I have such a fun story to tell you.
At 4:45PM on December 14th, I had cooked enough food to feed 100+ people under the bridge. It happened to be the day of a snowstorm that (literally) shut down traffic in downtown Salem, OR.
I was pacing….
In my kitchen, Gracie Rueda and I had been preparing the pots and trays to be loaded into my SUV. However, my SUV was stuck in Portland (in snow related traffic), along with my frustrated husband, who was desperately trying to get home to help serve.
It seems I have a fairly serious challenge.
It’s freezing cold. Snowy. And I have enough food to feed a high school football team.
The dilemma: no vehicle in which to get this food to the bridge where all my friends will most likely be standing in line.
I was walking in and out of the kitchen. Back and forth, back and forth, with an unsettling feeling trying to work it’s way into my brain.
I wasn’t pushing the ”panic button” yet, but I was getting close.
What if people stand in line…and wait and wait and wait, hoping to get a meal, and we don’t show up?
Oh geez Jennifer! Get a grip…focus on how you WANT this night to turn out. Don’t focus on the immensity of the crazy problem. Focus-on-the-solution.
As I’m trying to work this problem out in my brain…I can feel my face twisting up into a panicky expression. I’m trying to be “cool as a cucumber” on the outside, with Gracie standing in my kitchen, but on the inside I’m “losing it” – shouting “Holy Smokes!! I can’t believe this night is going to end with all this food sitting on my kitchen counters!”
Breathe. Don’t freak out. Just breathe.
This big black truck shows up in my driveway. Not just some normal sized truck. I’m talking about a truck that would run over your house like a speed bump. This truck appeared out of nowhere, pulled into my drive with an authority that made me feel like the Hulk was going to come stepping out of the cab.
I’ll swear forever I felt the lyrics and the guitar music from Top Gun playing through my psyche. My heart was beating out of my chest! The stunned look on my face made Gracie giggle.
“It’s my dad.”
She said it in a way that gave me this warm sensation all over my body. It was said with an air of “knowing”. From a frequency of “everything is going to be all right now”.
We both raced to meet him in the front yard.
Frank Rueda, showed up like a knight in shining armor.
For the next 20 minutes we loaded steaming pots, filled with delicious Italian food and trays of garlic bread into his truck. We filled that gorgeous truck to the brim. I was floating in and out of the house. (I’m certain my feet were not even making tracks in the snow). I was absolutely ecstatic at how this night was coming together.
With no room left in the truck, Gracie and I hopped in her car – along with my son, and we carefully entered the “snow zone”. With Frank driving behind us – we felt like we could take on the world.
The route to the bridge normally takes 20 minutes.
It took us nearly 90 minutes to weave our way through the gridlocked city.
I have never felt like I was on such a mission in my life!! It was exhilarating! (So James Bond!).
We couldn’t get anywhere close to the bridge, so we parked in a museum parking lot, and heaved all my tasty creations over a chain link fence, across railroad tracks, and risked our lives (joking…sort of) while crossing 4 lanes of traffic on the ice covered road.
After making trip after trip back to where the “big black truck of goodness” was parked, and back again to the bridge….we finally arrived carrying all our supplies like a “bridge episode” of Masterchef.
We immediately see several of our hungry friends pacing, and jumping in place trying to stay warm. One woman was openly crying…so cold and hungry she was delirious. And wouldn’t you know it, as Frank walked up with a huge pot of spaghetti, he gave that poor woman every reason she needed to stop crying.
Once we got set up – the tears stopped. The floodgates opened and people started coming out of the cracks of the city to eat with us.
We used the camera’s on our cell phones to light the plates so we could see to serve. Then Dan Sheets, a complete angel, arrived with a “lighting set up” and beverages.
We were 6 people serving the masses. In the snow. 2 hours later than normal. In what I would call truly unbelievable conditions – and I have to say…
It was, my most unforgettable night under the bridge.
I have never felt so much love and appreciation come from a group of people as I did that night. They genuinely…soulfully, appreciated the effort it took to get there.
Without Frank Rueda and his amazing daughter Gracie, we would not have been able to bring the sheer happiness that a plate of steaming pasta can bring on a cold winter night.
The emotional power of a plate of food is enormous!! Whether you’re giving it or receiving – it doesn’t matter what side of the table you are on…a steaming plate of love is a steaming plate of love.
To Frank and Gracie. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
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