I like to write warm, fuzzy pieces. They make people smile.
Somehow, I’m not sure this is going to be a warm, fuzzy piece. You never know.
A couple of months ago, I took a trip out to the west coast for a music conference. I didn’t go to have fun, but I was determined to enjoy the trip. The night I arrived, I headed right for the beach. Not to swim, just to see if it would be a good place to run one early morning while I was there.
The sun had already set when I got to the shore, so I had to be satisfied with noting the paved fitness trail and the parking areas for future reference. Then, I hopped in my rental car again and headed back to my hotel, stopping off at an IHOP to eat a late supper on the way.
Elena met me at the front entrance of the restaurant with a smile on her face. The pretty young lady led me to a booth and handed me the menu as I slid in.
“Joe will be your server tonight. He should be here soon to get you something to drink.”
She smiled at me again and, twirling around, headed back for the front desk. Moments later, she was back, still smiling.
“Joe is covered up right now, so I’ll go ahead and take your order. My name is Elena, and I guess I’ll be your server tonight.”
I smiled back at her and, making conversation, asked her how she was that evening.
She replied quickly. “Oh, you know. Just living the dream here in beautiful Southern California.”
I think she expected me to laugh. She was standing there holding an order pad in a pancake restaurant. Living the dream? Hardly.
I didn’t laugh. I did do something she didn’t expect. I asked her a question.
“What’s the dream, Elena?”
Her confusion was instantly evident in her eyes, as well as in her stuttered reply. “Dream? Well, I…uh…I…I don’t really have one, I guess.”
Quickly, she took my order for a drink and promised to come back soon to take my meal order. She was relieved to leave the table; that much was obvious. I felt bad.
When she returned a few moments later, I apologized, but she interrupted, explaining that she had been thinking about it, and she really did have a dream. She wanted to be a hair stylist, perhaps even own her own salon or maybe a spa someday.
There was a dream, after all.
Naturally, I did something else stupid. I asked her what she was doing to achieve the dream. Besides earning a living waiting tables, of course. Her answer was evident again in her body language, even before she spoke.
“Nothing. I’m not doing anything, just working here.” Her shoulders sagged as she turned to leave the table again. She wasn’t smiling now.
I know. Smooth, huh? I have a way with making people feel right at home.
Fortunately for me, within a few moments she was smiling again, as she talked of her family, especially her father. She seemed to need to keep the topic of conversation light, but also to redeem herself in my eyes, so she chatted constantly about different things each time she returned to my table.
Before I walked out the door though, she brought up the subject of the dream once more. One last time.
“There’s no hurry to go to school right now, you know. I’m young. I’ve got plenty of time.”
I made the first wise decision I had made that evening. I kept my mouth shut. Shut.
Smiling, I thanked her for serving me and left while I was still ahead.
To this aging man, edging closer to sixty every day, the words are almost laughable. Of course she has time. She is young.
The day will come when she will not be. Young, that is.
The years will stream past like water and, unless she is able to shake off her inertia soon, she will stand beside the raging river and wonder how it got so late. And, what happened to the dream. I know.
What happened to the dream?
I won’t ramble on about my dreams as a young man, even though that is what old men do. No doubt, it is enough to have had a little reminder of what it is like to be young and absolutely certain of having plenty of time. At least, I hope it is enough.
As I write, I glance up at the clock on the wall.
Wow! It’s getting late.
And so it is. Getting late.
Time to start wrapping this up.
Dreams won’t wait.
Maybe there’s still time to live the dream. I’ll keep working on it.
Maybe Elena will too.
“I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day; the night comes when no man can work.”
(John 9:4 ~ AKJV)
“Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
(from The Music Man ~ A musical by Meredith Wilson ~ Composer/playwright ~ 1902-1984)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.