner, I have silver hi-lighting my dark and very short hair. I wear glasses. Entire life times have been lived. But he saw the teenage girl he used to see at his grandparents.
And he saw my dad in my face.