peel photo

Wrapped in Warmth and Kindness
by Marianne Peel
            Dedicated to Kendra

She didn’t just recommend entrees –
she brought them to our table,
waved the pan-fried grouper under our noses:
olfactory delight smothered in spring asparagus
     from the ditch garden out back
slathered with Hollandaise sauce.
Greek lemon potatoes on the side,
     Chef Dimitri’s specialty.

You’ll never be sorry ordering this dish, she tells us.

And the coffee kept coming,
     fair trade from Kenya.
A wicker basket of Greek bread
      with pats of real butter.
Fig jam in ramekins.

And for dessert, plate after plate floating by
     for our sweet-tooth inspection
     as she delivered to other tables.
We cannot decide between the baklava
     and the key lime pie.
So she brings both.
By the time the check arrives,
our fingers are dripping with honey,
our lips lined with graham cracker crumbs.

And when the pandemic shutdown begins,
the whole town transforms into carry out only.
Masked Chef Dimitri concocts familiar favorites,
satiating the demand for comfort food for thirty years.
Kendra, our waitress, delivers dinners through lowered car windows.
She is now a car hop without benefit of roller skates.
She includes extra packs of oyster crackers
     for the lemon rice chicken soup de jour.
Always an extra serving of Greek dressing.
Always a peppermint for an after-dinner palate cleanse.

In our Covid quarantine, I take up the crochet hook
     and the ancient art of making afghans.
Muscle memory in my fingers, from when my Nana
taught me single and double crochet stitches
while she and I watched Jeopardy together in that coal-mining town.

Kendra once told me she hankered for midnight blue,
     a color that offered her soul-deep peace.
After a twelve- hour shift, serving customers
     with suggestions and smiles
     and trying to keep coffee mugs brimful for the whole meal,
she needed that midnight blue to sink into once home.

And so I pass this safe space crocheted blanket
from my hands to hers.
No one has ever done anything like this for me.
So special. So personal, she tells me.

I wrap the blanket around her shoulders,
secure her in this sanctuary of yarn,
this midnight blue blanket,
enfolding her in my gratitude.

PHOTO: The author (right) and Kendra, who is draped in the midnight blue afghan the author crocheted for her. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the call for PRIME MOVERS submissions, I was immediately compelled to write about Kendra — a member of the waitstaff at a small, family-owned restaurant in Florida.  Kendra was always very personable, and she truly wanted every customer to leave feeling completely satisfied, cared for, and even loved. When the pandemic hit, the restaurant tried to survive via carry-out service, but they ended up closing until the pandemic is over. I wanted to let Kendra how much I appreciated all her hard work, her dedication to the happiness of her customers, and her willingness to really get to know her clientele. So, I crocheted an afghan for her, wanting her to be wrapped in the same warmth and kindness she shows customers every day.  This is my gift of gratitude.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009), and participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Here poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, and Jelly Bucket Journal, among others.  She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2020 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.