Sipping my coffee, I assess the postcards that lay before me on the small counter top. I am purposeful about choosing the right card for the right person, imagining which photograph in the bunch might be their favorite. Luca always gets the unusually shaped ones or those with Italian words written across them. His momma tells me those are his favorite. American Christmas songs are the soundtrack to my afternoon, the traditional beauties. I’ll be Home for Christmas plays and a big lump of nostalgia grows in my throat. I have difficulty swallowing the last bite of my sandwich and I wash it down with some coffee.
Taking a break from my writing, I lift my head and take a peak at the people around me. A couple canoodles. Young moms squeeze around a tiny table, chatting while babies sleep in parked strollers. Loads of holiday shoppers with bags piled high in the booths beside them. A young barista with large black plastic framed glasses, and wild blond curls tamed into pigtails, catches my eye. She sits on a barstool at the counter near the door. Beside her stands another young woman with short dark hair and equally stylish glasses, she wears the sweetest smile. She is an employee as well, an employee with Down Syndrome. A young man wearing a dress shirt and jacket sits with them. He appears to be their supervisor. I am immediately intrigued and I eavesdrop on their story.
The blonde speaks first. Sincere in her delivery, she gently touches the brunette’s hand now and then, reassuring her it seems. The brunette nervously rocks a bit from foot to foot, and tilts her head to one side as she listens intently. The barista praises her coworker, and the supervisor smiles and nods his head in approval. As the three of them continue their evaluation of sorts, other servers walk by, poking harmless fun, joking and laughing. The fondness between them and the shy brunette is genuine. She gives an embarrassed smile, and quickly returns her attention to her boss.
I am impressed by the thoroughness of their comments, her work taken quite seriously, not a token job. Finally, he puts his hand on her shoulder and thanks her for a job well done. Then, he presents her with a gift. A large bag, the hottest of pinks, it sparkles and shines. Her response is precious, childlike and beautiful. Quite surprised, she giggles and her feet actually leave the floor. Her joy is palpable. Her pride earned.
I watch them hug, she is generous with her affection. My eyes well with tears because the whole thing is so dang beautiful . . . and it feels like Christmas.