Taco House Christmas

We don't go there as often as we used to. When we were young, my brothers and I hurried through Saturday morning chores knowing that when our work was done, more often than not, we'd get to go to Taco House.

Tacos, burritos, chalupas, guacamole . . . but "voted family favorite" were the cheese enchiladas.

My official transition from childhood to independent womanhood came the day I chose to eat my first bowl of green chili.

When I married and moved to Texas I craved that green chili so much that my folks brought me some on dry ice when they came for a visit. On an extended visit from our home in Norfolk, Virginia, I gave up nursing Diana so I could have green chili without upsetting her tummy. Yup, I took to Green Chili like a duck to water.

Andy lost a pacifier once between the window and a stationary booth at Taco House, and howled in protest when we had to leave it behind. Every one of my children graced a high chair there, then a booster, before being big enough to sit unassisted in a booth. Now I'm working on that process with the grand-kids.

Three of my four children honed their work skills waiting tables and washing dishes at Taco House.

Their familiarity with the menu and the fact that we were practically family virtually assured them of a position. Ah, yes. I have a mental portfolio chock full of memories from that little restaurant. I go there now as much for the memories as for the food.

One of my favorite memories took place a couple of winters ago, just before Christmas.

The temperatures outside were brisk, typical of a Colorado winter. Taco House was decked out in its holiday best - twinkling lights, seasonal greetings on the windows, and the same o'le massive holly wreath on the wall that has hung there since time immemorial.

The restaurant was packed that day. So were our schedules, which explains why Andy and Ben came in one vehicle and I in another. We maneuvered our way through the crowd to an orange booth in the rear and slipped into seats that had long ago stopped cushioning derrieres.

The guys ordered cheese enchiladas without onions and the parts to a number four dinner. I ordered - what else - green chili. While we waited for our meal we caught up on one another's day and sipped iced cold Coca-Cola. Once our food arrived, we devoured it between ongoing chit-chat over what-not.

Finally full Andy and Ben readied to go.

"You sure you'll be all right, Mom, if we go ahead and leave?"

"Oh, yea. I'll just pay the bill and make a stop by the bathroom. You go on ahead. See you later!"

I paid the bill then coat and purse in hand meandered through the tables to the ladies room.

Brrrr it was cold in there. They don't heat that little cubby-hole. The only light comes from a bare bulb overhead, and a very tiny window near the single commode. I locked the door and took care to finish my business in record time.

I washed and dried my hands, gathered my purse and coat, and turned to leave. I pulled on the knob and the door held fast. I checked to be sure it was unlocked. It was. Laying my belongings on the sink, I used both hands and pulled a little harder - nothing. Remembering the restaurant burgeoning with patrons, I gently tapped on the door, "Hello??? Anybody there??" Nothing.

I knocked a little louder. "Helllllooooo????? Can you hear me?" Nothing.

Shivering as much from cold as escalating panic, I wracked my brain for face-saving measures. I would not make a scene. I WOULD NOT.

Just before launching into full blown alarm, I remembered my cell phone. Be still my heart, help is on the way.

I dialed Rob all the while begging, "Please pick up the phone, please pick up the phone."

Soon the ringing was interrupted by his deep, bass voice, "Hello. This is Rob. How may I help you?"

"Hi, honey. It's me! I'm Fine. Just fine."

"Well. I do have one little problem . . . I'm stuck in the bathroom at Taco House."

He chuckled and I relaxed. Being a typical male he launched into fix-it mode.

"I tried that, Rob. They can't hear me over the noise. . . NO, I'm NOT gonna do that, everybody will hear me. Tried that too. It won't budge. Look, would you mind just calling and asking them to let me out?"

I pushed the off button on the phone, slipped it back into my purse and pressed my ear against the icy door. I waited. He'd have to look up the phone number so this might take awhile. Man, it's getting cold in here.

Finally, through the din of voices I heard the phone, ring-ring-ring-ring.

"Hello, Taco House." Pause. "You're kidding!" I distinctly heard laughing.

In a minute, Brian the cook knocked on the door. Being a typical male he launched into fix-it mode. "Pull on it again." I did. Nothing. "Try turning the knob while you pull on it." I did. The doorknob came off in my hand. By now everyone in the place knows someone's stuck in the bathroom. Pause. "Okay, look there's a window in there, open it up and I'll bring you a screwdriver."

Soon there was a rat-a-tat-tat at the window. I turned the crank, slowly, slowly opening the stubborn old window until my rescuer and I were face-to-face. "Oh, it's you!" he said, "I should just leave you in there." Funny, Very funny".

He pressed the screwdriver into my hand, then instructed me to take the screws out of what was left of the mechanism on the door. I unscrewed them one by one until there was nothing left in the door but a small, round opening. Anchoring my finger firmly in the hole I gave it a tug and the door swung open wide.

Every waitress in the place was outside the door waiting for my timely release. So much for anonymity. Brian was laughing. They were laughing. I gathered my purse, coat and remaining dignity, said my thank-yous and walked red-faced through the horde of curious patrons and out the door.

Thanks to Taco House I've come full circle from a dependent child, to an independent woman, to a dependent woman. I don't even remember the last time I got to go to Taco House by myself.