‘In Name Only” Literally

A number of months ago I started thinking about what we should do for our 30th wedding anniversary.  Originally we had talked about saving up for a cruise to Alaska.  We had always wanted to do that, so it seemed like the perfect plan.  But those plans floated away when we moved to Utah.  Not only are we no longer in Seattle, one of the two ports that Alaskan cruses depart from, we just don’t have the money.  While we are very happy with our move to Utah it did cost a bit.  So what to do.

I had considered a number of the normal things we had done in the past, but none of them seemed special enough.  This was our 30th I wanted to do something special, something different.  Then one day I had an epiphany.  How about going back to our very first date.  For sure we couldn’t manage to fly back to El Paso where we met.  But we could do the next best thing, go to the same restaurant.  

Our first date was at Marie Calendar’s in El Paso Texas.  I remember that night very well.  I so wanted to go on a date with Carla, but I was a bit shy and nervous.  I had gone out on a number of dates before.  But this one was different.  I wanted to be sure it was a very nice night out, but I had no idea where to go. 

I had been out to a number of restaurants since I got stationed at Ft. Bliss, but those were all just hanging out with friends, not a date. After considering a number of options we decided on Marie Calendar’s.  I had been there before with family.  I remembered them having a nice atmosphere with good food, so I hoped it would be a good place for a very important first date.

It was wonderful.  We were seated at a fairly private booth.  The restaurant wasn’t too busy and it was rather quiet.  There was a candle on the table and the over all atmosphere was very romantic.  I don’t remember what we ate, or even if we got some of their famous pie.  I was far too focused on the wonderful lady sitting across from me, but I am quite sure we enjoyed the meal. 

What I remember much more was our talking.  Don’t ask me what we talked about, that was over 30 years ago.  I do remember very well that we talked and talked and talked.  I remember at one point I noticed some people putting the chairs up on the tables and sweeping.  I didn’t think about it at all I was far too busy with our conversation.  Later I noticed other people doing other cleaning.  At that point I also noticed that the restaurant had gotten even quieter than it was when we got there.  I looked around a bit and didn’t see any other customers.  All I saw was restaurant employees cleaning and putting things away.  I mostly ignored that too.  Well I didn’t really ignore it.  It was just that there wasn’t room in me at that moment for anything more than the woman I was so quickly falling in love with.  

Our wonderful evening was forced to an end when the waiter told us they were closed and we needed to leave.  At that I looked around and it slowly settled in that we were the only customers left in the restaurant.  I am quite sure had he not asked us to leave would have been ordering breakfast eventually.  

It was such a magical evening.  While I knew going back wouldn’t recreate that evening, evenings like that are not for recreating they are memories for savoring.  But I did think it would make for a very romantic night, going back to our first date.

Unfortunately in thirty years not only have we changed, just a bit, Marie Calendar’s has changed quite a bit.  I knew something was wrong when I first opened the door.  The decor wasn’t the subdued romantic setting we were expecting.  It was kind of bright and sterile.  Their pie counter that had been a focal point of the entry area before was just a small case now.  It held just a few pies and none of them looked like the appealing delights we had remembered.  As we were seated at our table I looked around and felt we had come into the wrong restaurant.  

I was so confused that I picked up the menu, not to see what I was going to eat, but to see if it said Marie Calendar’s.  It did, but this was not the Marie Calendar’s we had been to on our first date.   This was nothing like it at all.  It was about as un-romantic as you could get.  And the menu was equally disappointing.  Had I stepped into an alternate reality?

No.  Just a buyout.  In all my confusion I did what any sane person would do, I googled it.  It turns out that the original Marie Calendar’s which was a family business had run into difficult finances a number of years ago and sold out.  Some nameless corporation own’s the name, but that is about all they seem to have kept.  The decore, the menu, the wonderful pies, all that made the restaurant what it was is gone.  Sadly all that is left of that magic night we had over 30 years ago is the name of the restaurant, and our memories.  Those memories we will cherish forever as the magic of that night continues to grow with us as we grow ever closer.

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