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December 15, 2020 By Liz Wildberger

Christmas Gift

Four widows walk into a restaurant . . .” No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It actually happened. It all started in early September. One widow had a birthday, and a second widow gave her a generous gift card for the Olive Garden, a favorite restaurant in Vacaville.

The recipient thanked the donor, resolving to use it later as a pre-Christmas treat for friends. Two additional widows and the gift-card-giver were invited, and the date was arranged. The four set out in late November for a meal of delicious Italian food, lively conversation and lots of laughs from stories guaranteed to cheer one another.

Once at the Olive Garden, they squeezed into a booth, bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t room on the table for the bread sticks. The personable young waiter assured them that he would “make room” for both the bread sticks and the salad bowl. (He did — as he must have been a university student taking a class in Spatial Relationships!)

Laughter and gentle teasing ensued between the four well-dressed friends. They asked the young waiter for recommendations and suggestions, and a thoughtful list followed. Here was a person skilled in the cuisine that was attractive to older diners. They began to reassess the server’s daytime job: he was obviously studying hospitality and food services. He was pronounced “totally hot!” by one of the widows. The smiling server took orders, food was enjoyed, and orders were placed for the $5.00 take-out menu. The widows reasoned that this was too good a deal to pass up, and, obviously, they would be eating alone the following night anyway. And look! Bread sticks were included!

Entrees arrived, and there was a general lull in the conversation while the widows addressed the food — with extra cheese, supplied by the server, who had grated at least 1⁄2 pound of fresh Parmesan, until he began scraping his knuckles over the rind. The widows relented at that point, claiming that he had been generous in the extreme.

Too full for dessert, the host/widow reached into her handbag for the gift card and was told by the server that the bill for the table had been paid by a “mystery man” who was seated nearby. They used skills learned from the series Law and Order to interrogate the server, but he smilingly refused to disclose the generous person’s identity, only revealing that he had left one-half hour before.

Thereupon, the widows tried to recall who had been sitting alone. They drew a blank, and since people were waiting for their booth, they prepared to leave. One of the widows suggested they ask the young women at the checkout podium the identity of their benefactor.

“Oh,” the cashier replied with a smile, “he and his wife said they had enjoyed the spirit of good- natured fun that you all demonstrated. They insisted on paying your tab.”

Four widows walk into a restaurant…and found holiday happiness, not just for each other, but also for two unknown strangers.

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