I have always had a fondness for mom and pop hole in the wall eating establishments. When I travel, I am not drawn to the chain restaurants. The local café with an old fashioned soda fountain might be nice instead. Or I am even inclined to patronize a unique place that draws the hipster crowd. I love the places that draw a diverse group.
Harold’s Barbeque in Abilene is closed now. (Harold retired.) Its building was not exactly pristine. And you never knew who you might “join” for lunch as you shared a picnic table together. The walls were filled with pictures of celebrities that had eaten at Harold’s over the course of three generations. Some of my best memories of my oldest son’s college years in Abilene were the lunches we enjoyed over a “Q-basket” at Harold’s.
When we lived in Oklahoma, I would pick the boys up from school and take them to lunch. Their choice of cuisine was a mom and pop place called Chicken Roscoe’s. There was very limited seating in the tiny building, so it was a community experience to eat there at noon. You found an empty seat at a table. And most of the time that table was occupied by people that you probably would not ordinarily dine with. My boys were exposed to some memorable social situations at Chicken Roscoe’s.
In Wichita Falls, there is the Pioneer Restaurant. The only place I have eaten that has individual juke boxes at each table. And it also has the distinction of serving French fries with Mexican food. When our older boys were small, we spent many memorable Sunday evening’s enjoying a meal with friends from church.
I spent my formative years in Racine, Wisconsin. When I go back to see lifelong friends, I find myself drawn to the mom and pop places that feel like a symbol of our shared childhood. When we gather together to break bread together as 50 something’s now, such places feel sacred. Having our feet under a table with each other is one of the real blessings of life.
I spent last weekend with two of my boys in Oklahoma City. I felt the absence of my firstborn profoundly. But spending time with two of them was great. And where did they take me to dinner on Friday night? We drove 42 miles to Okarche, OK so we could dine at Eischen’s to eat their “famous chicken.” When you order chicken there, you are served an entire chicken. The menu is very limited, but the chicken and accompanying fried okra was great!
As we drove back to Oklahoma City, it occurred to me that my boys are drawn to the mom and pop hole in the wall sort of places. A stark reminder that the apple does fall far from the tree… I hope they too can build lifelong friendships with the people that they put their feet under the table with in such places. I read a blog recently that made the point that people come and go in and out of our lives. I suppose that is true. But it occurred to me that the blogger is probably too young to have reunited with friends he grew up with. As he ages, he may re-write that blog. Yes…people come and go. But sometimes they come and go and return again. We reunite and place our feet under a table in places that have existed for generations like Harold’s or the Pioneer or Eischen’s. And we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the friendships that make life rich.