When I turned sixteen, Gram took me to this fancy restaurant in the swankiest hotel downtown. It was in the historic district, built in 1925. I remember looking at the menu and having no idea what most of the dishes were. Names like Assiette d’Agneau, Canard Roti and Bifteck Diane stared back at me.
“There’s no prices on my menu,” I told Gram.
“Shh,” she said. “Don’t worry about the price. This is an extra special day. I’ve been saving a dollar a week for three years so that we could do this. Get what you want. You’re sixteen.”
“But I don’t know what I want because I have no idea what any of these dishes are,” I whispered.
When the waitress came, I asked her to explain the entrees. One was a lamb dish and the other duck. When she said “beef tenderloin” that at least sounded familiar. “I’ll take that,” I said.
I felt like royalty sitting in this dining room with its 20-foot-high ceilings, ornate brass and crystal chandeliers and wood paneled walls. A teen about my age walked around with a cold pitcher of water and it seemed like as soon as I took a few sips out of my glass he was beside me filling it up.
“Do you think we’re dressed good enough?” I whispered. We had worn our best clothes – I had on a blue silk dress that Gram had made and she wore a floral dress that she only wore for very special occasions – but compared to everyone else...
“You’re beautiful,” Gram said. “Only you can make yourself feel inferior. Don’t. Our money is as good as theirs. And, gosh darn it, I’ve saved for three years to eat in this hotel and I’m gonna enjoy it.”
Grandma told me on the taxi ride over (she said she couldn’t afford a limo but a taxi would make us feel just as special) that she had always wanted to eat in this hotel.
“Ever since I was wee little,” Grandma said. “We’d drive by it on our way to market and I’d see all these folks going in there all dressed up in suits and evening gowns. I used to pretend with my friend June that we were attending a ball there. Sort of like Cinderella.”
• • •
When I shared this post on Facebook, one of my readers commented that when she read that part in the book, she immediately pictured The Yorktowne Hotel. For my readers who live in the area, there are often moments like this in my novels where they read something that’s familiar to them. It makes my connection with them even stronger, I think.
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