Your Christmas Can Become Magical Between Lunch And Dinner  

, , , , , , , , , | Right | December 25, 2019

(Unlike in the States, pretty much everything is closed on Christmas Day in the UK, with the exception of hospitals and hotels. I work in the latter, and we are putting on a special service in the restaurant for the holidays. Many families not staying at the hotel book tables months in advance to avoid cooking on Christmas Day, so we have been sold out since early November. I notice an older woman, looking a bit forlorn and tired, approaching my service stand.)

Older Woman: “I don’t suppose you’re serving Christmas Day lunch, are you?”

Me: “Yes, do you have a reservation, madam?”

Older Woman: “Oh, no. Do I need one?”

Me: “I’m afraid so, madam. We’re fully booked all day.”

Older Woman: “Oh, I see. I’m terribly sorry to be a bother.”

(Normally, I would just smile politely and say goodbye, but there is something about this woman, alone on Christmas Day, that makes me do something different.)

Me: “Excuse me, madam, are you dining alone?”

(She doesn’t say anything, but I can tell by the pained expression on her face that she is. She nods silently.)

Me: “Please excuse me a moment; I will see what we can do.”

(I go and find my manager and explain the situation.)

Me: “She’s dining on her own, and I feel bad about sending her away. We have room at the bar, if she’s willing, and I am sure one more plate isn’t going to stretch the kitchen.”

Manager: “If [Head Chef] and [Bartender] are fine with it, then it’s not a problem with me.”

(I quickly check that it’s okay with the head chef and the chief bartender, and go back to find the woman.)

Me: “Madam, if it’s okay with you, we have space available at our bar area for Christmas Day lunch?”

(She beams a huge warm smile that immediately lets me know that I have made the right decision. I get her seated comfortably and leave her with a menu. Once all our other diners are settled for the service, I check in on her to find her having an animated conversation with the bartender. Upon seeing me, the bartender pulls me aside quickly. She is fighting back tears as she is talking.)

Me: “What’s the matter?”

Bartender: “Oh, my God, that poor woman! I simply mentioned that I really liked her earrings, and then noticed they matched her wedding ring. Her husband would always buy her matching jewelry to go with her wedding ring and it sounded lovely… until she told me that he died in a car accident three months ago, and this is her first Christmas alone!”

Me: “Oh, my goodness! That’s awful!”

Bartender: “It gets worse! All the family came in for the funeral, but because they had to take time off for that, they can’t come and visit for Christmas! She’s all alone for the holidays!”

Me: “I see.”

(I come back to the bar and start talking to the woman, who, after some gentle conversational prodding, tells me the same story told to the bartender. She sounds emotional during the exchange but is able to hold back the tears. She even shows me some photographs of her late husband. It is then that I have an idea.)

Me: “Madam, what are your plans for the rest of Christmas Day?”

Older Woman: “I was just going to go home and watch the telly.”

Me: “I see. Madam, pardon me if this is too forward, but to say thank you for working on Christmas Day, my manager has allowed my family to come in for the dinner service at 6:00 pm today, when my shift is over. I will get to have my Christmas dinner with my family, and I would be honoured if you would join us.”

Older Woman: “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly be such an imposition! I just wanted to be out of the house for lunch, which you’ve been ever so kind to organise for me, but I wouldn’t dream of being more of a bother than I already have.”

Me: “It would not be a bother, or an imposition, madam. You see, the moment you showed me the photograph of your late husband, I realized that having you join us for a family meal would be appropriate. You see, three months ago, my father attended a funeral for an old friend he used to work with many years ago, who he remembered very fondly, and even gave him a roof over his head in his younger days when he was having a rough time at home. Your husband and my father used to be friends, and I know he would love to see you for dinner tonight.”

(Her eyes narrow as if she is looking at me for the first time. Then, they widen as she says:)

Older Woman: “You’re [Father]’s little girl?”

Me: “The very same, madam.”

(She screamed happily — enough that she made a few nearby diners jump! — and gave me a huge, tearful hug. I took a little break and caught up with her, and then reminded her to be back at 6:00 pm sharp; she was welcome to stay by the bar, too, but she insisted on going home to put on a more festive outfit! She joined us for my family dinner, my father recognized her immediately, and from that moment on she became great friends with most of the family she met at Christmas dinner that day. On the years when she doesn’t spend Christmas Day with her family, she instead spends it with us.)

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