The parking lot to the barbecue joint was crammed full of work trucks and sedans with triple A stickers on them. A law enforcement vehicle or two dotted the premises. I made note of those indicators at midday.
Those are the hallmarks of a good food purveyor’s parking lot. Working men, law enforcers, and the elder generation always know where to find the good food and always seem to know just where to get a good midday meal.
Ours was the only minivan in the lot and my skeptical teenagers were protesting that this place was looking “all sketchy and stuff.” I laughed at their inaccurate assessments. I started to remain silent and let the old as Moses BBQ place stuck somewhere in the past speak for itself, but I didn’t.
“Y’all have no idea! I used to eat here every week when I was a kid, and if it’s half as good as I remember it, y’all are gonna be asking me to come back here in no time!”
They remained skeptical as we crossed the threshold and made our way into the place.
The aroma of barbecue smoked meat met us like a warm, old friend and engulfed us like a warm welcoming hug. I looked around, just as I had remembered it. The decor was dated, the menu unchanged and basic at best, a TV or two silently flashing sports in one corner and news in the other. A buzz of chatter filled the place peppered with the sound of cleavers clop, clop, clopping on a chopping board turning pork roasts into chopped culinary meat mixed with magic. My mouth watered at the sensation of it all. Every sense bombarded and intertwined with one another making me think for a minute I could see the smells and taste the sounds.
We made our way to the table where we were greeted by a boisterous server. She passed out copy paper menus, told us she was happy we were there, asked for our drink orders, and introduced herself all in a matter of seconds.
“I’m Tilly. That’s T-I double L-Y. Tilly.”
Tilly had a party of twenty who each called her by name as they shouted and said their goodbyes as she was taking our orders. I thought for sure she’d lost track of our water to tea ratios in the midst of that, but knew I was wrong when she said, “That’s two teas and three H-two-ohs comin’ up!” She never missed a beat.
Tilly made her way around the room delivering food items and filling drinks. She handed out extra napkins with the proficiency of a Vegas Card Dealer. She said “My Pleasure” when she’d been thanked, and she joked with an obvious regular who commented on her good as always service. Laughter rolled out as she said he best put his tip money where his mouth is. He laughed in response and assured her he had indeed. He waved as he left and said, “See ya next time Tilly!”
Everyone knew her name. Everyone seemed to remember her name.
As we left and I was recalling her name immediately, the skeptical teenagers had thanked us for bringing them there for lunch. It was amazing and I actually had been right. They were already asking when we’d be back. As I pondered her name I was reminded of one of my favorites.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have called you by name. Isaiah 43:1-3
There is something poetic and beautiful about being called by name, and to think, if one server who introduces herself in a memorable way is remembered as special, how much more must I be precious to the God of the Universe who remembers and calls me, and you by name.