My most memorable experience?
(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)
Here's the set up:
18-year-old Allison is on a trip to Chicago with her parents. It's a graduation trip, as Allison has just finished her last year of high school. It is also a birthday trip, because it's June and...
Okay, talking about myself in the third person is weird.
We're in Chicago. We go out for dinner. We have always been food people, and my parents decided early on that traveling with children was no reason to avoid restaurants with a decent wine list. So by the time I'm 18, I know what the deal is in fancy restaurants, and this one is Fancy (years later I would learn it was a favourite of the Obamas when they lived in Chicago). It must be a weeknight, because the restaurant is pretty empty. Just the touristy Temple family and a few groups of gentleman in suits. They may be businessmen, they may be mafia dons. It is unclear, and we don't ask.
Dinner is memorable all on its own. It's Italian, but there isn't a baked lasagne for miles. No fettuccine, no ravioli. None of the pastas have names I recognize. I don't remember what I ordered. I remember my mother telling the server it was my birthday, and she nearly let me order a glass of wine before her American sensibilities (21?? Are you kidding me? You can vote and buy porn but you can't drink??) got the best of her.
But what I remember mostly clearly is dessert. It is my birthday after all. Actually, I just remember them bringing it out, not even what it was. It had a sparkler on it, and Happy Birthday scrawled in chocolate at the edge of the plate. And as she set this creation in front of me, my dad looked up at her with excited eyes and said
"Do you sing Happy Birthday too?"
Like this was Kelsey's or TGI Fridays.
And the server, who is used to giving her customers the best dining experience possible, but also doesn't want to upset the dons in the corner by turning this place into a chain restaurant for the sake of a nearly 19-year-old Canadian tourist says
"Well...we don't really do that here but...I guess we could hum?"
So we did. Mom, Dad, and server. Dad looked so pleased. The mafia dons probably wondered what twilight zone they had stepped into.
And that is the story of how I had Happy Birthday hummed to me in a swanky Chicago eatery that would someday be a favourite of the ambitious junior Senator who would become president.