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A place you can always return to

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by Katie Fox

Katie is a writer, a teacher, a mezzo-soprano, and a lover of all things red. She and her husband Shaun are passionate about mentoring and equipping artists of all kinds. Find her online at katiefox.net.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we lived in a tiny apartment that we chose for the neighborhood, as opposed to the square footage. It was nothing special – just 550 square feet, concrete walls, and a total lack of kitchen space – but it was our home.

They let us paint the walls, and we did so with abandon. We strung up white twinkle lights and brought in plenty of comfy seating. Adding character where there is none has always been a fun challenge for me.

But we were really there for the neighborhood. It was full of historic, colorful, little craftsman homes and locally-owned businesses, and we reveled in our newly married bliss by taking evening walks around the tree-lined streets.

Those walks became a time for wishing and dreaming. We would point out the porch that would be perfect for an evening glass of wine, or a morning cup of coffee. We discussed exterior paint colors and how we loved the homes with the rose bush by the mailbox and the chicken coops in the back.

Most of all, we loved being able to walk to the local coffeehouse, the video store, the pizza joint around the corner, the laundromat, and our favorite restaurant in the city, Julio’s.

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I first discovered Julio’s when I was still a single college student, living in a different non-descript apartment in the same neighborhood. I fell in love with the fresh, flavorful Mexican food and the warm, friendly service. When my husband and I were dating, I took him there and he fell equally hard.

After we married, we ate at Julio’s about once a week. We became such regular customers that we got to know the owner and her son, and many of the other regulars, as well.

Julio’s became our place – the place we could go to reconnect, to remember, and to dream. We spent countless evenings out on the patio, lingering as the last ray of sun dipped behind the trees, listening as the crickets came out to play, and watching the moon rise up into the dark sky, before starting our walk back home under the stars.

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Now eight years have passed since those twilight walks and our weekly evenings at Julio’s. We were soon priced out of our little apartment home in our charming, historic neighborhood, and instead made our next home fifteen minutes further north, where we could find more square footage and a little yard for our growing family.

We don’t make it to Julio’s too often anymore. It’s just not convenient to the paths where we usually end up traveling these days. And it’s been years since we took a walk down those gorgeous old tree-lined streets. But Julio’s is still our place.

When we go there with our little girls, we spend our time helping them eat and managing their consumption of chips and salsa, and we remember our days as singles who fell in love – as an engaged couple – as newlyweds; and we look at our lives now and how far we’ve come, and our eyes meet in silent, shared gratitude.

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And when we go there on a date, without our girls, we sometimes giggle and feel like newlyweds again. If we squint our eyes just so in the light of the setting sun, we might even be able to pretend that we’re those same kids who got married at sunset in the park downtown. Maybe. We dream and wish, just like we used to.

But eventually the giggles wear off as the moonlight sets in, and we look at each other in wonder as our exhaustion overcomes us, and we remember that our girls will wake us early the next morning, and we should probably head home. And the silent, shared gratitude is there, too.

We get up from our table but we don’t walk home – instead, we climb into our minivan and drive the fifteen minutes north. It’s sweet and good and true. Our hearts – and our bellies – are full of good things once more. And we are blessed.

Do you have a place that you can always return to?

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Comments

  1. That sounds so beautiful! I wish my husband and I had a place like that…we dated in Florida, lived the first years of our marriage in Alabama and the last year or so in Idaho! There is something beautiful about living in one place and collecting memories as your life grows…

  2. In 1997, my husband and I left our hometown, Albuquerque, for seminary in Orlando. Since then we’ve served churches in the metro DC area, Michigan, and Louisiana. In the back of our minds was a dream to someday retire to Albuquerque. It was both a surprise and a dream when Dan was approached to plant a new church back in our hometown. We’ve been back three years now.

  3. Before we had kids, we lived in a part of the city where we could walk anywhere: the grocery, restaurants, movies, even the car repair shop. My husband and I look fondly on those days, which were clearly our “couple days” sans kids. I wish we could have stayed in the neighborhood because it’s actually conducive to kids, but long story short, we had to move a little bit farther away.

  4. We have a restaurant like this too! Except it’s a creperie, run by a lovely Portuguese couple. I introduced my husband to it when we were dating at the age of 17 and it’s been our go to place for almost a decade. We live on a small (British) island so it’s not to far for us to travel to, however since we became parents 4 months back we just haven’t had the chance to go! We’re missing it though, so I think this weekend we’ll have to introduce our daughter to ‘our place’!

  5. I love this! My husband and I have a restaurant we like to go to in his home town about 30 minutes away. We shared our first bottle of wine there when we were engaged. And we’ve gone on special dates through a lot of different seasons. His parents even had gone on dates there growing up. We eat slightly different things there now that we’re paleo, but it’s still amazing and our favorite place to go. It’s a blessing to have a place you can return to and say, wow it’s been a ride, but God’s been faithful.

  6. Alas, many of my favorite places have been turned into built over by greedy developers too common here in Hawai’i.

    But the ocean is always a place of solace for me (despite the looming threat of sharks, haha), as is a soccer field, the temple, and anywhere my children are.

  7. Beautiful, Katie. I’d give anything right now to walk through the neighborhood you’re talking about.

    My “go back home” place is Avila’s, a family owned restaurant in El Paso, Texas, where I ate every week with my family while growing up. Anytime My brothers and I are back home with our families, we go back to Avila’s, where many of the same waiters are still working.

  8. It’s not quite the same, because we moved across the country, but … we used to love to eat at this little Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood in Chicago: the Sunshine Cafe. It was a little family place, with delicious ton katsu, teriyaki and miso soup. We could walk there, and had so many fun conversations in that place. We thought of it recently because we had a date at a new little Japanese restaurant in our town, and it evoked the Sunshine Cafe. Made me remember early date nights with my husband, so this date night (14 years later) was even sweeter. It felt like being home, even though it is hundreds of miles away.

  9. I grew up in San Antonio, TX, but moved away for college (and after!). We go back to visit family once or twice a year, and while I’m not really in love with the city, I am in love with the food. It’s how I remember food tasting when I was a kid: tangy, fresh, beefy, hearty. There’s Mexican food, steak, country food. I think it evokes home more to me than any one place or restaurant.

  10. My family grew up moving around alot, but we would always go visit my mom’s family – and no trip was complete without a pilgrimage to La Posta, in Las Cruces. This past summer I was able to take my baby son there for the first time and four generations of family sat around and gorged on delicious New Mexican food. It was a priceless experience and well worth the calories. :)

  11. This makes me so happy! My husband and I consider Julio’s one of our favorite spots, too! He took me there on one of our first dates, and many times since. That night we even took a few pictures in front of the restaurant By the “Hyde Park” sign and they are some my favorite pictures that bring back some of my favorite memories. :) Maybe we’ll run into each other there sometime.

  12. We’ve moved a lot so we don’t have a fixed address place but we love the mountains, any mountains and that’s our place.

  13. Lovely post. The first half could have been written by me, except that our place is called Fernando’s. Sadly, we now live 9 hours away from our favorite Chicago neighborhood, but we still talk about going back to our restaurant one of these days.

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