I should have known a gloomy day would bring gloomy news. Though off from work and enjoying a day at home, a text from a friend made my heart skip a beat: “City Café is closing for good.”
You may be asking two crucial questions at this point? What is City Café? And… Why would its closure make your heart skip a beat?
Think about your hometown. What institution or place has always been there and makes you know you’re home?
For me, that place is our City Café. It’s a downtown, meat and three, that has been in business (with various owners) since 1900. Though as the youngest of five, I didn’t grow up “eating out” much, it became the go-to place for me and my dad after my mother passed away. I’d come home from the mission field, and Dad would take me there to eat. My boys loved the rolls!
Once I returned back to the States in 2009, I realized just how much it had become a staple in my father’s life. The waitresses all knew him and kept his coffee cup filled full. When he passed away in 2016, his grandchildren purchased a new bench for the City Café with a name plate in his memory.
In the years since his passing, City Café has become my regular haunt. If anyone wanted to meet over lunch, we always did it at this downtown diner, because I could easily walk over from work. It also allows me to eat a quiet lunch, read my latest book, and just rest in the memory of my dad.
Grief meets us in places.
So, when my eldest joined me for lunch there on the day I heard the news, all I had to do was look at the owner and the tears came to both our eyes. This place, where my grief finds comfort is also the place where I find friends and care. This is what happens in locally-owned businesses.
Friends find us in places.
As David and I got up to leave, a local journalist saw me and asked if I had anything to say about the news. After paying my bill, I met her outside and said, “This bench tells it all for me.”
When towns lose long-time established places of gathering, we lose part of ourselves and our history.
I tried to go back for lunch the following day, but the line was way to long to accommodate my lunch hour, so I told myself I’d have one more day to get there. I “endured” a ten minute wait on Friday (hard for a regular to do) and worked hard to soak up the ambiance of what I thought would be my final meal.
By the end of the day, the rumor whispered in my ear by a waitress came true — they were not closing! The community had come around them, and the owners made the decision to press on.
I felt like I’d dodged a grief bullet.
Loss was not meant to happen this day, but it would obviously come another, though hopefully much further, day down the line. For now I’ll return to my weekly routine visits to the place of good food, friendships, and memories. I pray you’ll enjoy yours this week as well.
Grace and Peace