Whenshe smiled at me I felt my muscles begin to relax, and I let out a sigh as Ismiled back. Kathy was one of the first waitresses I met when I started workingat Luigi's, a small Italian restaurant. What was supposed to be a summer jobturned into two of the most valuable years of my life.
Walking intoLuigi's that first night, I was thrust into the real world. I didn't know anyone,and my co-workers gave me no special treatment when they saw I was a shy15-year-old. My managers did not help me, they just told me what to do and I didit.
"Allison, these customers are impatient. You need to clear thattable faster, set it up, and don't forget the menus this time." Those ordersare still clear in my mind from that first night as a busgirl. I stumbled aroundthe
restaurant and dropped some dishes within my first few hours. I wasfrustrated and tense - until I saw Kathy.
Kathy's warm expressioninstantly put me at ease. She smiled and shook my hand without hesitation."So you're Allison. That's a pretty name. If you need anything, just askme," she offered.
Eventually the night slowed. The last customersfinished their meals, and I started cleaning. My legs hurt and my head was stillspinning when Kathy quietly approached.
"You were fantastic,Allison. I know it is so hard at first, but you'll get used to it. You'llsee," she reassured me. I smiled and nodded. Suddenly, she hugged me. I hadjust met my new best friend, and as odd as it seems, she is a 55-year-oldwoman.
Kathy is more than just a friend, though. She is my second mom.Kathy embodies everything that I want to be. She is kind and gentle, and, at thesame time, strong and wise.
Kathy works two waitressing jobs. She servesothers all day long, but at the end of every night, she never fails to offer ahelping hand to those who are cleaning. Kathy is the best listener I know, andshe doesn't leave until she has helped solve your problem.
During thepast two years I have worked with Kathy, I have grown into a young woman. Thattime has been filled with heartbreaks and many fights with friends. The instant Ifeel tears coming, I drive down to Luigi's to see Kathy. She sits me down at abooth and we talk.
"I just don't understand why he doesn't like me;why can't he just give me a chance?" I spill all my feelings onto the table.Kathy takes my hand, reassures me that there will be other boys, and holds meuntil I stop crying.
Kathy shares in my happiness as well. She loveshearing about school, and over spaghetti and meatballs we chat about where I willgo to college, how much money she made in tips that night, and how my friends aredoing. The 38-year difference in our age does not come between the giggles andsympathetic hugs. I don't know if I would have gotten through that first summerwithout Kathy, nor do I know if I would be the young woman I am today withouther. Kathy will always be my friend, my mentor, and my second mom.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.