The reluctant quitter
If I made good soup, it was because this little five foot volunteer had no problem telling me that something was lacking, or that if I would add some vinegar or some ketchup it would enhance the flavor.
Believe me; I soon learned to rely on her advice, both for the food served and for other things that we would encounter; such as how to deal with certain individuals. She has a unique balance of loving compassion and harsh reality, and in our environment, that is a crucial attitude to have. So you can understand why I have come to rely heavily on this woman.
I don’t want to tell you her age, but she has the three score and ten tucked away with at least ten years of experience, and for some years now has had an increasing problem with her hip. Today, she announced that with the hip problem she was no longer able to come and help at the kitchen, and would I mind if she stopped coming. MIND? Of course I would mind; it would be like losing a limb that you rely on to get your work done. Here is how her day would go, so you can see just how indispensible she is.
Ada Barg would arrive by bus at eight thirty every Monday morning except the third Monday of the month which was her quilting day. Upon arrival, cane and handbag tucked in a corner, she would put on her own white apron which was starched and immaculately ironed, and then proceed to lay out her own knife and peeler, (because they felt good in her hand), at which point she would turn to me and ask what were we serving today, and did we need fresh veggies and fruit. This usually consisted of celery and carrot sticks along with cantaloupe, honey dew, and cut oranges. All of it scrupulously washed and cut into bite size pieces. Inevitably she would comment on the freshness or the lack there of concerning the vegetables and soak them in cold water to renew some freshness if needed. Then not wanting to waste anything asked if I could use the celery leaves for the soup that day.
When she had all this done, she would have a brief rest and then help get ready to serve, setting out the proper serving tools, plates, bowls, and anything else that was needed. It was at this point that I would always ask her to taste the soup to critique it. She would not pull any punches, and if something was needed, she would taste, then stand back and ponder, and say, “Yes, it definitely needs something, did you add any vinegar yet?” This would carry on till she was satisfied with the taste. Then at eleven thirty she would be at her station serving the soup and in gentle voice, inform the customers that refills were available. There she would stand for an hour and a half, sore hip and all. Then when the crowd dwindled out, she would pour herself a soup and sometimes after much persuasion, sit down and eat. Soup all done, she would then pitch in and help with the clean-up, wiping tables, doing dishes, and wiping counters.
So far I’ve only mentioned her work. Because of age and her graceful bearing, recipients of her services would affectionately call her Grandma or Mother, because that is how she caringly presented herself. As I wrote in a previous article, one lady approached her because of her loving attitude, because her own grandmother called her that kid down the street, so she over the course of the last year has become good friends with Ada.
So when she asked would I mind if she stopped coming, I could only think of just how much this beautiful woman would be missed, and not only by me, but by all those who worked with her and were served by her. So, thank you Ada Barg; you have become a beautiful part of my life.