I don’t do endings well.
I hold on to things past their prime. Milk with the expiration date of three days ago, clothes that no longer fit, gym memberships (and their accompanying key chain scan tags), friendships–I hold on to all of it. If you ask me why, I couldn’t give you clean answer. Nostalgia maybe, or a dislike of change, or some combination of things.
I have a love of the feelings, of the memories jogged up by going in the closet to get a pair of jeans and stumbling upon that tie-dye purple shirt made in Kindergarten and remembering everything about that day. The green buckets we used to dip the shirts in, handing them out to dry outside the classroom door, and the excitement of coming in the next day to see the cool designs we’d created. It’s as if some part of my memories will disintegrate if I let go of the piece itself.
I don’t do endings well.
For the past four months, when I learned my family was selling the restaurant to retire after 80 years in business all I could think about was an ending that I would have to acknowledge. For the past four months, my mind as been wandering in and out of every Cypress memory I could find, hoping to keep them a little brighter, a little stronger, so I could be sure they would not fade.
In the midst of thinking about endings, I found myself thinking of beginnings. My first Cypress memory did not actually occur within the walls of the restaurant, but again in my Kindergarten classroom. There is a pond behind the restaurant that was home to many ducks (and also snapping turtles, but I digress), and they would have babies every year when we were younger. My dad brought some of those babies in to my classroom for show and tell. My best friend and I named one Lucky Peeper and some of my favorite pictures are of us sitting on her kitchen floor playing with this tiny little duck getting ready to begin his life. So many beginnings centered around Cypress for me. My first “job” given to me by my Auntie Helen, sitting at the register at probably age 9 or 10, on days the bus would drop me off there after school, ringing people out when they were done with their meals.
Learning how to count back change and handle money the proper way taught me so much more. It taught me kindness and customer service, but more importantly that job–this place–has taught me connection. What it truly means to be connected to other people and place value on that connection. Connection is more that just smiling and saying “how are you?” when someone walks through the door, it is saying those words, meaning them, and sticking around long enough to listen to the answers.
For 28 years I have watched connections build and built my own connections within those walls.
When I was younger, I would love hanging out after school with the waitresses, learning to thoroughly enjoy dipping potato chips in vanilla ice cream as a snack before dinner.
Throughout high school and college, it was a place I could go for the day to sprawl out my books in the booth in the corner of the bar and study while all the customer voices echoed as my study music. I would never get annoyed with someone coming up to talk to me about my latest ventures, but rather welcomed it, because their pride in my accomplishments was just as strong as that of my parents. Each day someone would joke that I would open up my private practice right there in that booth and they would be my first customer. IT always made me smile, and never once got old.
As an adult, my time spent at Cypress became less as I was working a full time job and creating my own connections out in the world. The feeling every time I have walked through those doors the past few years, however, has never changed. “I’m home” I would think to myself and would fall into conversation with whoever was there about the latest goings on, never rushing through my answers. Cypress has been the place I would choose to go “out” to on many weekend nights when getting together with friends, because I hoped they’d feel at home too.
I can’t hold on to this one for much longer. I can’t put the restaurant in my closet in the hopes that I will catch a glimpse of it when I go get a pair of jeans. Not everything in life works that way and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that idea at 28. What I can do is hold on to the duck book ends I found in a closet and look at them each day. I can make art of a piece of the Cypress wood paneling. More than anything I can hold tight to those connections made, to those people who have been my biggest cheerleaders and protectors for 28 years, and never let them go. The memories of Cypress, of my grandmother, of Auntie Helen, of all of them, will live on through each of them. Thank you for that.
I don’t do endings well.
But what I’ve come to see in four months is that this is not my ending to take credit for. It is my dad’s and my uncle’s beginning of a phase of life that they have worked so hard to achieve. A phase where they can enjoy a day without counting down the hours until they have to return, when it seems like they just got home. A phase where they can go on a vacation without constantly worrying about what’s going on back at Cypress. A phase where they can enjoy their wives, children, and grandchildren. Where they can set out to fly fish and kayak, and enjoy themselves. I could not be happier to watch them take this journey.