As my husband and I were driving over the Cascade Mountains, Apple Music served up an old favorite, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, by Bill Joel.
A bottle of white, a bottle of red Perhaps a bottle of rose instead We'll get a table near the street In our old familiar place You and I, face to face
I listened and thought about our old familiar place.
The Hilltop Ale House is a “no minors allowed” bar in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Nothing fancy, it’s fashioned to resemble a British pub, replete with Boddington posters and soccer pendants. We started going there when we were in graduate school, after class every Thursday night. I’d order the Goat Cheese Salad and he, the Chicken Sandwich. We’d wash it down with pints of Guinness or black and tans.
The food was tasty and the atmosphere, warm and welcoming, even on a rainy winter (or fall or spring) night. But for me, the company and the conversation were the stars of show. We’d talk about our days at work. I was a high school teacher and my husband worked in a middle school – so there were always stories to tell. We’d talk about our house, a fixer upper, and the latest DIY project we were tackling. And we’d talk about our dreams – the family we planned to start, the trips we hoped to take, and the life we imagined building.
We were young. The future felt long.
Soon after we finished our degrees, that dream of a family became a reality and before we knew it, we had two daughters. Dinners at the Hilltop were replaced with restaurants that served dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and milk in cups with lids and straws. No leisurely conversations. The two of us struggled to share even the day’s most essential information, sandwiched between meltdowns and face wipes.
Recently, we strolled back into the Hilltop, masks on and vax cards in hand. The menu and the décor were unchanged. We even thought that we recognized a familiar customer.
How could this be?
Twenty five years have passed. We’ve moved twice. Our jobs and cars and clothes and hair color are different. The students we once taught now have children of their own. We’ve (almost) raised two daughters, loved three dogs (and said goodbye to two), and lost both of our mothers. And along with the rest of the world, we are living through an unimaginable health crisis.
Still, we found ourselves at that well-worn oak table. Over a salad, sandwich, and two pints, we talked about the day, our family, and dreams for the future. It’s still you and I, face to face.
For that, I am beyond grateful.