Mother’s Day at the Peppermill

A lineup of waitresses in cheerleading outfits, 1984, at The Peppermill restaurant.
The team at The Peppermill, 1984

Mother’s Day at the Peppermill


Why was Mother’s Day the busiest day of the year at The Peppermill?

Every morning of my first week, John, my boss, exiting the bathroom with a newspaper, looking me over, “Jacqueline, I’m going to need you to hem that skirt”.

“Did you hem the skirt, Jacqueline? It still looks long to me. Bring it up another inch”

“Jacqueline, if you don’t get that hem taken up I’ll write you up for uniform violation.” 

Our skirts at The Peppermill were so short that we had to wear flash pants, and the wheel  on the line was actually modified to be so high  (“Order IN!!) that you had to stretch way up to hang a ticket, which was the point. One of us would yell, “Order In” and every man sitting along the counter lowered his newspaper a notch or stopped the conversations for a beat to take in the show.  

The front of house, with the exception of John, was an entirely female work force, and five of us, all just out of high school, rented a house together for the summer. It was a good gig, mostly, great money for a teenager, and I blame the dads of the ‘90’s for  Mother’s Day, packing that parking lot with their trucks and using their bodies to trap screaming children in the big round booths. We’d each fill three full ticket books this Sunday, so much cash in my pocket, there was no more room for pens, and I had to find John mid-shift to put it in the safe until the end of my day. Our tickets were written by hand, priced from memory, and presented with a calculator ribbon for accuracy. 

Here’s what I want you to imagine. One singular calculator for printing, 150 guests in a packed room, with more at the wait, and a line of women –girls, really– wending from that machine by the kitchen right out into the dining room, waiting for their moment to add up the bills to drop checks. Diana’s at the front of the line and she’s so slow on that calculator –she mouths the numbers as she rings them in– and we’re popping our heads out at intervals to see what’s the hold up, and. It is hot. Mindy is right behind Diana, too close, an athlete with a tenuous relationship to patience and I’m sweating here at the back of the line, preemptively adding bills in my head and rounding up the tax in my polyester cheerleading outfit with the panty hose and polyester flashpants, so I know for a fact Mindy is up there sweating, too, breathing hotly and directly on Diana’s back. I mean, I lived with Mindy and Diana. We shared work schedules, panty hose, period cycles, and the pressure of Mindy’s hot breath on Diana did not hurry the checkout process. Not one bit. I’m feeling a single drop of perspiration rolling from my armpit to my wrist at the exact moment Mindy takes control of the calculator by shoving Diana to the side. You see her, right? Diana perplexed, miffed, coffee stains on her white shirt and pockets bulging with cash. Diana taking a beat, then remembering she just happens to have her ticket book right there in her hand for math reference, and Diana just smacking Mindy across the face with it. Mindy punches her. And the two furiously roll in a tumble of awkward fists and big hair, right into the carpeted dining room, dollar bills spilling out of their pockets, two eighteen year olds in tiny red skirts flashing their pants to all the baseball cap wearing dads and their beleaguered wives and wailing children, rolling right into the middle of the Mother’s Day brunch, where a silence falls and children stop mid cry and John comes out of the bathroom to put an end to this nonsense, 

And that, I suppose, is why you take your family to The Peppermill for Mother’s Day brunch