ยซ Giving Back
My Brown-Eyed Girl

Posted on Thursday 15 October 2009

I don’t like having kids in my bar. Ever.

My bar is not a family place, not by any stretch. On the rare evening when a child is in tow, I frown a little. Why would anyone bring a kid to a bar that doesn’t pretend to be anything but a bar? But on those evenings, I dutifully pour a Sprite out of the gun, doctor it with a splash of grenadine, and plunk a cherry or two on top. In the old days, the drink was called a Shirley Temple. I have yet to have a child refer to this pink mess as anything more than “that drink with the cherries.”

I’d rather they just not come in at all.

The first time Olivia came in with one of my regulars, I was quite stunned. Here was a beautiful little angel, tiny and soft, like toddlers are. When she smiled, her heart-shaped face dimpled in just the right places, making me want to grab her pudgy cheeks and kiss them a thousand times.

“Stephen, I had no idea you had a child!” I know I gawked as I said this.

“No, no, not my daughter. My granddaughter,” he said rubbing the top of her wild brown curls.

Granddaughter? Stephen didn’t look old enough to be anyone’s father, much less grandfather. But that’s how it goes here in the Keys. The ones who appear to be well into senior citizenhood are often younger than I am. I have no idea if it’s the sun, the booze, the smokes or just plain hard living and hard partying, but long-time residents seem to age differently down here. In Stephen’s case, because he isn’t a lifer, he’s held onto a baby-faced countenance that all the young girls love. But a grandfather?

“Yep,” he continued. “My oldest daughter is 21. She’s going through a tough second pregnancy, so I offered to take Olivia for a few weeks. Right?” he smiled down at his beautiful baby.

Right. Stephen has a 21-year-old kid. Stephen has a toddler granddaughter. Just how old is Stephen anyway, and where’s the mother of the mom-to-be? Funny the things you don’t know about someone whom you see and serve every day.

“Olivia, say hi to Miss RG,” Stephen coaxed the little one.

She turned her face into his knee and refused to make eye contact with me, much less say hello.

“Oh, that’s okay,” I laughed back. “Hi Olivia, nice to meet you sweetie.” She didn’t budge. That was fine.

“We’ll just sit over here at one of the tables by the dart board,” Stephen said. At least he wasn’t insisting she sit right up at the bar. I poured granddad a draft and made a mini version of my kiddie drink for Olivia.

“Oh,look at that Olivia!” Stephen exclaimed the way grownups do to kids to ensure their delight. Olivia simply stared at her drink.

“Okay, then. Enjoy your drinks,” I smiled. I couldn’t have cared less about Olivia’s response, or lack of one. We were a tad busy and I needed to stay in my zone.

A few minutes later, in between pouring a Jack and Coke and a Captain and Diet no fruit, I felt a tug on my jeans, just below my knee. Startled, I glanced down.

“No thank you,” came the tiny voice behind the big brown eyes and tangled curls. She raised her other hand toward me, two sticky red cherries clenched in her fist. “No thank you,” she repeated.

“Olivia!” yelled you-really-can’t-be her grandfather. “You aren’t allowed back there. Miss RG will get in trouble! Come back with me right now!” He grabbed her hand and started to pull her away. “I am so sorry, RG.”

“No, no. Wait,” I told him. Olivia still had her fingers curled around the cherries.

“I’ll take them, sweetie, since you don’t want them.” Olivia dutifully dropped the crushed cherries into my hand.

“May I please have an orange?” she asked. Please? And no thank you? You can have anything you want. I filled a small plastic cup with orange slices and handed them to her.

“Thank you RG. Thanks,” sighed grandpa Stephen.

“Thank you Miss RG,” chirped Olivia.

The smitten circle was, at that second, completed. Would that Olivia could teach some of my crusty old beer guzzling, CC and water swilling customers a few manners.

For the next two weeks, Olivia visited my bar every day at happy hour, hand-in-hand with her grandfather. They always sat at a table. I always filled a cup with orange slices for her. Little by little, I earned her confidence, and if I wasn’t busy, she would put her soft hand in mine, and I’d walk her over to look at the fish in our mini aquarium. It became a kind of ritual activity, usually followed by my scrounging for cookies or anything sweet from the kitchen.

We settled into a nice routine with with her daily visits, and I began to really look forward to them and the innocent break her shy smile gave me from the day-to-day drink predictability of my job.

Yesterday, Olivia arrived with a handful of red and purple and yellow flowers. “For you, Miss RG,” she said, holding them up to me.

“Oh, they’re beautiful!” I said, holding them up my nose, pretending they smelled as sweet as this beautiful little girl was to give them to me.

“She’s headed home tomorrow, so she wanted to bring you flowers,” said her grandfather.

“Oh, really?” Really? So soon? Had it really been two weeks? “I’m going to miss her. She is so adorable,” I told him, then I looked at Olivia. “Will you come back soon to see me again?” I asked her.

She nodded and giggled as she pushed her wild curls out of her eyes.

“You better!” I laughed. She then grabbed my hand and pulled me down to her level.

“I love you, Miss RG,” she whispered and brushed a soft kiss on my cheek.

I don’t like having kids in my bar. Ever. Sometimes, they steal your heart.

11 Comments for 'My Brown-Eyed Girl'

  1.  
    October 15, 2009 | 10:13 pm
     

    this is the best story i’ve read in days, sugar! thank you. xoxox

  2.  
    L
    October 16, 2009 | 7:01 am
     

    So cute, thanks for sharing.

  3.  
    Jenni G
    October 16, 2009 | 10:36 am
     

    Thanks for making my day start out so nicely! Great story!

  4.  
    October 16, 2009 | 11:01 am
     

    and you just made her steal my heart!

  5.  
    October 16, 2009 | 12:36 pm
     

    I think the cuteness just killed me. Yep. I’ll be in a puddle on the floor if you need me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6.  
    Jennifer
    October 16, 2009 | 12:55 pm
     

    Is there anything in this world more beautiful than a sincere and loving child? No. No there is not. Thank you SO much for sharing this story, RG. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7.  
    October 16, 2009 | 3:04 pm
     

    thank you for that :o)

  8.  
    DodgerGirl
    October 16, 2009 | 6:05 pm
     

    A lovely story!

  9.  
    Kristine
    October 21, 2009 | 9:38 am
     

    Oh, yes. Children like Olivia make it alllllll worthwhile in a job like this!

  10.  
    Christine in LA
    October 22, 2009 | 12:40 pm
     

    Oh that made me cry but a good cry the kind where you smile through the tears:) Thank you for sharing.

  11.  
    November 12, 2009 | 8:19 am
     

    Lovely story… Interesting one… Thanks for sharing

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