How Moving to Texas Started at a Columbia, SC Red Robin.

I want to tell y’all about our move to Texas. In order to fully explain how our “Adventure” turned into what we call a “MisAdventure” I have to take you back, way back. All the way back to when I lived in Columbia, SC.

If you have ever worked in food and beverage, you have first hand knowledge that your coworkers become your family. Your very dysfunctional, highly inappropriate, definitely abusive, loyal family. It’s like the big brother relationship. He’s going to beat you, harm you, lead you down a path that will mostly likely maim if not kill you but he’s your big brother. No one else better even look at you cross. The big brother that will bail you out of jail, start a bar fight if someone pushes you, forever and always will have your back. Then, smack you across the face for being so f&^$ing stupid.

Oh yeah, F&B people have terrible language. I know all of this because I am one of those crazy people. It’s similar to gang life, once you’re in, you’re in for life. I have people I haven’t spoken to in over 15 years that I know I can call to hide a dead body. They would come, complaining, cussing me out the entire time for doing something so stupid. But they would come, because they know I would do the same for them.

I worked at Red Robin in both Michigan and South Carolina, growing my family at every location I worked. The South Carolina location will always hold a special place in my heart. They saved my life, more than once.

Most people don’t know this but I was a single mom. I don’t like using the term, single mom, to describe that time in my life. The biological father of my daughter and I were divorced about 6 months after she was born. It was a surprisingly amicable divorce considering the mess it started out as. SUPER long story short, I wish him nothing but happiness and I tell him that every time we speak, which is about once or twice a year. He speaks with Sweet Girl even less. So yes, technically I was a single mom.

But I really wasn’t. My best friend since I was three went to grad school downtown, 15 minutes away. I lived with my sister and her family for a while. As soon as the divorce was final, I moved out. The Sweet Girl and I ended up in a two bedroom townhouse. It wasn’t the nicest place. We didn’t have cable, internet, or ya know, a kitchen table but we were happy and safe. We always had what we needed. We were always taken care of by family and by, the crazy family I had grown to love and depend on.

The BFF would invite us over for dinner way too often. My sister would stop by and just happen to be getting rid of a ton of dishes and towels. My dad told me I had to go pick something up from WalMart he ordered online. It was a kitchen table. Good thing I had Eddie the Vibe!

I expected that though. I expected the help from family. I have around 40 first cousins and I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of them. I would never be alone! My family has always had my back.

What I didn’t expect was to become so reliant on my crazy restaurant family. When I needed my employee discount on my shift meal, my manager would instead delete it. Sometimes, as I was leaving, the cooks would tell me that they misread a ticket and would have me take home extra grilled chicken, fruit and a salad, perfect size for a growing little girl. They all knew that I didn’t have much money and I liked my kid to eat healthy. If someone needed a shift picked up, they found a babysitter first and then offered the shift to me.

Sometimes, I would just straight up take things. I wasn’t very good at it because I always would tell on myself. They just got used to me stealing napkins, toilet paper, condiments and the like. The amount of Red Robin logo pint glasses I had in my cupboard was embarrassing. I even went so far as to tell the district manager when he came in for a visit. He laughed because he thought I was joking. I was not.

Real single moms have to pay for everything themselves. Rent. Groceries. Utilities. Car stuff (at this point, Eddie the Vibe was paid off because he’s a freaking champion) and one of the biggest and hardest expense to any parent, single or not, childcare. But of course, Sweet Girl was fought over! If her aunt or my BFF didn’t have her she was most likely with a co-worker. Sometimes, sitting in a highchair enjoying an ice cream shake that undoubtedly the bartender made her when I wasn’t looking, patiently waiting for me to finish my shift or someone else to take her home.

There was another helper we had. One of her favorite places to go was one of my closest and trustworthy friends.

