The first to arrive, I mentioned to the young, friendly hostess. I'm expecting three friends, and yes, a booth please.
"How about this?" She gestured to a half-open booth directly in front of the door. "That way your friends can find you easily."
The art teacher showed up not three minutes after, mini balloons and cards in hand and a smile crinkling a face that belied her elder status. We settled in after a big hug, and a waitress appeared out of nowhere, asking us for our drink requests and inquiring about the balloons.
"It's a birthday table," we answered. "We all have March birthdays."
We chatted for just a few minutes, showing pictures on our phones, before the English teacher arrived--with fresh eggs from her hens, of course. More hugs, more photo sharing, and then the Spanish teacher, the freckle-faced baby of the bunch and the last to leave our campus-in-common, joined us.
What topics we covered during our visit! Children and grandchildren and the cool things they do. Retirement, campus changes, job woes and triumphs. Cruising with girlfriends and losing the mommy guilt. Preschool politics and the joys of working the baby room. Overcrowded schools and district bonds. Tattoos and misjudging people by their looks. Art and nude modeling for artists and small world moments. Jaw surgery and recovery. Ob-gyn visits, and those who train ob-gyns. The absence of medical supplies in doctors' homes. National politics, but only a comment or two since we all agree on that topic. Downsizing, the benefits of renting, selling homes, and changing states. Books, and more art.
Whether elicited by our own chatter or something more ephemeral, the four of us attract those with stories. Both our waitress and manager had tales to tell, of fluffy feathered chickens, broken jaws and mama bear instincts, and the business history of several popular restaurants in Austin. We soaked them all in as we consumed the fabulous food.
The conversation had continued an hour after we were done eating, the staff graciously refilling our water glasses without as much as a hint that the table was needed. Several bathroom trips made us realize just how long we had monopolized the space, and it was time to go. I distributed my gifts of homemade shamrock cookies, and we hugged our goodbyes.
An elementary librarian, art teacher, high school English teacher, and Spanish teacher walked into a restaurant. They walked out two and a half hours later, spirits filled with good food, good talk, and love.