Todd and I arrived at The Coffee Cottage for the reading Tuesday night. Already the place was packed, but we nabbed a table near the back door. My cell phone buzzed. College friends Joe and Heidi, who live in the next town over, were one block away. I walked outside to meet them and to tell Joe to carry in patio chairs if they wanted a place to sit.
I knew maybe half the people who gathered for the reading, and as I looked around the room, I remembered. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving a year ago, Todd had an unofficial interview at the school. When we dropped him off, one of the women in the school office told me to be sure to stop at Coffee Cottage.
“Sally, our music teacher is the owner,” she said. “Great place.”
We drove around town—which doesn’t take long in Newberg. Todd’s interview—unofficial, mind you—would last about two hours. The girls and I stopped at a downtown toy store. Walked through Fred Meyer. Drove into the hills and back down into town. Such a gorgeous place, with the fog hanging low in the hills and hints of fall colors still clinging to a few of the trees. But let’s not get our hopes up. It’s not even an official interview. We lunched at Izzy’s, and I looked at my watch. We still had thirty minutes to kill.
After parking in the small lot behind The Coffee Cottage, we walked through light rain and into the coffee house. I ordered hot chocolates for the girls and a coffee for myself. As I put cream in my coffee, I overheard two women at the counter.
“Well, we do have a writing group. Mostly poets.”
The woman speaking looked about my age. She wore an earthy, flowing skirt and her long hair hung loose down her back.
“I can let you know when the next meeting is,” she said. “Enjoy your tea.” And this dark-haired woman with the flowing skirt went to a corner table to eat her lunch.
She’s the music-teacher owner, I thought. I went over and introduced myself, told her my husband was meeting with the headmaster today—unofficially, of course. And Sally seemed to know exactly who I was. Her husband was the writer in the family, she told me. A poet.
After a few minutes I went back to my table where my two older girls were reading and sipping hot chocolate. Before we left to pick up Todd, Sally passed by our table and said something to me—I couldn’t quite understand and was embarrassed to ask her to repeat it, but I think she said, “I hope he gets the job.”
A year ago everything was unofficial and uncertain, trying to contain rising hope in case things didn’t work out. In December came the invitation for an official interview, and in January Todd accepted a job offer in Newberg.
When my turn came to read, Lynn introduced me as a writer with gumption, and I walked up to the microphone, manuscript in hand. I read about that other life in Texas, before Todd’s mom died, about her failing health and our confused expectations and the crazy ways a mother- and daughter-in-law together created a home.
After the reading we walked out of The Coffee Cottage and into the cool night.
“Lisa,” Todd said.
“What is it?”
“I got the job, Lisa. I got the job.”