Readers, last night, for the first time this year, I caught myself thinking wistfully of the coming fall, with its crisp mornings, turning leaves, and completely different routine. School starts next week here, so I’ll get one of the three, and soon. But it will be at least six weeks for the other two.
That put me in mind of an experience I shared this time last year in my newsletter. We have a lot of new readers around here since this went out by email, and I wanted to share it again here today, in this public space, because it all still rings so true, and feels so right, for right now. (This is pretty typical of newsletter content; if you like what you see and you’re not on the list, click here to get these monthly-ish deliveries in your inbox.)
I hope you enjoy this piece, whether it’s again, or for the first time. And I’d love to hear about your Cheers experiences in comments.
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I have a big life goal: I want to be a regular, somewhere.
Two and a half years ago, Will and I moved our family to a new-to-us old house in a hundred+-year-old neighborhood, one where we can walk and bike to buy our books and brunch and coffee. We love it here, we feel like we belong, it’s felt like home since Day One.
But we’re still working on that “being a regular” thing. When we go to brunch, they don’t know our order, even if it’s always almost the same. Weirdly, I go to the coffee shop now less than I did when we moved in. (Unsurprisingly, they know me at the bookstore, but it feels like cheating to count it.)
Everybody might not know our name at our brunch spot, but there seem to be a lot of regulars there. This summer, we’ve seen the same couple sitting at the same café table with their dog. The same people duck in for coffee on their way to work.
I’m a writer: I know everyone has their story (and it’s an occupational hazard to wonder what, exactly, each person’s story is). But there’s one particular woman at this brunch spot—and she’s clearly a regular—whose story I really want to know.
We see her when we stop in on Thursdays. She’s well-dressed, right down to her reading glasses. She always has a salad in front of her, a half bottle of wine, a little bread. She’s usually reading The New York Times when we arrive, and moves on to a paperback before we leave.
I have so many questions.
Does she eat there every day? How long has she been coming? Do the staff know her by name, do they know her order by heart? How did she establish this routine, and what does it mean to her? And, perhaps most importantly: can I be her when I grow up?
The school year is about to start, where I live. Something that surprised me about becoming an Adult was how much the school calendar dictated the rhythms of my life, even though I didn’t have kids. Now I have kids, and boy, does my life ever change when school starts.
Three months ago, I couldn’t wait for school to let out for the summer. Now, I’m eager for school to begin—and for the new rhythms, and new routines that will bring. And as I think about what I want those rhythms to look like, my thoughts keep returning to this woman, and her rhythms, her routines. They’re not conventional, but they sure seem nice, and they seem to work for her.
As I turn this corner into quasi-fall (so-called because it can’t be real fall when the forecasted high is still in the 90s), I’m hopeful that I will find the rhythms that work for me, even if they’re not exactly conventional. And I hope the same for you, that you will find the server who knows your name and your order, who will deliver your salad and Americano (though not in that order), and happily tell you they’ll see you next Thursday. That those rhythms will suit you, even if they’re not the ones that would work for everyone else.
I’ve only ever seen two episodes of Cheers, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to find my own version of the neighborhood spot in my own life. Do you have your own place where you belong? Please tell us about it in comments.