I don’t know whether to sing and dance or cry like a baby. I am that full of sad joy this morning. Is that even possible to be so happy and so sad at the same time? Wouldn’t one necessarily negate the other? Evidently not since that is exactly how I feel and I consider myself pretty normal. I can say that out loud — here — since the cats aren’t around. They would definitely have other opinions on my normality if I was to express them in their presence.
But I’m not, thank the gods. I’m at my favorite table at the Tik Talk Cafe — the one behind the coat-stand, right by the front door. I have sat here for years and years first writing Mediterranean Journey and now my blogs and sometimes letters home or emails — but never playing games. (That’s the one rule I have about my addiction — No Lumosity Away from Home!) I was here at the cafe yesterday, too. I came to write this same blog but someone was sitting at my table — and it wasn’t Goldilocks, I’ll tell you that. Didn’t he know by osmosis that this was my place? I wanted to ask, politely of course, if he’d move tables but I thought that would have been pretty pushy of me. So I didn’t say anything — and I didn’t write, not one word. Habits die hard, eh?
But I will have to make some serious adjustments after today. It’s sweet Meriya’s last day as the owner of this cafe. It doesn’t seem possible that after seven years she won’t be just up the street. But there it is. We had a Farewell Party last Friday. All the regulars were there — Esther and Catherine, Rosemary, the folks from the Intellectual-Bookstore-Next-Door, the German professor from the University of Toronto, the calm-centered yoga teacher from two doors down. Later in the evening, The Saturday Morning Regulars came in together — one of the sisters who always orders toast and only toast and the couple who read every word and discuss all the Saturday papers. (After all my years in Oh Canada, I have never, ever gotten used to having the “Sunday” paper come on Saturday.) Of course, The First Jonathan was there — as opposed to the Second Jonathan — with his girlfriend, Janey. Linda, the literary agent next door, bopped in with an expensive bottle of wine that she told Meriya not to serve to the likes of us (I thought that wasn’t in the spirit of the evening). Later, Meriya pulled in the young Polish guy who lives in the apartment upstairs when he came down to put out his trash and finally there was the Guitar Teacher from the basement who filled his plate up at least three times which didn’t surprise any of us. It was a varied and good group. We were all there to say goodbye or hasta la vista in my case to this sweet woman.
I was watching her face as people got up to say a few words about what she meant to them. I knew she was happy to be free of the burden of business owning and the six days-a-week of work — but she was sad too and that’s what came out as she watched all her cafe friends speak. Linda thanked her for teaching her words of Russian before a trip to Moscow. Rosemary questioned how she was going to survive another winter cold without Meriya’s chicken noodle soup. “Borscht!” was all the German Professor had to say. One of the women from the Intellectual-Bookstore, got up to speak but she started to cry and sat down again. If you had asked any of us that night to describe Meriya in one word it would have been “Kindness“ because that’s what we all felt from her — and why we kept coming back. Meriya went between tears and laughter and filling people’s plates with more pilau and chicken and roasted potatoes as her husband plunked bottles of wine and cognac on the tables — all we needed was music.
Watching her took me back 19 years to my own going away party from that law firm in DC. I wasn’t supposed to have a Farewell Party since I had only worked there for fourteen-and-one-half years and the rules were 15-Years-Or-The-Firm-Doesn’t-Pay and they didn’t. The lawyer I worked with said Bull-to-That (she was from Texas), and picked up the tab for the whole thing — open bar included. I invited all the folks who were dear to me — there were housekeepers, senior partners, fellow secretaries, folks from the mailroom and duplicating and supplies who had been outsourced but still worked there, paralegals and associates. It, too, was a good party. At the end, I told my fellow workers I had one final word for them and, a la Sally Fields, I climbed up on the table and held up a UNION NOW sign. It was great success. But then the party ended, and as I walked out I had that same sad/happy look in my face that I saw in Meriya’s. I had wanted to leave that place for years and years — just like her wanting to sell this cafe. But when the moment came when I was actually walking out the door for the last time, I had such sadness in my heart mixed with the happiness of leaving. I’m sure she’ll feel the same at 6 p.m. tonight when she hands over the keys to the new owners.
I think that’s just the way leavings are, eh?