Cafeteria

Cafeteria: (n) a dining establishment in which customers serve themselves

My mother wouldn’t let me. (There are innumerable possibilities to go along with that statement.)

But in this case, it was eating in the cafeteria at school. Growing up, we lived so close to all of my schools that she insisted I come home
for lunch. So as is often the case in childhood, what you are forbidden to have becomes the source of your lust.

As I prepared to walk home to my house to eat my meager sandwich and soup, I would see all my friends on their way to the cafeteria to enjoy a mutual feast–and I assumed, great frivolity.

I felt cheated. I felt like an alien. I felt I had been presented a privilege which offered no visible benefit.

Then, one week my mother was going to be away helping out her sister, who was ill. She didn’t think it was right for me to come home without her there, so she gave me 75 cents a day, to eat in the cafeteria.

My joy knew no bounds. I was bouncing off the walls in anticipation. My friends squinted at me, confused about why I was so enthralled with eating at the common trough. They tried to explain to me that it was really pretty bad, and that I would be greatly disappointed.

But as I shuffled through the line, watching how my friends conducted themselves while conversing with the old women in hair nets who were dipping out the provision, I immediately noticed two obvious problems. All the food looked a little bit gray, and there wasn’t much of it.

For the first couple of days I pretended to enjoy the cuisine, but by the time Day Three came around, I found myself yearning for my fried bologna sandwich and tomato soup (with a few crackers.)

I made it through the fifth day, and when my mother returned on the weekend, she asked me if I would like to continue to eat in the cafeteria. I think she thought it was a pretty good deal–especially since she wouldn’t have to play cook and waitress for me at lunch time.

Inexplicably, I broke out in tears and was very embarrassed, but sobbed, “No, I wanna come home…”

It was pathetic.

But it was better than eating over-cooked macaroni, processed cheese and room temperature fruit cocktail.

 

 

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Box Office

Box office: (n) a place at a theater or other arts establishment where tickets are bought or reserved.

In the midst of my human journey, which I’m sure some people would consider a cavalcade of bizarre experiments and perpetual oddities, I, for a season, wrote screenplays, which were produced into low-budget, independent films, and showcased at festivals.Dictionary B

On top of that, we had a premiere of each film, which could be viewed by all of the participants, actors and family members, so they could “ooh and aah” over their participation (and also confirm that the camera really does put ten pounds on you).

I was in Michigan and they were shooting my script entitled “Wonderful,” which was a tipping of the hat to the Capra film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when it was determined that we would rent a big metroplex theater for our premiere.

It was a bold move.

The place seated about 300 people, and we had no reason to believe that such a multitude would be willing to come and see our little endeavor.

I vividly recall sitting in the parking lot, staring at the road leading to the theater and watching as the cars–one by one, then three by three, and finally ten by ten–began arriving for our debut.

It was thrilling.

By the time everybody gathered, the place was full, the movie was screened, the energy was supreme and the human interaction of joy and fellowship that followed was the definition of what our lives should truly be.

I will never forget that box-office moment, when the people poured out of the theater, some in tears, some laughing, some grumpy (maintaining their nature) but all aware that they had broken down their barriers, and allowed themselves, for a brief moment, to truly be brothers and sisters.

 

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Bottle

Bottle: (n) a container with a narrow neck, used for storing drinks or other liquids.

Kids like money.Dictionary B

I suppose you can try to change that.  Good luck.

Actually, the best you can do–so as not to become a personal ATM for your offspring–is to instruct them on various methods they can use to earn small sums of cash.

When my seven-year-old son came to me complaining that he didn’t have funds to buy a toy, I suggested that he go out and collect bottles. This was a time when such an adventure was plausible, and paid off with two cents per container.

He became extraordinarily industrious. In no time at all, he had collected 268 bottles. He was so proud.

So I drove him down to the local grocery store, which had promised to pay the deposit, and let him go in with a  cart, completely packed to the brim.

He was gone a long time. I almost decided to go in and check up on him, but felt he might consider that interfering.

He finally returned to the car with a little money in his hand and tears in his eyes. He didn’t say a word. So I finally asked him why he was so upset.

He shared that the store manager told him that today they would only give one penny for each bottle. He didn’t want to argue with a grown-up, so he accepted his half payment.

We just sat there for a moment in silence. Finally I asked him, “So what do you feel about that?”

The tears avalanched down his cheeks.

“I think it stinks,” he said.

I explained to him that since he felt that way, he should probably go in and make a stand. He nervously agreed.

Being a proud father, I couldn’t miss this. I made sure he didn’t see me sneak in behind him, but I was bound and determined to catch the discussion.

My little fellow was very respectful, but he challenged the manager and said that he had worked very hard to collect the bottles because he had been promised two cents.

Amazingly, the manager decided to stonewall. But as my boy made his case, a few customers came around, listening in on the exchange. One of them took my son’s side, and before you knew it, there were four or five people frowning at the store manager.

He realized he was going to lose more business than the $2.68 he was withholding. So he reached into the drawer, handed the money to my son and told him to be about his business.

I quickly scurried to the car to be there before he arrived. When he opened the door, he had a big, beaming smile.

He learned to stand up for himself–even though there was the risk that nothing would change. The truth of the matter is, if you’re being cheated by a penny on your bottles, you’d better pipe up.

Because bottling up your feelings can leave some nasty deposits.

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Bereave

Bereave: (v) to be deprived of a loved oneDictionary B 

I’m a silly goose (even though I’m not quite sure why that bird got crippled with such a characterization).

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but often I will be sitting alone and suddenly be overwhelmed with the remorse that will be felt by those around me at my passing.

I don’t know why I feel the right to project on them such a breakdown–but tears come to my eyes as I imagine them weeping over my demise.

Honestly, I cannot say that I get nearly as worked up about considering the death of another.

No, it is the absence of me on the planet that bereaves me.

I can’t imagine an Earth without my charming personality.

I’m reluctant to write this article, but having a certain anonymity due to the expansiveness of the Internet and my own obscurity … I assume I am fairly safe in maintaining this secret devotion to my own mortality.

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Bask

Bask: (v) to revel in and make the most of something pleasing.Dictionary B

Intimidation enforced for the purpose of demanding imitation:

In other words, if a flag held by a soldier in uniform comes streaming by, there is a certain protocol that is supposed to be enacted by me–and preferably some emotion to go along with those well-rehearsed actions.

  • Take your hat off
  • Bow your head
  • Sprout some tears
  • Put your hand on your heart
  • Mumble a prayer

Only then will you be convinced that I am are a true patriot.

If you pray for peace or work to keep our soldiers out of harm’s way so they can return to their families after their due diligence, you just might be considered anti-American.

I love to bask–but I find it difficult to bask in the glories of the past.

There is so much beauty available. We don’t need to worship a history book, a symbol, a Bible or a creed which can be cold and leave us chilly.

Why can’t we develop a faith that births new blessings every day, and fills our hearts with such hope that removing a hat, bowing a head and speaking a prayer is spontaneous?

Bask in the glory.

I don’t want to bask anymore in the glory of what America once was, but join with my fellow citizens to keep it glorious, so that the memories of our freedom are fresh instead of arranged in the pages of the history books.

I want to bask in the glory of a God who loves me and have that sensation sweep over my soul instead of listening to how some apostle 2000 years ago was impressed enough by his mission to become a martyr.

Yes, it is the responsibility of those who are living to keep beauty vibrant, so it is not a memory that we have to conjure and thrust into prominence, but instead becomes the showers of blessing and the sunshine of our reality. 

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