To My More Than An Acquaintance(s),
A few nights ago I was driving home from a concert with my Dad… (yes we still go one father/daughter dates)… and we started talking about a concept that really struck me.
After being back away at University between reading week and Easter, my Dad had suffered a deep and emotional loss. Now, you may think this is strange, but I promise you the emotions are real… for my whole family in fact. I still remember seeing my Dads Facebook post about it, and being 3 hours away in London, unable to attend the “service”… for Steer Inn Burgers. Yes, the loss my dad suffered was the closing of his favourite burger restaurant. To give you some more context: let me explain…
Steer Inn opened in my fathers hometown of Richmond Hill in the 1970’s.
With deliciously greasy burgers and toppings, homemade battered onion rings, and bright orange meal trays, Steer Inn quickly became the “hip” and “cool” spot for my dad and his friends to grab a bite to eat and hang out. Although he may deny it, it was also the place he and his friends all flooded to when they were completely drunk and looking for food… Once my dad met my mom, it’s also the place where they together would eat, and when my brother and I came along, we naturally all went there together as well.
Our vists became fewer as we moved 40 minutes away, and even more when my grandparents moved out of Richmond Hill and closer to us, but we still made the effort to stop, whenever we were passing through.
Steer Inn represents a huge part of my dad’s teen life, and it represents a lot of my childhood, stopping in to see brothers Mike and Nick for a burger or grilled cheese – since the ripe age of… well, being born…. I think my Dad was even there getting a burger as my mom’s water broke… but that’s probably TMI, sorry.
For 40 years, this place was very special to my Dad, and for almost 22, it’s been special to me too. It’s not just about the great food or the vintage 70’s pleather seats and tiles… it was about the feeling we all got when we were there. Whenever my Dad walked into Steer Inn, Nick and Mike always asked him about us kids… about work… and always knew his order – remembering it by heart (banquet burger plain, fries with gravy, and a pepsi). Mike and Nick made their customers a type of extended family… being there for major life moments over time. In a strange way… Nick and Mike got to see me grow up…
This whole conversation with my dad escalated when he explained that as he went on closing day to Steer Inn… for the very last time, Mike hugged him deeply to say goodbye, tears in his eyes, not wanting to let go. I realized how painful it would have been for Nick and Mike to sell their property after 40 years doing the same thing…every day. I also realized how hard it was for my dad…. to let go of the feeling of family and community he felt every time her walked through those doors.
If you’ve never experienced anything like this, it probably sounds silly… but I think some of the most special people we’ve come across in our lives are people we see often, but don’t necessarily REALLY know…
I think if you think hard enough, you’ll realize we’ve all come in contact with people who may not be our “friends” (in the most recognized sort of definition), but they are certainly more than just an acquaintance….
For example, growing up, my brother and I went to the same hairdresser as my Dad. We called her the “sucker lady” because she would always give us a sucker, even if we were just waiting. The sucker lady was unbelievably kind, nurturing, and funny. We absolutely loved going to see her every couple of weeks, and were completely heartbroken when we were informed she would no longer be cutting hair due to her diagnosis with cancer… While the sucker lady wasn’t my grandmother, nor my aunt, or even someone my family entertained for dinner… she was our friend, and we cared about her, a lot.
Another example I can think of is the guy who works at my local Zehrs grocery store. I am completely guilty of not even knowing his name… which I probably should…. and yet not even knowing his name, I look forward to seeing him, every time I shop there. His kindness, and hard work ethic – always pulling out carts for those who walk in, doesn’t go unnoticed. He always has the biggest smile, and I can still remember him sneaking cookies from the bakery for us as kids… yes, he’s been there that long. He too, represents a part of my childhood… a memory that may seem small, but is significant and special to me.
My little brother and sister have this same type of relationship with an amazing and spunky elderly lady who works at our local McDonald’s. Jenny has totally become the best thing about McDonald’s (even better than mcflurries), and frequently shares stories with us about her kids, as well as checking in on us about what we’re up to. Jenny literally has gotten to know my whole immediate family… and my grandparents, just from coming up to chat with us at family lunches while she cleans surrounding tables and sneaks toys for the kids. Jenny has such a positive energy in the McDonald’s lobby that we go there even more frequently that we probably should, AND we don’t just take the drive-thru route…because she makes our in-resturant experience special.
So, think hard… think about the places you lived and went growing up… think about the service people who went above and beyond for you…. and even fastforward to now….the workers at your university coffe shop, maybe an advisor who’s helped you out a few times, your co-worker, whomever…
I know for my mom, one of these people is Sue – a super rad British woman who does her nails every two weeks. They may not “hang-out” in a traditional setting, but they chat about life for an hour… every two weeks…and that’s got to count for something right? And how about her family doctor?… she’s been going to the same one since she was a teenager!!!
So, while summing up this whole conversation with my Dad, we tried to think of a word for this type of friend (that I’ve now got you thinking about)… the person who you don’t really hang out with outside of the doors of where you always see them, but who means a lot to you, and is always there to share a smile or story.
Unable to think of anything ourselves, I turned to my step mom and asked, “If someone was to ask you to define your relationship with Jenny from McDonald’s, what would you call her?” Without hesitiation, she answered, “She’s my friend”.
So, while you may not consider these people to be your traditional type of friend… they ARE there for the occastions and milestones that that matter most in our lives…. think about it – cutting your hair for a big interview, helping you find the right birthday cake in the grocery store, throwing in some extra fries when you’ve had a really bad day, or a really good one!
These people may not know more about you than your best friends, and you may not even know their last name… but they are special, and they are a friend.
To all these people, thank you…
Your efforts of continued kindness will never be forgotten, we so very much apprechiate having you in our lives.
Thanks for the memories Steer Inn! We’ll miss you!