I’m grabbing a bite at a neighborhood charbroiler near and dear to locals’ hearts. As usual, the place is buzzing with customers and I’m happy to find a stool at the counter that faces large windows overlooking the street, instead of the kitchen. There are a handful of tables outside, along the restaurant’s perimeter. Those are also occupied by people enjoying late breakfasts.
In front of me, on the other side of the window, sits a family of three with a cherub-cheeked little boy. He is white, perhaps five, with dark brown curly hair and deep brown eyes. He sits behind a pile of pancakes on his plate. With each bite, he pours more maple syrup atop the remaining stack until his mother gently removes the bottle from his reach.
He eats happily, smiling and patting his tummy every few bites. His parents talk to him and all three laugh easily throughout the meal. When every bit of pancake is gone, the boy dips his finger in a pool of syrup on his plate and swirls it around. Before he can bring the maple finger to his mouth, his mother intercepts it and wipes it clean with a napkin. He says something to her with great enthusiasm on his face. She replies and after a few moments, both come inside and walk towards the ordering counter.
I hear his mother ask the cashier to get the cook and I wander up to the condiment area to listen better. A Hispanic man appears in a cook’s uniform and the boy beams up at him:
Mom: Go ahead, honey.
Boy: Um, uh, hi!
Boy: Um, Miss Johnson says that everybody has a job. And if somebody does their job good I should tell them. So I’m telling you. You make the best pancakes ever in my life!
Cook: Oh! Thank you.
Boy: You make the best pancakes! You should make them all day because they are really, really, really, REALLY good. Your pancakes are better than IHOP even!
Cook: Thanks a lot young man. You know what? You make me feel happy. I’m gonna be happy all day because you like my pancakes so much.
Boy: Yeah! You should be happy. You make good pancakes.
Mom: Thank you, we’ll see you later.
Mother and son walk away and continue down the street together. They leave behind a grown man in his cook’s outfit who is still smiling as he prepares someone else’s meal.