The Whisper of Life

A few months ago when my husband and I were on a trip to the Philadelphia area, we ate breakfast at a restaurant called Ruby’s Diner. It was a retro eatery designed to make its patrons feel as if they had stepped back in time to the 1940’s. The decor of bright red vinyl booths and white Formica tables, complete with a soda fountain and vintage Coca Cola posters, waitresses in period clothing and music of the era created an illusion that I had indeed entered the Twilight Zone and was back in the war years of my parents’ days.  SCAN0927

It was early on a Sunday morning and very few other customers were in the diner. It was quiet as we waited for the waitress to bring us our coffee, and I heard the familiar strains of Glen Miller, music my parents often played on the phonograph when I was growing up. I looked around and noticed a young couple in a booth on the other side of the restaurant, and for a moment my mind played tricks on me, and the young couple turned into my parents as they looked when they first met. My breath caught, and I looked away from my husband so he wouldn’t see that I was about to cry.

My parents have been gone many years now, yet in that instant they were more real to me than I could remember in a long time. They were not my parents. They were a young couple in love, planning their lives together, their future an exciting adventure. Why was I about to cry? Because they had come and gone, in the wink of an eye. There was such an ache in my heart to think of them so vibrant and young, sitting in a red vinyl booth at a diner like Ruby’s in Dayton, Ohio, sipping on an ice cream soda, or sharing their dreams over coffee, my brother, sister and I not even a thought yet.

That was in September, yet that ache still comes and goes in quiet times of reflection. I am in my sixties now, but I still feel like that young college co-ed my husband fell in love with. I don’t know where the years have gone. Will there ever be a moment when my children hear a particular song or are in a certain place and see us as that young couple we once were? Will their breath catch to remember that we had lives of our own, apart from them? How will they know that we used to take study breaks together by getting hot chocolate from the machine in the basement of the dormitory and then listening to Cat Stevens records? Will they remember me telling them that once, when it was just the two of us, their father drove three hours to Cape Cod to buy me a lobster dinner?  Who will hold the archive of our lives, and will anyone care to read it?

Ah, Youth! How fortunate that you do not have these thoughts yet. Oh, Age, how sad that we do.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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38 Responses to The Whisper of Life

  1. pattisj says:

    What an amazing experience, to step back in time and see things through different eyes. Hugs!

  2. I think about this stuff often, which explains why I love your blog and your writings. You are very inspiring.

  3. jeffsocrates says:

    I believe that this is just the start. I believe that – that which awaits us, in all its Heavenly glory, forever, with all those we’ve ever loved and all those we will get to know, will make this time cherished, all the more, because this mortal frame will simply move onto the immortal one, and none of this will be lost.

    Hope rests eternally, therefore, in these thoughts and in this line of thinking and in the conviction that, according to everything I’ve read in the Bible and in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this is true.

    May God Bless you, your memories, and know this, no one can take them away.


  4. rifka says:

    Hi! I read some of your posts. I really liked them so much. You write so beautifully.
    Keep writing!

  5. My parents courted for one month then were married. We talked often about their impulsiveness – for which we finally realized we were exceptionally grateful. She was an operatic soprano who wanted to go to the NY Met and my father was a white collar manager of exceptional charisma. What a couple! Their success? Three sons and two daughters. It has been 29 years since we said a sudden good-bye to my father and youngest brother and 19 years since I heard the mockingbird singing Mom’s goodbye at 1 am in the morning outside the hospital. There are days I wish we could have another meal and talk again for hours. One day in Heaven…

  6. Amy says:

    This is the kind of sentiment so personal that is difficult to express in writing, but you did it so beautifully that took me to enter the Twilight Zone… Thank you, Susan!

  7. alecrisan says:

    Dear Susan, I just want to tell you that you just made a 26 year old cry. I have no kids yet, my parent are alive and well, but you write so beautifully… Thank you for this post, it really makes me look with more interest in the present. Kisses from Peru

  8. Jenbug says:

    I’m not quite 40, but I’ve had a few of those moments that make your breath hitch, heart race, and your eyes sting with tears. The melancholy that accompanies the remembrance of loss follows me around for days, weeks, and sometimes months. Eventually, I remember the wonderful memories and they slowly envelop the sadness and tuck it away for another day.

    • Coming East says:

      Loved you comment, Jenbug. Of course, as we get older we have lost more loved ones, but my impending demise saddens me, too. I never thought too much about it when I was younger, but I think it does start hitting you when you round the bend of 40.

  9. What a lovely step back in time. I love it when that happens!

  10. Thanks for reminding me why I started my blog… I often get distracted! There are so many little stories and events that I want to record for my kids and grandkids… they are not usually enough for a post, but they are the little things that I would like them to know about. Maybe that will be my focus in 2013…. that is, if I can find a focus!

    • Coming East says:

      Yes, 50’s, this blogging is a great place to focus on those memories, trying to pull them out of deeply buried places. Maybe I’ll try to remember more of those old stories this year, too, and write about them.

  11. Al says:

    Beautiful thoughts, beautifully penned. Love that picture…you favor you mother.

  12. notquiteold says:

    Beautifully said. I love thinking about my parents in their youth. Or hearing the refrain from a song my father used to hum. Listening to my mother tell the story of my birth. I never tire of it. I have no children, and I regret having no one who will re-tell my stories. But I write.

  13. Write your memories down. I have left books in drawers that I know will be found after I am gone. It is morbid, but I know that they will see them. Read them and remember. For each of my daughters I have books that I bought for them, it asks questions and I have answered them and they range from what was my favorite outfit for school to the details of my first date. My daughter also gave me a grandmother memories book that I am filling out for my grandson. I wish I would have asked more questions of my parents and uncles, and yet I know I have more memories shared than my husband has. Your children will remember because you are memorable. I think of you and I have never met you. You have touched my life in the brief time of reading your blog. I can only imagine how much you are intertwined with your children’s hearts. Have a good day my friend. DAF

  14. Susan, you have this blog to tell the story. ♪”If I could save time in a bottle…”♫ Jim Croce–Those were amazing years.

  15. Dianna says:

    This is wonderful, Susan. And I know what you mean about turning away so your husband won’t see that you’re about to cry. Funny thing is: almost every time, my husband senses that I am. And he pulls me close for a hug.
    I sometimes find myself telling my son, Marshall, something from the past. I know I’ve probably already told him, but I wonder: was he old enough to remember when I mentioned it before?
    Thanks for the smile – have a good Monday!

  16. Oh very young what will you leave us this time? You’re only dancing on this earth for a short time….Your lucky kids will have this well-written blog to know and remember you.

  17. gaycarboys says:

    As always, I felt a hint of a tear welling up. I only have 1 question, what’s an ice cream soda? (is it like a coke float?) I ache to see Cape Cod. I’m watching last night’s Ep of Royal Pains so I’d like to do the Hamptons while I’m about it. I’ve missed you BTW

    • Coming East says:

      Always so good to hear from you, Alan! Yes, an ice cream soda is similar to a coke float, but it has seltzer and syrup instead of the Coke. So you can have a different flavor ice cream soda, depending on what flavor syrup you choose.

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