I had recognized him immediately.
When we walked into the Durango Diner that morning, he was wearing his apron and laboring over the stove, heading up the kitchen that churns out plate after plate of satisfying, delicious, humongous portions from the expansive—but not expensive—breakfast menu. I was happy to see that not only has the restaurant been very successful in my absence, it is in an even nicer location than it was before we moved! Now it’s right in the heart of the downtown, and bustling with activity, as 'regulars' and tourists alike step through the doors, following the scent of coffee and the promise of a good way to start the day.
I wondered absently which I was....a regular, or a tourist. I glanced down at my camera. Definitely looking like a tourist, but I felt like a regular. I hoped my casual, earthy attire and lack of make-up would convince anyone who cares that I really AM from here!
We ate a very generous, wonderful breakfast at the table closest to the window that looks out onto historic Main Street. My steak and eggs were awesome, as were the hashbrowns, but I barely made a dent in that plate-sized slab of potatoes! The coffee was good and smooth. I sipped it appreciatively as I pondered what to write on each of the 3 postcards I had bought our kids; had to get them in the mail today if they were to arrive at their various locations and make our kids smile before we were back to pick them up.
As we finished, I said jokingly, “I should go say hi to Gary!”
Scott took me seriously. “Yeah, totally!” he encouraged.
“Ha! No. I’m just kidding. I don’t do things like that! I’m too shy!” I wish I wasn’t too shy, I thought. It would be nice to talk to him, tell him I love his restaurant, tell him my parents say “hi”.
Scott glanced over at the counter. “Looks like the breakfast rush is over. He’s just talking to people now. Let’s go talk to him.”
My introverted self groaned, but I complied. There’s no way I would have had the nerve without Scott there.
“Are you Gary?” Scott asked him as we approached.
Gary looked up from the barstool he was sitting on, “Yes…” he said, smiling, looking expectantly at Scott and then at me.
I stepped forward, introduced myself, and blurted out something about him being our neighbor years ago, that my parents were…."
He was shaking my hand and his eyes lit up with recognition before I even got my parents’ names out.
“Yes….yes! And if I remember correctly, you look a lot like your mother.”
I laughed, and agreed that is was true.
We chatted for a while, him asking about all of my family, and if Scott and I had kids. We confirmed that we did, and asked about his two daughters, who were younger than me by about 10 or so years. One is in college, the other has a baby.
Then he said, “Ya know, I still live out there! In the house your grandfather built." I laughed in amazement that he still lived there, AND that he remembered Nanny and Papa. I told him we were going to go see the old place, and he nodded approvingly.
Then Scott said, “Do you mind if we take your picture? My wife is a photographer, so she has her camera here….”
Gary laughed, then stood up and kindly obliged.
“Well, looks like Gary definitely still lives here!” I say as we drive past his house and barn an hour after leaving his diner. “Look, there’s his delivery truck with the logo on it!” We chuckle at that, and while I wish that the fences were mended and that there weren’t old cars here and there, I’m still feeling kindly towards the man that had cooked my yummy breakfast, and talked so warmly with us. So, the state of disrepair doesn’t bother me too much.
I stop to take a few shots of the old barn on his property, quite picturesque, and I can't pass up an old barn photo op! Barns are some of my favorite photography subjects. This one is especially special, since Papa built it before I was born. Despite it's age and lack of maintenance, it is actually still in great condition, which pleases me. The wood structure on the left was used to load livestock onto trailers, but I honestly doubt it has been used for that purpose for 30+ years.
We had already passed the houses that belonged to my aunts and uncles. I had pointed out the houses as we drove. There are 4 houses on that hill, and they used to all belong to my mom’s side of the family, because her dad, my Papa, bought the land back in the 70’s, and gave parcels of it as gifts to his kids as they married. It was, from what I’ve heard, kind of a Golden Era of time. The cousins all played together, the family was close in distance and relationships, sharing meals and making memories. I don’t remember this time period though, since, unfortunately, all of them moved away by the time I was 5. But I can imagine how special that must have been.
I didn't stop to take pictures of these other 3 houses—despite my desire to document them and their historical significance to me—because that seemed kind of intrusive, with people living there and potentially seeing me with my camera pointed their way! But the places looked pretty good and like the people care about them.
Besides, I tell myself, these aren't the properties I have really come to see.
So we drive on, getting ever closer to my distant past.
Please click the 'Follow' button to receive notifications of my new posts. Thank you for reading!