Big Boy, Grown-up Girl

When I was in college, I spent my summers waitressing at a Big Boy restaurant in my hometown. It wasn’t exactly a glamorous job, but it was one I genuinely enjoyed. On my last day before my senior year, my boss presented me with a charming set of salt and pepper shakers: chubby-cheeked Big Boys in checkered overalls, each holding aloft a partially-eaten hamburger.

Fast forward a few years to earlier this month. I return from a weekend visiting college friends to find hubby a bit sheepish. He’d accidentally knocked over one of my Big Boys from its perch on a bookshelf in my office. The boy’s giant belly and legs were still intact, but his cherubic face was shattered into numerous pieces. Seeing my disappointment, hubby went into stealth mode, scouring the web for replacements, and surprised me this Christmas with a new set of Big Boys, identical to the broken set.

It’s been nearly 15 years since I balanced plates of eggs and pancakes on a tray above my head or refilled cups of coffee to four-tops in a booth. I had permed hair then, complete with fluffy bangs that sprang out from my forehead, and when I pulled my long locks back into a ponytail, I’d tie a bright pink ribbon in it. I read books on my breaks, prompting one of our regulars to refer to me as The Professor. It’s debatable as to whether that was preferable to the nickname, Little Bitz, used by my fellow waitresses. I look back at that younger self and I can’t help but cringe a little at her earnestness, her sweetness and her optimism. But I’m also jealous of her confidence, how certain she was she was going to succeed, that her dream of being a writer wasn’t only a dream, but a destined path. It wasn’t hubris: I didn’t have a huge ego or a sense of being preternaturally talented. It was youth: I believed in my future.

For several years now, I haven’t bothered with New Year’s resolutions. The year I was pregnant, I was focused on my baby, waiting for his arrival in just a few days or weeks. Last year, I was focused again on the wee one, on his growth and well-being, and on concern for hubby, who was spending the New Year in a war zone. This year, when I opened the salt and shaker gift from hubby, I couldn’t help but start thinking about myself at the age when I first received them. What would that girl think of the woman I am today? She’d be thrilled to be married and be a mother. She’d be thrilled that her goal of being published in newspapers and magazines had been met. But I think she – like my current self — would be frustrated and disappointed and more than a bit wistful that so many of her other goals had yet to be achieved.

So, for 2012, I’ve been making a few resolutions, ones in honor of my younger self. To write more, to dream more, to be more optimistic. I’ll keep the specifics of those resolutions between myself and that college kid (and maybe hubby, too), but I like the little surge of energy I get from thinking about what this new year could bring, if I follow through with actual elbow grease. I’ll be putting my new Big Boys back up on a shelf in my office – preferably more securely than before – and maybe they’ll help keep tabs on me this year. I think the younger me would be pleased to see my trying. She’d probably even pour me a second cup of coffee, call me ‘Honey’ and offer me an encouraging hug. She was just that kind of girl.