Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Restaurant

It was the night before the OJ Simpson verdict was handed down.

I may not remember all the details, but for some strange reason, I remember that one.

The Station Square restaurant where my parents undoubtedly took my sisters and me in order to avoid a major scene when they dropped the bomb was packed. Waiters were bustling around, people were dropping utensils, and at the bar a group of college age guys were cheering at some sporting event or another.

In retrospect I think I should have guessed what they were about to tell us. For about two months, there had been little signs that something was different. That something wasn't quite right.

My dad, who always traveled a great deal for work, had been traveling quite a bit more. A few times, my mom went with him, which she generally didn't do.

But it was the message on the answering machine the month before that really should have done it. It was a Sunday night. We had company for dinner and, as usual, there was talking, laughing, food and people running around everywhere. When the phone rang, no one bothered with it. Most of the people we cared about were right in our house and everyone figured if it was important, they would leave a message.

After the beep, a strong southern accent boomed through the machine.

"Hi y'all, this is Beverly Brandenburger from Jacksonville. I have the information you asked for on that house you were interested in. Give me a call when you get a chance. Bye, now."

Confused, I wondered why my parents would be interested in a house in Jackson-something when we lived in Pittsburgh. Had always lived in Pittsburgh. Would always, as far as I was concerned. I barely even knew there were other places in the world to live. My grandparents were all born in southwestern Pennsylvania, for god's sake. I certainly didn't know anything about any place where someone with an accent like that would live.

I pondered it for a little while, but by the end of the night the call slipped out of my mind, and all was as it should be.

Until the restaurant.

It was unusual for us to go out on a weeknight, but when we were growing up, once in awhile my parents would surprise us with nighttime adventures. A summer evening trip to the amusement park, homemade chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner, and popcorn and a movie on TV long after we should have been asleep were all a part of what was a fun and pretty idyllic childhood. So dinner out on a weeknight, while rare, was not unheard of.

But it wasn't one of those fun and exciting childhood nights. Even at age twelve, I knew it almost as soon as we sat down at the table. The waitress had just delivered our drinks when my mom took my hand, and my dad started to talk.

"Girls, we're moving to Florida."

*The move was for business reasons, and after thirteen years in Jacksonville, almost four years ago my parents moved back to Pittsburgh and are now happily ensconced in the city of all of our childhoods. And all is as it should be in the Brinn family.


  1. at first i thought divorce... then i knew..i know so many snowbirds! i hope you're okay with it now and have had many sunny visits.

    1. It was never quite home for any of us...The move was for business, and a few years ago my parents moved back to Pittsburgh. So now we have many snowy, wintery visits, and have never been happier :)

  2. Moving is so hard on the kids. Our kids had to move a bit, but luckily they were all pretty young and we've been able to grow some roots for the last ten years. Interesting to read it from the child's perspective.
    Enjoyed the read. Thank you!

  3. Moving can be so traumatic! We didn't move nearly so far, but the whole changing-schools thing, making new friends - it can shatter a young-world.

  4. I was fortunate in that I never had to move during my childhood. I was such a shy kid, I don't think I would have transitioned so well. And what a complete change for you!

  5. Oh, I feel your pain. When we moved to NJ, My oldest son was starting Freshman year of HS and my youngest 1st grade. We left everything we knew behind, including family and friends. All is well now (although we'll go back to CA eventually). This really resonated with me (but I was the parent...)

  6. Oh, a move would have crushed me. I was so shy and starting over from scratch would have been miserable. Your childhood surprises sound really fun, though.

  7. My parents almost moved us to Sao Paolo Brazil for business. I was 13, but I remember the whispering, the trips, and then the fights. Thank goodness for the fights, my mom won, and we got to stay right where we belonged. (and where I still am :-)
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wait. There is such a thing as homemade chicken nuggets? What the what? Recipe, please. Great post...so happy it wasn't a divorce chat. Why I am invested in your parents staying together is a mystery, but I am so now I am happy.

  9. I knew it wasn't divorce because I've been reading here long enough to know but I was still on edge! The OJ verdict was on my birthday and I swore a guilty was going to be my present. I'm glad you make it to the land of the Steelers often. Great story and I want the recipe too!

  10. That is a bomb drop, indeed. Hoping not to have to move with the kiddos, at least not out of the school district, for many, many years.

  11. You definitely had me on edge! That's a traumatic announcement. We moved to another suburb when I was 14 and that was traumatic enough. Moving to another state, albeit a warm, sunny, Mouse-filled one, sounds especially hard. This is a great story and beautifully written as always!

  12. That was great, Samantha. I wasn't sure where it was going. I moved a lot as a kid, but never out of San Diego County. I could imagine that being twelve and having to move so far was difficult. But it gave you something to write about all these years later, right? :)

  13. I never moved as a kid. I wondered what it would be like but couldn't really imagine it. Knowing that at some point we want to leave NJ and move the CA, I wonder what it will be like for our son when it happens. I really felt like I could feel the tension here.

  14. I thought it was going to be divorce too. But on the cusp of your teens, to be uprooted and taken away from all that you know must have felt like one. I was so drawn into the story and felt like I was there, picturing the whole scene and thinking about where I was at the time just before the OJ verdict e
    Was passed down.

  15. I'm with all the divorce-guessers. But that's the fun in having a little tension! I think divorce and moving are those two things no kids want to hear. I personally love the south and florida, but moving is never fun, so I can feel the ick in this. Love the tiny details, like remembering it as the day the verdict was handed down.

  16. I was guessing divorce too. moving is a huge transition. I'e been though it quite a few times on my own and now with my kids. I don't think it gets easier.

  17. I'm with the divorce guessers too! When I realized it wasn't, I relaxed, but you maintained the tension. I still felt how much it must've hurt to hear the news that your family was moving. Well told!

  18. So glad it wasn't divorce, too! And as a military brat, I understand full well the sense of doom right before each of these life-changing conversations...there were many. Great telling of that memory!