Monday, May 5, 2014

Of Home, Diners and Grandma

My grandmother

Home. This was the first time we have returned to our new home after having been gone for a while, and it felt good. I guess a new place isn't really home until one has experienced the longing for it, anticipating the welcome that awaits. That's how I felt, anyway. It was a good feeling.

It was also good to come back to Salt Lake. This is now my home, and it feels like my home. I was born and raised in two small towns in southern Illinois. I also went to university in Illinois. That is my heritage, but Illinois hasn't been my home for almost 40 years. 

My father moved away from Illinois to southeastern Ohio when I was still in high school, and I worked for him over the summers I was in college and for two full years after I graduated and again before and after my conversion to the  LDS Church and my mission to France. But I haven't lived there for almost 30 years.

After my mission, I married and moved to Vancouver, Canada, where I went to law school and lived for ten years. That was never my home. In 1996, we moved to Utah, where we settled in southern Davis County (just north of Salt Lake City). I lived there for 15 years before separating from my former wife and moving to Salt Lake City.

In short, I've lived a number of places, but I hadn't felt a sense of home since I graduated from high school until I met Mark and settled in Holladay (a part of greater Salt Lake City). Now, I truly feel that this is my home. I love living here. My husband is here, my children are here, my friends are here, and I love the scenery and opportunities for outdoor activities. 


It was also wonderful to see the kids again. We just had a really nice weekend with them. We had picked up some souvenirs for them in Maui, of course, and it was fun to give these to them. Aaron had requested some chocolate, so when we saw these, we knew we had to get them for him:

He got a good laugh, as did some agricultural inspectors at the Kahalui Airport in Maui. As we went to our boarding gate last Wednesday evening, we had to run our carry-ons through a screener. One of the guys said to me, "What's in that bag? It's round; looks like fruit (a no-no)." I was perplexed for a moment. When I opened the bag and saw what it was, I pulled it out and showed them to the inspector and his co-worker. They burst out laughing. "Oh yeah," they chuckled, "Donkey Balls. Ha ha ha ha ha."

Our souvenir from Maui

Speaking of Aaron, he likes army guys, and he called me up to his room on Saturday morning to show me this:

We began Sunday with what has become a tradition: we went for breakfast at Sharon's Cafe, which is less than a 5-minute walk from our house. I love this place. Not only is the food excellent and very reasonably priced, but it also reminds me of coffee shops and small restaurants in my home towns in southern Illinois. It's friendly. It has character. And it has regulars - just like the Coffee Shop back in Carmi.

Small cafes like this are in my blood. When I was a boy back in the 60's, my mother's mother - Nell - ran a cafe in East St. Louis. She divorced my grandfather back in the 30's, and over the years she worked as a cook on a boat that plied up and down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans, then in various cafes in the East St. Louis area. Some of my earliest memories are visiting her in her cafe. My mother would drive over from where we lived in Salem - about 80 miles east of St. Louis - and leave me with Grandma while she went over to St. Louis to shop.

Grandma in her uniform in the late 40's

Grandma and Roy, my step-grandfather

Grandma seated at the counter in her cafe. I remember that a black meter maid, in full uniform,
made a game of chasing me round and round that counter

In front of the cafe

In later years, after Grandma reached retirement age, she moved to Carmi, where we lived. She worked part-time as a cook at a restaurant called - originally enough - "The Steak House." Her speciality was cream pies, and I haven't tasted a chocolate cream pie in the past four decades that could compare with hers; same with lemon meringue and coconut cream. As I recall, she mainly made these a few years later for another cafe at the other end of town called - again, originally enough - "The Coffee Shop." And it was at this diner that my mother worked for a number of years as a waitress.

And so we enjoy taking the kids to Sharon's, and we eat there ourselves occasionally. (They are open for breakfast and lunch.) It's quite the interesting place - both in terms of its clientele and its "decor." There are signs and memorabilia all around the cafe. The following photo gives a bit of a taste of the decor:

Nathan's breakfast

Mark and Nathan

Levi and Me

Annie and Mark (she adores him)

Yes. It's good to be home.

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