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(The following an excerpt from Chapter 14 of Through Rainbows & Storm Clouds. Available now for pre-order.)
Socially, he had definitely gone from a caterpillar to a butterfly. He spread his wings in so many ways. The boy who chose to remain within the four walls of the learning centre at his previous school was now out around the school doing what he should be doing: hanging out with the kids. More days than not he’d venture out of the school at lunchtime down to the local pizza shop. One day he mentioned this to me and I recall a sudden ping of anxiety hit me. He hasn’t been asking for money, he’s been taking his lunch with him, how is he going down to the pizza shop for lunch? So I asked him. He’d been taking his lunch down to the pizza shop and having it there. Oh, I see. ~Gulp~ Ok, how would I approach this one? So I asked him if he was buying his drink at the pizza shop. “No, I have my drink with me. I just go in, sit down with everyone and eat my lunch.” ~Gulp~ A little thought-balloon appears above my head. All I can envision is Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory going into The Cheesecake Factory with his lunch bag, opening it up, setting his lunch before him and hoeing into it. Time for a little social etiquette lesson and business life lesson all at the same time.
I told Matthew that we don’t mind him going down with the gang to have lunch at the pizza shop. We’re pleased that he feels comfortable enough to go. However, I had to explain to him that the owners of the restaurant may not be as pleased if he continued going in to have his lunch that he brought from home. I told him that he needed to understand that the pizza shop workers may someday tell him that he couldn’t be there without buying his lunch. As I suspected he got a little bit bent out of shape. “They can’t tell me where I can and can’t eat my lunch. It’s a free country, I can eat lunch wherever I want and I’m only there to eat with my friends.” Mental moment in that little balloon above my head again now shows Matthew reciting this statement to a restaurant employee in a very matter-of-fact way. ~Gulp~ So I continued telling him that the pizza shop is a business and as a business they need and want to make money. If everyone from school brought their lunch and took it down to the pizza shop to eat it, they wouldn’t sell any pizza and then they wouldn’t make any money and then they’d have to close. A restaurant can ask you to leave if you don’t make a purchase (puzzled look comes across his face) … buy something to eat (puzzled look disappears). He seemed to get where I was coming from but stated that until such time he would continue on as he had been and see what happened. Ok bud, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I couldn’t help but laugh. Just picturing it all was so, …well, …Sheldon. I love my boy. After that conversation, he had gone on to eat lunch his way and also buy his lunch occasionally with no issues. Oh to be a fly on the wall.
Now that Mike had returned to work at the fire station, Matthew had a another alternative during lunch. He could walk to the station to have lunch with Mike and his crew. I’m not sure who enjoyed this more: Matthew, Mike, or the guys that worked with Mike. Matthew held a special spot in the hearts of these guys and they really enjoyed the stories that lunchtime with Matthew would bring. Mike had a very special shift. They worked well together, they spent time together outside the fire station and the wives all got along with each other. We were like one big, happy, extended family. It’s hard to explain the camaraderie between this group. The guys almost knew what the other was thinking before the words were spoken and no matter what, if you needed something, any one or all of them would be there for each other in a heartbeat. Something none of us ever took for granted.
Hearing Matthew say towards the end of a long weekend that he couldn’t wait for Monday to come so he could get back to school, quickly followed by “When did you ever think you’d hear me say that Mom?” was music to my ears. It was all so foreign to us, but in a good way.