Way back then, he was the ultimate bachelor. I always compared him to a cross between Justin Timberlake and Barney Stinson from the show How I Met Your Mother. His house was CLEAN. He hated clutter and anything sticky, no exceptions. Except the one. I like to think Sweet Girl helped him become the great dad that he is today. He still hates dirty and cluttered but has a higher tolerance for it now because, just like all kids do, his son broke his spirit just a bit too.

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Anyway, the ultimate bachelor had the Sweet Girl about once a week. I would close the bar and drive to his house where I would find one of two situations. Him, asleep on the couch with the Sweet Girl on his chest or he was hanging out with friends and his girl of the week using an old laptop he rigged as a type of video monitor. Almost every time he had Sweet Girl, one specific mutual friend would be there. You all know him as the Man with a Plan.

At this point in our relationship, we were special friends. If you had to put a title to it at all. He was my closest friend at the time. We also happened to be having sleepovers at my tiny little townhouse on an irregular basis. I’m not sure we ever put a title to it. We were friends that just continued to grow closer. We don’t have a first date anniversary because I’m not sure we had a first date. At the time, he worked retail, I worked food and bev, we kept odd hours. Throw in the fact that I had an extra little person with me all the time, our “dates” were mainly him cooking for me in my tiny kitchen after the kid went to bed. Yet another reason we always were taken care of and had amazing food.

I remember one shift, I was closing the bar and we were in the middle of the dinner rush. My sister called me at work, something she never did, and told me not to panic but Sweet Girl bumped her head and needed stitches. She was standing and dancing on a chair and was told to sit down. Once she sat down and started eating dinner again, she fell off and hit her head on the corner of the table. Most people would say that my sister was trying to cover up that Sweet Girl was standing when she fell and not sitting but I knew the truth. She’s mine, I understand how easy it is to fall over from a sitting position. Where do you think the girl got it from?

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Her aunt told me she was bleeding a lot and it wouldn’t stop so she was going to take her to the after hours clinic to get stitches. She said relax and to leave after the dinner rush died down. She told me to stay calm, it wasn’t a big deal and everything was ok and I should take my time. She knew I was the only bartender that night and she also worked in the business before and knew how it could be. I told her I would try my best, hung up, and calmly returned to work.

Guess who’s kidding… Me. It’s me. I’m totally kidding.

I lost my mind. I told the closest server I could that I had to go. RIGHT NOW!!!! I basically blurted something loudly in his face about Lexington Medical Center and stitches in her tiny little forehead. I just had to find my keys. They were in the jar next to the cash register, where they always were but my panicked mom brain wasn’t allowing me to think. The server calmly walked behind the bar and took my keys. He told me he wasn’t letting me leave until I calmed down. The entire restaurant stopped working while he calmed me down. No food was ran, no drinks were poured, no one was sat for a good 45 seconds while I made a scene fit for a complete momma bear. 45 seconds during dinner rush can feel like an eternity but thankfully, the bar was filled with regulars who knew better than to complain. They had all seen the pictures and heard the stories of Sweet Girl, they loved her just as much as everyone else. My smart thinking server friend made me promise to calm down before I could drive across town carefully. My manager offered to even drive me. I said I would be fine, promised to be careful, and he reluctantly handed me my keys so I could start the 40 minute across.

I defiantly lied to him.

I made it in 23 minutes.

I walk ran into the waiting area where my kid is sitting, perfectly happy, next to my sister with a giant piece of gauze on her forehead. The nurse confirmed that she should get a few stitches and we were waiting for a room. My sister said she needed to get back to her own two boys but wouldn’t leave until I promised I would be ok by myself. I said of course, and she left.

The kid was fine, calm, and happy. I was not. On the outside, I was fine, calm and just a bit worried. On the inside, I was screaming and crying like I was the one that just hit my head, but with much more passion and dramatic flair.

