Over winter break in Miami, the kids and I went out to dinner on the anniversary of Jay’s death. The day had been hard, and I can’t even remember exactly what we did that day except I do know it was the chilliest day of our visit. I can guarantee that at many points my kids were arguing and I definitely escaped from the hotel room for a short talk with my therapist on the phone and then to the bar for a glass of wine that I drank while I texted with a friend before calling our Uber.
We got to dinner just in time for our 7:30 reservation at Barton G’s, a touristy restaurant where dishes come out with a creative twist. Forks that are as almost as tall as Simon or Shirley Temples with smoke coming from them are tame examples of what you might see arrive at your table. The host told us they were running behind, and we would have to wait twenty minutes. We were told this a couple more times and almost an hour passed. My kids were grumpy and then angry, and the cheese plate I had ordered to prevent further arguing at the hotel room was not holding them over. They begged to go somewhere else (actually, I think my fourteen-year-old daughter told me she was going somewhere else), but I knew it would be a wait anywhere at this point, so I decided to stick with the plan because I knew if we left, it would only go downhill.
Towards the end of our wait, I caught an eye of a woman who looked like she also needed someone to distract her from complaining people so we began chatting. I say chatting with a slight English accent because she and her family were from London. The wife and I spoke for a few minutes about our kids and the trip. Somehow in our brief conversation, it came up that her eleven-year-old son was also very into magic and we both rolled our eyes understanding the role of being the audience for trick after trick after trick.
The family was seated a few minutes before us, and after they were gone, I secretly asked the host if we could sit next to them. I was just lonely, and so at least to see the view of people who had been nice (since my kids were often but not always reliable in that department) was what I needed. As it turns out, that was already the plan the host said, and when we got to our table, I waved and said a quick hello. I wanted to give them space, and so I was trying not to look too desperate for adult conversation, but within a few minutes, the father came over to our table.
What Amanda, the wife, did not mention when she was rolling her eyes about her son is that her husband, Jacque, also loves magic. Jacque heard that Simon was an aspiring magician and was excited to show Simon a clever trick (I think that is how they say it in London). Simon loved the trick and the father, a shorter man who reminded me of a combination of Robin Williams and Willy Wonka with a big smile, twinkling eyes, and glasses that sat at the end of his nose, took Simon to another table to explain how he did the trick.
Simon did the trick for us and the night continued. We were all smiling and laughing and gawked at each other’s elaborate, creative dinner presentations and shared a dessert which was a mannequin head with approximately three feet of pink cotton candy hair. Simon joined the dad, and his boys for a bit and the wife sat with Zoe and me. We were both enraptured by this petite blond woman with the accent who could not have been more friendly or talkative. Zoe entertained her younger five-year-old son, and when he opened his mouth to speak, his young accent was the last spoonful of sugar we needed to stir away a hard day,
At the end of dinner, I got up to go to the bathroom, and as I walked back to our table looking down upon giant forks and pink heads of cotton candy and smoking drinks and hearing the English accents of our new friends, I felt for a minute like I was a muggle and had crossed over into a Harry Potter world. My feeling was confirmed when I noticed Simon and Jacque at the table next to us performing magic tricks together for a group who was throwing dollar bills Simon's way as he blew their mind with his wizardry. I watched the dad open his arms wide inviting Simon in for a hug when I said it was time for us to go.
We all hugged goodbye and exchanged numbers, and there was even an invitation thrown out that maybe we would come to the Fountainbleu to watch Justin Bieber’ the next night on New Year's Eve because the wife’s mother’s balcony condo overlooked the stage. This family had no idea what this night was for us and what they had helped it become.
I did hear from Amanda the next day and she invited us to join her and Jacque and their kids that evening but later wrote to say her son was sick and it was not going to work. Although I already planned a future where we would travel to see one another and reminisence about this evening, it is probably best because I am a muggle and they were certainly magic and in my head, that is a beautiful end to the story.
Winter Break 2015 and song is by The Beach Boys, God Only Knows