river of glass

It was the perfect morning for a leisurely trip north along the Androscoggin river to Rolly’s diner. The sky had clouded up and hinted at rain, but the still in the air turned the river to glass, and in it reflected a beautiful dark band of pines and maples and the silvery sky beyond.

As we pulled into the parking lot we could see that the line leading into the diner was long, so I took my place while Michael walked Calvin around patting the car as he is wont to do. A jolly, middle-aged man in front of me saw Calvin and said, "Just like a boy," and he smiled knowingly, asked Calvin's age and, when I told him, hinted at how Michael and I had our hands full, then he slipped into the crowded diner and was lost. What a nice man, I thought, and wondered if I'd ever see him again.

Eventually, we were seated in the back corner of the packed restaurant. In his infant high chair Calvin began banging the hell out of the table, arching back and pitching forward, at times cuffing me with his flailing fists. I managed to eyeball the menu, order some crepes and sip my coffee while at the same time feeding Calvin bits of fruit, pieces of breakfast sausage and cut-up peanut butter and jelly sandwich, all of which I’d brought from home.

Our server soon sided up to our table, leaned in and asked, "What's your name?" clearly understanding that Calvin could not speak. She crouched down right next to him and said, "Hello, my name is Chris," and she didn’t flinch when he reached over to give her a slobbery hug.

But despite our kind reception, breakfast was a farce. And though he was relatively quiet, Calvin yanked my hair and banged the table and stood up in the high chair, all the while flailing, thus we had trouble trying to feed ourselves. My somber mood became foul, so as soon as Michael finished his egg sub he whisked Calvin out and said, “I’ll walk him around ... have a good time,” then he tossed me a twenty to pay the bill.

I’d lost my appetite by then, but attempted a few bites then pushed the last bit of food around the plate with my fork. There, I sat alone, completely dejected, facing an entire room full of diners, some sitting gloriously child-free at the bar to my left and others in happy groups at close-knit tables. My chest tightened and my throat began to thicken. With a furrowed brow tears welled up in my eyes, but I held it together as best I could and dolefully gathered our things.

Chris returned and could plainly see my sorrow. She seemed to understand and began explaining that she had worked at the local schools watching children while the teachers took their breaks. I told her about Calvin’s epilepsy, about the drugs that cause him to be so hyper and the previous ones that had made him into a zombie. She reached in and gave me a hug, handed me her number and said to call her if I ever needed a break. I gave her one of my cards while quickly mentioning the blog, told her to search for "Rolly's Diner" to find a couple of posts I'd written about the place. “I’ll follow you,” she said in a compassionate voice, and until that moment I’d thought that our Rolly’s experience was going to be a bust.

That night I received a comment to a past blog post, rolly's diner, in which I tell how an anonymous person paid for our breakfast. The comment was from Chris. Among many kind things she wrote:

I know who paid for your breakfast that day, and I will now tell you, it was an 11 year old boy who recently lost his mom to cancer, and every now and then, when they went out to eat, his mom would pay for some unsuspecting soul's breakfast just to make their day, and now Jacob does the same thing to keep the memory of his mom alive.

Reading this I cried, wondered if I'd seen the boy that day who had paid for our meal. I'd thought for sure it had been one of the elderly patrons. And as I imagined these Rolly's Diner stories come full circle—the interconnectedness of things—I thought of the river of glass that I'd seen that morning and realized that, just like it, we are all a sublime reflection of each other.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. What a lovely, inspiring story! You see, there ARE good people in this world!!! Anne Frank was right, at least part of the time!! Hooray....

  2. That is an amazing story, and what you've done with it is weave more beauty and sorrow into it and made it transcendent.

  3. Now its my turn, you are such an amazing person Christy, I was my pleasure to serve you and Calvins hug made my day. He is such an amazing young man, I sat that night and wondered to myself, "hmmmm I bet that boy has alot to say" My Mom was an amazing person that taught me to always pay it forward. At times I find it difficult as most people these days seem to think there is a hidden agenda to someones act of generousity or compassion, but I live by those words and stay true to who I am. A big hug to you, and an even more squishy hug for Calvin.......Christine

    1. christine, may i have your email address so i can add you to my weekly blog email and invite you to our annual benefit? you can also friend me on facebook.

  4. Gorgeous. There very often is an interconnectedness - if only we remember to look. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.