We waited for what seemed like forever, I’m sure it was about ten minutes when we were escorted back into a little room with hospital bed and a TV with Dora the Explorer on. We were told the doctor would be in as soon as he could. I thanked her in a calm voice that I was far from feeling but I was holding it together well enough to pull it off. The door opened just a few moments after but it wasn’t the doctor who walked in.

It was the Man with the Plan.

I started bawling like a crazy person, my daughter looked at me accordingly. Someone at work had the smarts to call him. He was told that the Sweet Girl was going to be fine but there were some real concerns about her mother. He was at work and said he would try his best to leave as soon as he could. Doing the math all these years later, as soon as he could seems to be about 15 seconds after he got off the phone.

He ended up saving the day, like he usually does. The doctor had to wrap Sweet Girl in a sheet to keep her arms pinned down while he did the actual stitches. Someone had to hold her down and keep her calm while he did it. Shouldn’t be a big deal because her forehead was already numb. He said he could get a nurse to do it but it’s better when it’s a parent talking calmly and being brave. He then ordered me to stand in a corner out of sight because a crying mommy doesn’t help anyone.

So as usual, the Man with the Plan stepped up. He helped hold her down talking sweetly and calmly while she begged and screamed in his face for him to stop holding her down. “PLEASE PLEASE STOP IT!!!!  PLEASE LET ME GO!!!!” As soon as they were done, they unwrapped her and she acted like nothing happened, returning to her normal smiley happy self. He gave her a hug and kiss on the head and told her he had to go. He then shot me a look I will never forget and told me not to speak to him. He was so angry with me, his nerves were shot, he just stared at a little girl’s face while she was screaming at him to let her go while some hysterical chick was holding his shoulder sobbing and snotting all over the back of his shirt. He said he was leaving and he would see us at home.

At home.

He didn’t mean the giant house he had. He meant my tiny two bedroom townhouse that could fit in his master bedroom, bathroom, and closet. That was home. He went home, started cooking me some dinner and he stayed with us from that night on. There we were, the three of us, Mom, special friend, and kid, surrounded by a community of family and love.

I think it’s obvious by now that the Man with a Plan doesn’t stay in one position in a company for long. He was quickly promoted to an assistant GM, in Hilton Head. He came home and told me, “we’re leaving in three weeks.”

WE?

What did he mean we? We weren’t even dating!! I mean, sure, we were living together, he was listed as emergency contact, and I was beneficiary on his life insurance and 401K but we weren’t dating! We never had that talk, the “we’re exclusive” chat, this is “my boyfriend, you’re my girlfriend” talk.

We were just close friends, it was obvious to everyone.

How in the world could I leave? I didn’t have a job in Hilton Head. I didn’t have friends or family or even “family” family. I knew nothing about the place except it had beach access, which obviously is a reason to move there by itself but still. What was I supposed to do? Leave everyone and everything I knew? My safe place? With some guy? We weren’t married. We weren’t engaged. We weren’t even dating!!! I didn’t want a boyfriend! I had a kid and some severe trust issues!!

This guy couldn’t just walk in and expect me to pack up everything and leave, could he? Turns out yes, yes he could. He could walk in and ask me to do that. He had a plan, of course. We would get a house, budget everything with just his income, I could stay at home and get a job once I was comfortable with the area, or never. His new contract came with movers so we wouldn’t have to pack, move or unload anything. All I had to do was say yes, and pick out the house. And then he drops the bomb of, “besides, it’ll be cool to be married at the beach too.”

Wait, what?? WE AREN’T EVEN DATING!

That wasn’t a proposal. He knew it, I knew. We both knew it. But we also both knew what we had. We both knew he wouldn’t leave without me and I wouldn’t let him. But who in the world would move away from everything I had built? I had so many people who loved not only me but my kid too! We had our village. We were cared for and safe. We had everything that we needed.

So I made a stupid decision. We were moving to the beach! With no job. No family. No income. Just a guy who proved countless times that he had our back and would get us beach access. What more does a girl really need?

Maybe a job and a ring but that’ll come later.

 


 

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