So I'm sitting in Target's Starbucks treating Starboy to some Pizza Hut Pizza.
Think about that for a minute. How can we wonder why people feel so unfulfilled and unable to appreciate the art of handcraft, when we allow things like this to happen? How can we appreciate the hills and valleys of something made from the soul of hard work, the recipes of generations, the spirit of families and regions, when we settle for the homogenized, greasy, high-fat sameness of prepackaged faux food?
It's a crime, really.
But I'd come to the mall unprepared, without snack, overshopped, and without a plan for dinner. I realized this was a (crappy) solution to smoothing out the rest of the evening, which is a good direction for a regular bedtime. Starboy can't give up hope on the day, and fights sleep as long as he can hold out, so bedtimes sometimes can be taxing on the patience. I was taking the easy way out.
So here I was, eating this faux food pizza, literally spoiling my bread-and-cheese-loving son, thinking about the natural food blogs that I read (like this, and this) and how I shouldn't be eating any bread at all, much less a trademarked Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza, and how I need to be walking every day, when a pretty blonde mother and two pretty girls who look just like her wander in, looking for a table.
The place is fairly crowded, and we're at a big table, but there aren't any more chairs. The mom keeps looking at the open area at our table. I'm thinking, Well, you're welcome to share, but there are no chairs. There's no solution, so I don't say anything.
The mom looks at me, hesitating.
And then the ceiling cracks open through two floors of shopping, name brands, and plastic packaging to reveal the open sky, glowing with fluffy clouds. An immense sensation of happiness and light fills the area in front of the table. The mom is bathed in rays of light from the heavens, and her hair floats on happiness and love, like Boticelli's Venus, maybe, or better: the Elf Queen, except she's wearing a smart outfit and not standing in a giant seashell. And her ears are normal.
As the choir of angels begins to hum, I hear her say:
"Do you write a blog?"
I kid you not.
I am dumbfounded. My chin drops into the puddles of dripping joy that is surrounding this moment. I hear a little sploosh and hope she doesn't notice I have a mouth full of politically incorrect amalgam fillings, and I probably need to floss. Starboy continues to Hoover his greasy, nutrient-free pizza.
"It's about crafts, right? And a little bit of cooking?"
I now remember that my fuzzy hair looks like that of a crazy person. I am wearing the sweater that is so moth-eaten, and darned in so many places, it looks like it could belong to a homeless person, or someone from the East Coast, depending on your background. My face is puffy from the overabundant pleasures of tree-pollen season (Miserable. Most people just call it "Spring"). My t-shirt, at least, is clean. Didn't I learn this lesson when I ran into a student and her mother at this same mall a few years ago?!
But I'm in it, and I can't change my outfit now. And that singing is so beautiful! And the light, O! The light!
There is a reader! Those page views aren't entirely from spam-bots in Russia and China! And she thinks the blog actually has a mission! Are those tinkling bells I hear? Are more angels getting wings?
The girls find a table next to us. I say, "You may be the only reader." Okay, well except for The Optimist. But she's family. I laugh nervously. Maybe too loudly.
"No, no!" She says. Is she playing a lyre while she is talking? "My sister in Seattle reads, too! I send it to her."
My jaw is still on the floor. Drool is forming. I have forgotten my manners, forcing her to say, "I'm Julie."
Yeah, that's her real name. I know so many Julies that each one has to be qualified with an extra nickname, so her identity is still safe.
I introduce myself and Starboy. He's wearing his Valentine's t-shirt. Maybe she'd seen the post? I can't for the life of me think of anything to say. The kaleidoscope of light dancing on the clouds is dazzling. The angels are a capella, and singing in 4-part harmony.
"It's good. Keep doing it," She says, The music comes to a crescendo, and the bells vibrate with intensity, like the finale of Carmina Burana. With a great whoosh, the light, the cloud, the angels, the perfect pitch, the Orff bells and the lyre disappear into the heavens.
Three teenagers wander by with 460-calorie drinks. A grinder whirrs. Starboy gnaws on his pizza crust like an old Scottish dog with a soup bone, by the fire on a blustery night.