Tan Bella

Date August 15, 2008

It’s no secret that I love cafeteria ladies.  I love the heart that they have for serving and I appreciate how hard they work, not to mention that I heard all sorts of tales from the lunch room as a child.  My grandmother, after all, worked in the cafeteria for umpteen dozen years. 

So, each year I make an effort to befriend those ladies in the lunchroom.  I say thank you and please and compliment the dish of the day while few others seem to notice the people behind the meal at all.  Admittedly, getting to know those fine women in Colombia was harder.  They often mumble and seem to approach new people timidly. And then there’s the language thing.  I speak English.  They don’t. 

Still, by the end of last year I’d had a standing ovation from them and they’d each learned not to offer me the after lunch chocolate or give me a full helping of meat.  They still laugh at my feeble efforts with Spanish.  They wave to me in the mornings and call me Señora rather than Miss.  They’ve warmed up to me, I think.

Yesterday on the bus one of them sat by me.  The one with flecks of gray in her hair and wrinkles by her eyes.  The one that I’ve never heard say a word.  And I was surprised. 

We sat in silence for awhile- her with her bag in her lap, me listening to some sort of music from home.  Then, somewhere between the bosque and the city, she tapped me and in the softest whisper said, “Tan bella.”  I politely mumbled a thank you though I wasn’t exactly sure about her words. 

A few moments later I shuffled off of the bus and stopped my Spanish tutor.  “What does she mean?” I asked.  Paula smiled at me knowingly and said, “You are more than beautiful.”  Not the blue-eyed, blonde-haired American girl sort of beautiful she explained.  The your heart is beautiful kind of beautiful. 

I love the cafeteria ladies.

I think that they might love me, too.

9 Responses to “Tan Bella”

  1. Lou said:

    I agree! tan bella.

  2. Trava said:

    I’ve known that all your life!

  3. Kylie said:

    Of course they do, We all do… !!! xox

  4. AnnieBlogs said:

    The most valuable tip I ever received as a teacher was this: Be nice to the janitors and the lunch ladies. They have more power than you realize.

  5. Brenton said:

    You know I love you.

    And you should still be my boss. I don’t behave all that well without your guidance

  6. Deanna said:

    Aww man….for a minute there it felt like I was watching a movie! I was visualizing everything you were saying. And I didn’t want the movie to stop.

    This just goes to prove that actions do speak louder than words…

    I think you’re TAN BELLA too Emily!

    Have a great day!

  7. Summer said:

    Tan bella! I completely agree with that. It describes you perfectly!!

  8. Blake said:

    I was thinking she was complimenting your skin pigmentation or something.

    I know it made you feel good inside. It’s funny the people who are usually overlooked are usually the kindest.

  9. Nieca said:

    EMILY LANE – Tan bella is absolutely perfect for you. Where can I buy your book and where will your table be for autographs?? You are an amazing woman and I’m so thankful that you are in my life and have been since I dropped your little fat head out of the swing, and if ever your Daddy thought the fall had somewhat harmed you at all, he should just read, read, and read some more of your entries!!! Love you!!