Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where Everybody Knew Our Names

For Kate it was always a scrambled egg, toast and hash browns. Mary stuck with pancakes, occasionally switching from silver dollar to full size, and back again. It was our every lazy Saturday breakfast spot, and the place the girls always chose to begin their birthday. We knew the servers, and the busboy, all of whom spoke Spanish and were more than willing to listen patiently while Kate ordered "huevos revueltos y leche por favor".

After almost 40 years in business on the same corner, Arnold's closed last week. The economy is the given reason, in a short note on the door thanking their loyal customers, but I suspect that Mr. and Mrs. Arnold might like some rest, maybe a lazy Saturday themselves at a local diner. We'll allow them that, although we'll miss them terribly. This was the place I assumed we would visit when the girls were home on break their freshman year, twelve short years from now.

Arnold and Mrs. Arnold bought raffle tickets for the school auction and pledged money to support the girls at the annual walk-a-thon. One year, when Kate opened a birthday card, minus the five dollar bill that had been in Mary's, Mrs. Arnold dashed over with a quick replacement to cover the oversight. They introduced Mary and Kate to other customers, reminding most that the girls had been eating there since before they were born, and each year hung our Christmas card photograph on the old cash register, to the squealy delight of the six year old breakfast lovers.

Mrs. Arnold took her plants, the pictures that once covered the east wall have been removed and the singles connection board, right next to the counter, is empty. We'll look for the holiday decorations in November, the painted windows that were the early mark of the season, but rather than poinsettias, we'll find darkness. The old soda fountain, clearly installed for the grand opening, may appeal to someone interested in a retro looking greasy spoon, but more likely, our quirky neighborhood diner will become a Chase or Fifth Third Bank. There isn't one of those for at least two blocks, next to the Starbucks, right across from the Currency Exchange.

It's true, people in the city can be curt and impatient. This is not Mayberry, the place I wanted to live most when I was a child growing up in an anonymous suburb. Far from, this is a dense, and sometimes grimy, city. But in our neighborhood, one full of interesting and dynamic people who ride the bus, play at the park and eat breakfast together, we look for places like Arnold's, and the people who make us feel welcome every time we walk in the door. Eggs over medium and rye toast, served with amazing speed and genuine kindness, that's just not something you find on every corner.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

what a beautiful tribute.


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