We made it to Savannah, Georgia today, where I met Paula Deen.
She is shorter than I expected.
Well, actually, it was a cardboard cut out of Paula Deen (but seemingly just as animated!).
I had no idea there was an actual Paula Deen STORE. You could not only buy Paula Deen cookbooks but also Paula Deen playing cards and Paula Deen candles at the retail store attached to The Lady and Sons.
I didn’t buy anything.
But we did stroll along E. Bay Street and the quaint shops until we found a little riverfront restaurant for lunch. As we walked up the steps and Justin pulled open door, a man appeared from around the corner and informed us that the restaurant was closed. Not “closed” for lunch and would reopen for dinner, but, rather closed for another six weeks.
The restaurant next door seemed to fit the bill so we decided to check out the menu. It seemed agreeable enough but when the waitress asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside, we waffled.
This decision is typically easy for us, an equation of sorts. If it dips below 80 degrees I prefer to be indoors. But today was a nice day outside, and I had a jacket on, and it was waterfront dining.
I looked at Justin and said, “What do you think… Outside?“ knowing that he would prefer to be outdoors.
But Justin knew it was most likely below 80 degrees, therefore a frozen arctic zone that I could not handle. So he politely prompted the waitress, “I think inside will be fine.” (I took it as a pure sign of love for me.)
Once seated I ordered a hot water, my usual these days. The waitress raised one eyebrow and repeated my order, but added the words “JUST” in front of it, as in, you can’t JUST want a hot water and nothing else in it, can you?
I nodded both acknowledging my order and my craziness.
The hot water arrived and I held the warm cup in my hands just as my ears tuned into a voice standing behind me. It was a man’s voice. A man’s voice that I recognized.
I turned and saw, of all things, my friend’s father. From Connecticut. Standing right behind me, INSIDE the restaurant. In Georgia.
I stood up and said his name letting the last syllable go up making it a question. As in, is that really you, all the way from Connecticut standing behind me right here in Georgia?
His eyes blinked like he didn’t recognize me. I became aware of the glasses sitting on my nose, he must not be able to recognize that it is me. Just then he let out a large smile and exclaimed, “Jamie?!”
“Yes!” I smiled back.
And, right there inside the restaurant that was not our first choice, that was located next to the one that was closed, down the street from Paula Deen’s restaurant, off the highway that we drove from Massachusetts, I found friends.
But, that’s not the ironic part of this story.
The sweet irony is that this is a story of divorce, loss and separation. Because, when relationships end, sometimes, (well most times I suppose) the side effects reach far beyond the couple in question.
So, was my relationship with these people, who found themselves on the other side of a mutual friend’s divorce. I haven’t seen them in years, and I suppose as we all stayed “out of it” we eventually became out of touch.
It was as if all the stars aligned. They were in Savannah for just one day. We were there for just one lunch. They chose to walk into a restaurant to ask for directions. We chose to eat there only because our first choice of eateries was closed.
It seemed as if one door closed and indeed another opened.
As if Paula Deen herself was right there, tapping me on my shoulder, having me turn my head just in time to reach out and say, “Hey Y’All!”
And, that’s a recipe for a reunion that’s good for my soul.