I've never put much stock in that whole star sign/horoscope thing, but I'll tell you this -- Al and I were both born under the sign of Virgo (only one day -- well, and 4 years, hee hee, apart) and we definitely both have one Virgo trait in spades and in common:
We're creatures of habit. The two of us thrive on routine more than anyone else I've ever met. We're pretty much famous around the neighborhood for being predictable - the people on our street adjust their clocks and other devices of chronology based on our comings and goings. We do the same things at the same times based on the day of the week. What? We LIKE it that way.
In short, you can depend on our complete inability to bust out of our ruts. The good ones, anyway.
Which is why we are so ashamed of what happened last weekend.
As I've mentioned before, my little family gets up every Saturday morning and trots off to breakfast at a little locally-owned diner around the corner from us. Everyone knows us there. We're Saturday morning reg'lars to such a degree that even Bean calls the staff by name - her two favorites are Gramma Terry and Auntie Angie, who spoil the child rotten with gifts and treats on a regular basis. Gramma Terry even introduces Bean to other patrons as her granddaughter.
And we all pretty much eat the same things each time we're there: Al gets a Denver omelette with wheat toast and a side of sausage patties, Bean gets a pancake, and I get a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with hash browns on the side.
Why, last Saturday morning I had heartburn so bad my eyeballs were bubbling in their sockets, so when Gramma Terry came by to write down our orders, I asked for just a bagel with cream cheese and a needle of shock and horror scratched against the vinyl of the morning as a hush fell over the place.
"Oh, honey! ARE YOU OKAY???"
Now on Sundays at lunchtime, the cooks make a fantastic Greek chicken soup and serve that it up with huge baskets of the fresh-baked bread that Bean adores, plenty of butter on the side and of course another dose of family-away-from-family lovin' from the gang. So it's been our tradition to have lunch there on Sundays, as well. Every Saturday as we pay the tab and Bean's sopping up her final hugs and kisses and collecting her lollipop from Jamie, the greeter and cashier, Gramma Terry says, "See you tomorrow!" and Bean says, "Yep! See you tomorrow Gramma Terry!" It's a done deal, see? Sunday lunch at Gramma Terry's.
Oh, the guilt.
A few Sundays ago we had errands to run over in a neighboring village, and had been exhorted by our neighbor, Mr. Charlie, to one day for-cryin'-outloud try something NEW, wouldja? and go to this great place over there for brunch. We warily pondered all the ramifications of such a bold move and hesistantly crossed the threshhold of Richard Walker's last Sunday morning like a coupla cat burglars with overactive guilt complexes. We took our seats with cowed heads and glanced over our menus, trying hard not to conjure up mental images of Gramma Terry as Auntie Em in the Wicked Witch's crystal ball, wringing her hands worriedly as she gazed from the clock to the diner parking lot and back again.
Our neighbor hadn't steered us wrong, either. This menu featured all some of our diner favorites along with a list of specialties that made my mouth water, and 100% Kona coffee that tasted like nectar, straight from the gods. We ordered and cleaned our plates hungrily while we basked in an ambient selection of beautiful classical music and the rich dark wood appointments and stained glass accents that surrounded us.
Al began to shake his head sadly, saying, "Poor Gramma Terry. I'm gonna miss her."
I assured him we were NOT abandoning Gramma Terry and the gang. We'd visit them on Saturdays and come HERE on Sundays. And we have, for going on a month. We've got ourselves a new Sunday rut. Gramma Terry's cheerful "See you tomorrows!" have become more and more dubious as the weeks have worn on. Now it's "See you tomorrow? You missed last Sunday." Bean still happily shouts the affirmative, but Al and I hang our heads and sink into our booth cushions.
It's almost enough to make Richard Walker's apple pancake (it's actually fritter, y'all), which is as big as my head, crusted over with gooey brown sugar and cinnamon, taste bitter and cold as a big ol' raw turnip. Almost, I said.
And to make matters worse, the crushing blow: As the cheatin'-hearted FriedOkra family waddled out and climbed into the car yesterday, our bellies full of Richard Walker's delights, hopped up on Kona coffee and cinnamon sugar, I casually glanced to my right as I buckled my seatbelt and there, climbing into the car next to ours, was an elderly couple we recognized as fellow reg'lars at the old corner diner. I tried to avoid eye contact, hoping they wouldn't see us, but it was too late. The husband caught my gaze and immediately I saw in his face the same shame and guilt I'd been carrying within me for weeks. We'd both been caught.
Tippin' out on sweet little Gramma Terry.