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June 26, 2020

It’s my birthday morning!

My bedroom curtains suddenly start to flutter. The dawn’s rays, gently alighting on my cheek, announce that a new day has begun. I open my eyes, seized by the awareness that my 72nd year had been another full year, to be buried somewhere in the vast cavity of time. My bare feet refreshed by the dew, I do a tour of the outside of the house as if to inspect whether the foundations will hold for a while yet. Being someone who is by nature optimistic, I cheer to the bright songs of the little birds wishing me “happy birthday.” I spot a few crows, early rises like me, perched on the roof squabbling amongst themselves as if officiously discussing the day’s schedule of some prime minister.

Waiting for my first coffee, I mentally try to summarize all the years that have passed in order to set the page for a final concluding paragraph. I like to order my thoughts through lists, so I sit down in front of the computer and compile the first one, then a second one and another, each one representing the worst, the not-so-bad and the best respectively. But it ends in failure. The exercise causes me to feel dizzy. I leave the computer and start to gather sheets, towels and cloths to throw into the washing machine.

By my second cup of coffee, I’ve abandoned the lists and imagine my life as a huge load of laundry. As if, by some miracle, a big sudsy storm could restore my life’s fabric: brighten a muted childhood, remove the shadows of an unhappy adolescence and soften a bruised heart.

With the third coffee, the machine’s heavy-duty action had caused my marriage to fade completely. I was 33 years old, working while running children’s socks, baby blouses and little girls’ dresses through soapy water 2-3 times a week in the machine.

Though it has been hard and demanding, my new freedom also feels as good as a fresh load of new bed sheets. The toughest times are definitely behind me.

On May 27, 1987, I celebrated 40 years, free as the air and ready to open a small local restaurant with my own name in big letters on the outdoor sign. It was a fresh start – the most wonderful time of my life. Fifteen incredible years getting out of bed before the sun had even crept over the horizon. Working in the kitchen inventing new dishes, feeding hungry customers, teaching others the trade, and of course, paying the bills.

Yet, even during these years of hard work, birthday candles lit up in my mind each day.  The whirling of the washing machine offered me company each evening.

White kitchen jackets, pants and aprons, wiggling and slapping together in the hot water a thousand times over, kept me up until they had finished drying. Morpheus himself would then take hold of this fulfilled single woman and lay her gently down in sleep’s embrace. 

The business side then took over, sequestering me in a manager’s office smelling of well-pressed suits and starched collars.

Some 10 long years were spent setting up restaurants throughout the country, calculating distances, expenses, and especially, the constantly growing number of dining seats.  

Somewhere around 2010, my young son, then the director of operations for Canada and my right-hand man, decided that it was time that his mother step aside. He took over the helm with great drive and determination. My heart filled with love and pride.

After several trips that were necessary to cut away at the umbilical cord tying me to my cherished work, I was able to detach just enough to accept the next phase of my life. Unable to break completely, there are much stronger forces at work today that would have me shut away for good.

So, here I am, a retiree, confined and still holding on to the company’s heart. This morning, I am starting my 73rd year with you, so pleased to be able to share all “my laundry” with you.

Perhaps you’ll laugh, but I’ll end these musings by comparing life to a powerful washing machine. In goes the right material on normal cycle, and out it comes improved. In goes your sadness, hurt, heartbreak on delicate cycle, and the soft water rocks you gently back to your truest self. Even a great misfortune, crushing disappointment or a terrible loss fades away in the restorative water of hope.

Allow your mind to agitate and spin! Because there is always a way to diminish our misery and make our lives better, keeping strong our hope for a better tomorrow.

My warmest love to you all!