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DC Restaurant Owner Organizes Pandemic Reunions For Mother's Day

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Of course, tomorrow's Mother's Day, and a restaurant in Washington, D.C., called Medium Rare asked families separated by the pandemic to submit stories about their mothers for a chance to reunite over Mother's Day brunch. Mark Bucher is the co-owner of Medium Rare and joins us. Thanks so much for being with us.

MARK BUCHER: Well, thanks, Scott, for having me. And happy Mother's Day - advanced Mother's Day to the moms out there.

SIMON: Of course. From both of us, happy Mother's Day. And why was this especially important to you?

BUCHER: Well, back on March 6 of last year, there was an announcement made - if you were over the age of 70 and you were immune compromised, to stay in your apartment, quarantine and kind of ride COVID out. And we immediately sprung into action and started sending meals, free dinners to anyone that fit that category that was home alone. What we came to learn was a lot of single moms were alone and that are hungry. And on Mother's Day last year, when everyone was quarantined and locked down, we took suggestions via email to anyone's mom who's alone or grandma that's alone. We would send the Mother's Day brunch.

So this year, now that folks can get out and people are getting vaccinated, some folks haven't seen their mom or their parents yet. They haven't had that hug. Either there's a financial reason why they couldn't get together, or there's jobs to get in the way. I said, you know what? Let's bring families together and give them that hug on a Mother's Day brunch.

SIMON: Oh, gosh. That's wonderful. And you've been on Zoom a lot this week - right? - telling some of the contest winners that they've won.

BUCHER: We have been on Zoom. You know, it's been really hard. We were trying to figure out how do we let people know and still keep the surprise element of it? I mean, it was almost like a little bit of "Candid Camera" back in the day.

SIMON: We want to listen to a clip. I gather it's your call with Gayle Regalia, and she's calling her mother, whose first name is Beverly, who lives in Supply, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAYLE REGALIA: They would like to fly you here, put you up in a hotel and let us have lunch at Medium Rare, the restaurant. Would you be interested? This...

BEVERLY KOCH: Sure.

REGALIA: It would be this weekend for Mother's Day.

KOCH: OK.

REGALIA: I mean, if you say no, that's totally understandable.

KOCH: No, I'm excited, except I'm like, well, I don't have a lot of clothes (laughter).

SIMON: What have you learned about Gayle Regalia and her mother?

BUCHER: You know, this was a 50-year-old woman who in quarantine decided to do ancestry.com and found her birth mother through that, who she had never met or talked to before. And this was only about 10 weeks ago, 12 weeks ago.

SIMON: Yeah. Wow.

BUCHER: And once we realized that - well, you heard the mom's comment that she didn't have any clothes - we said, you know what? We're going to send you for a mom-daughter shopping day on Saturday. So we sent them a gift card for a local department store so they can go shopping together as well on Saturday before Mother's Day.

SIMON: Gosh, I'm tearing to think about that. What are some other stories that stand out for you?

BUCHER: We had two moms that were best friends since childhood that haven't seen each other in a year. And they're kind of each other's ride or die. And they both have large families. They also have spouses that are not healthy. And these moms have become caretakers, housekeepers, educators for their kids and have had no time for themselves in 16 months. And they haven't seen each other. They hadn't been able to get together. And we arranged for care at the house, and we arranged for them to come in and have brunch together. And we're sending them for a day of beauty to kind of celebrate them as well, give them a break.

SIMON: Mr. Bucher, forgive me. This has got to be costing you a mint. And I - you know, I don't mean the little ones in the bowl as you leave a restaurant.

BUCHER: Well, you know, we formed a nonprofit throughout the year that helped us offset the cost of the elderly meals that we were delivering. And a donor came to us and made a nice donation to help us do this and put all this together.

SIMON: It's hard not to reflect with these Mother's Day - true Mother's Day gifts you're giving out that this is going to be a rough time for many families who've lost someone or still can't see someone.

BUCHER: Yeah. You know, there's hundreds of thousands of people that went through this last year that lost family members and didn't get to see them. And I lost my mom when I was 17 years old. That's probably what's driving some of this. But I want people to really enjoy. And, you know, in the restaurant business, we're in the memory business. We celebrate weddings, we celebrate graduations, we celebrate birthdays. Let's celebrate coming out of this, and let's celebrate moms.

SIMON: Mark Bucher is going to host 10 family reunions tomorrow for Mother's Day at his restaurant, Medium Rare, in Washington, D.C. Thanks so much. Happy Mother's Day to everybody who shows up.

BUCHER: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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