All it takes is one split second; one moment in time where life takes you in a different direction. While I hate the term, “Everything happens for a reason”, I do believe that certain people truly come into your life for a reason. Thats especially true for my family, when more than five years ago we first walked into a local diner and happened to meet the owners. Little did we know that the couple would have a profound impact on our lives.
My husband, Ryan, and I love our routine. Thanks to my career, we have crisscrossed the country over the years. And every place we’ve lived, we have found our Saturday morning “spot”. Some may say we’re monotonous, but we like to think of it as tradition. More than five years ago, we had just move to Springfield, Illinois and we were in search of a new greasy spoon diner. It was a dreary January morning when we first opened the quonset hut door to Charlie Parker’s Diner. The restaurant was jammed packed, an obvious sign that the food is good. With a long line ahead of us, we wandered toward the retro diner bar and found two stools together. As we looked through the menu, a friendly employee struck up a conversation with us. Being new in town, he was a wealth of information and so kind and welcoming to us. It wasn’t until we paid our bill that we learned the man with a kind, midwestern personality, was Mike Murphy. He and his wife, Cindy, owned Charlie Parker’s Diner.
That first encounter laid out a foundation for years of laughs, tears and a beautiful friendship. Week after week, Ryan and I sat at the bar, ready to catch up on the latest shenanigans and gossip. Within a few months, the waitresses knew our order by heart and Mike and Cindy knew all about our lives. We learned about their children and took joy in seeing pictures as the newest grandchildren arrived in their family. We shared tears of happiness when we announced our news that we were expecting triplets. Being on bedrest didn’t stop our tradition–Mike had my veggie egg-white omelet ready for my husband to deliver to me in the hospital. And when tragedy struck, the diner family were some of our biggest supporters. I’ll never forget the card that arrived to the NICU from Charlie Parker’s, offering condolences and prayers after two of our triplets passed away.
One of the biggest milestones for our surviving triplet was the day we could finally take her to the diner; a sign that her health was getting better. At 11 months old, we walked into our favorite stomping grounds with Peyton in our arms. We knew it was only a matter of time before our miracle child would fall in love with the diner that has touched our hearts. Peyton has grown up there, graduating from baby food to nibbles of eggs to eventually her favorite Mickey Mouse pancake. And over the years, Peyton has grown to love Mike and Cindy like grandparents. She giggles with excitement when they bring her birthday presents and she falls deep into concentration as she sits at the cash register to sign the bill and draw Mike a picture every week.
With no family in town, Charlie Parker’s has become family to us and Mike and Cindy have become dear friends. They’ve been some of our biggest cheerleaders as we launched a charity in honor of our triplets, even making a generous donation that helped get our non-profit get off the ground. Their kindness doesn’t go unnoticed in the community; it’s obvious when you watch them mingle with their customers. So, it’s no surprise that they will be sorely missed as they hand over the keys to a new owner. When they first told us the news several weeks ago, I barely held it together. The moment we got into our car, the tears began to stream down my face. Ryan gave me a puzzled look as he said, “They aren’t leaving town. We’ll still see them.” Of course we’ll still see Mike and Cindy, Peyton will make sure our friendship continues. But, this is the end of an era. It may be just a diner, but there are years of fond memories that will forever stay within the walls of that quonset hut. It will feel a little different on Saturday mornings at Charlie Parker’s, but we’re thrilled for Mike and Cindy and this new chapter in their lives.