A Barrel of Joy


I had a ten minute conversation on where I wanted to eat lunch, most of that with myself.   I finally decided on Cracker Barrel. Good food, reasonable prices, good atmosphere for writing. I have my rituals for pretty much every place I go. Cracker Barrel is a glance around the store and a trip to the bathroom before I get settled in my seat with whatever I’ve brought to do. Today it was my kindle and keyboard.


As I’m walking up to the front door between rows or porch rockers, there is a couple coming from the other side. I know we’re going to get to the door at the same time, so I take a quicker step, open the door and hold it open for them. She’s walking with a cane, and he’s keeping pace with her, although he’s a step or so in front. He’s very tall with a cowboy hat, well, not a cowboy hat, more of an Australian Outback hat. I open the door and step aside for them. This is not an unusual occurrence. In fact, my middle son does this all the time, sometimes watching an elderly person he thinks might need help. He does this on his on his own. He’s a good boy.

Well, this man in the big hat puts his hand on the door, over my head; I mentioned that he was very tall, and he made a face that expressed his oh, I don’t think so look. It said if you think for one minute young lady that I am walking through that door with my hat and my wife and I am not holding the door for you, nope, not going to happen. I laughed, they smiled, I thanked him and her and went on in.

I arrived behind them at the hostess counter. At Cracker Barrel all of the servers wear aprons with their names embroidered on the front. The hostess was named Ah’lexus. I asked if that was how she spelled her name, seeing if maybe it was a nickname, but she said it was her name. I liked it. What an interesting way to spell it. She told me who my server was – C**, who I know from our family visits here, and then added that she was awesome, which I already knew, but it was just a happy way to be.

Already there were so many happy feels that I knew I had made the right choice. Sacred spaces come in many varieties and today my local Cracker Barrel was that sacred space.

There were two other tables in my section – a couple and a man at the table next to theirs. He and I ended up facing each other since I have this thing about facing all the exits. The only downside to my seat was that I couldn’t see out the window behind me.


They were having a loudish, but friendly and happy conversation. Boisterous. He’s a bus driver from Jamaica, Queens. He had just driven a group up to Saratoga. He loved Cracker Barrel and was coming back tonight for dinner. I happen to know for a fact that there are no Cracker Barrels on LI because my mother in law loves them when she visits us, and wishes there were a few there.

They’re talking and laughing and while I wasn’t involved in their conversation it was public enough that their voices and laughter brightened the whole room. He asked for his check and said he’d be back later on tonight, and then the woman at the other table, grabbed it from him. She was paying for his lunch.

It was kind of stunning. There was no warning – one moment they’re talking, getting up to leave, the next she’s got his check right out of his hand. He, of course, said no, but she was not having any of that. I knew I was staring but I wasn’t concerned; I could feel a grin on my face about a mile long.

I thought he was almost in tears. I could see how touched he was, and how the emotion was bubbling up. It was just a wonderful moment. Unexpected and spontaneous and wonderful.
At that moment, my entire space was filled with joy. It’s one of the things that I can’t predict when I make the plans for my retreat week. Who knows how things are going to go? I have to take whatever the weather gives me. I’m stuck with whatever spare change I have in my piggy bank. So many factors, and it’s not always easy to find the right contemplative spaces. I try to keep specific expectations at bay simply because I never know what I want to happen. This was so random, and so much of what I wanted on the retreat.

This is my recharge; my re-energizing to get me through the winter, or at least until my birthday when I give myself that day. I can feel my spirit filling. There’s always room for more, but I can feel the lightness taking hold, and raising me up.
After they all left, C** sat at my table for her own breather and to talk about a customer from earlier. We talked about the peach cobbler, which I’ve been looking for since The Walking Dead came back on television. I know I won’t be disappointed. I guess this is my splurge day of the retreat, but worth it.



C** told me how much she loved peaches and she had my cobbler and one for herself on hold until I was ready and her shift was over. For my part, I recommended Ben & Jerry’s Willie Nelson Peach Cobbler Ice Cream, which she’d never had. She understood the universal language of yum by my rolling eyes, open mouth and low grunts with one or two mmm’s. She will look for it and try it. If she really loves peaches, she will love that too.

You never know when you walk into a place for whatever reason whether it’s going to be a good experience or a letdown. I decided on here strictly for the price so I had open options for the rest of the week, but this turned into a very uplifting lunch time. I could not have planned for this.

The visit was well worth it for all the joy in this room that I’ve absorbed here today. I’m ready for more, but so satisfied with what I’ve already received.

2 thoughts on “A Barrel of Joy

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