There is a little restaurant out in the country not far from where my husband and I live. The location is interesting, almost bridging the transition of development by the freeway with an open expanse of fields dotted with picturesque old farmhouses. Some of them appear to have been abandoned, just sitting in the middle of a field. I immediately found the area so intriguing, and in a way romantic. So of course, I wanted to try eating at the quaint eatery along this picturesque road.
We would often pass it on our way to go on a hike in the nearby foothills. Every time I would request we stop to dine there, but my dear husband was very hesitant (as he is with any new restaurant). But after driving by many times, one day he finally succumbed to my begging, and we stopped in to eat. This little roadside joint instantly became one of our favorites. The environment is welcoming and cozy, and the food is delicious. As the summer heat became too much for us, we stopped going on hikes. Then we went on a vacation. One thing lead to another and before we knew it, quite a bit of time had passed by before we had been back to our new favorite charming restaurant.
Finally, when the weather cooled down, we went on another hike and stopped in for lunch. The waiter, who had gotten to know us (to the point where we didn’t even have to tell him what we wanted to order) asked us how we’d been. Feeling embarrassed that we hadn’t been recent customers, I muttered some apologetic excuses as to why we hadn’t been in to dine lately, but that it was so good to be back. He smiled at me and commented that it was good to have a safe place to return to.
His sentiment really struck a cord with me. A safe place to return to. This was something I had felt for a long time but hadn’t realized it, if that makes sense. I will explain. For my husband and I, many of our safe places have been the tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants we frequented over the years. While we were living in Southern California, there were a few restaurants we ate at multiple times a month. A couple of them we frequented almost every week.
In one respect, the staff didn’t know us at all. But in another, they knew us better than many other people in our everyday lives at the time. They saw us during times when we were tired and worn out. At times when we were happy it was the weekend. Times of serious discussion, and times of light-hearted laughter.
When we were about to move away, some of the saddest goodbyes were to the people who worked in these restaurants. And in a way, the establishments themselves. Over the course of seven years, these eateries went from ordinary restaurants to places of refuge for us. I have so many fond memories of spending time in each of them.
A couple years later, we went back to our old stomping grounds. When we walked into one of the restaurants, the owner immediately recognized us and came over to greet us. It was good to be back in one of our safe places. We settled into our usual booth and carried on just as if we’d never left.
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This is an excerpt from Allison’s book: Finding Peace in the Everyday.
Allison Craig is a photographer, designer, and writer inspired by nature and the plants she grows in her garden. Her hope is to inspire others to see beauty in their everyday lives. Allison and her husband, Anthony, publish the Artful Reflections™ Podcast on a bi-weekly basis. Her first book, Finding Peace in the Everyday, was released in March 2020.