It is never easy to leave your identity behind, especially when you come from a small, suburban town where you are not allowed to dream big. However, in that very town, I mistakenly dreamt of growing…alone.
My parents love staying here. Maybe because they became comfortable living in the suburbs or maybe they just do not want to face challenges anymore. I realized that quite easily since every day I see my parents giving it all for the restaurant we own, The Reynold’s. In the beginning, the restaurant had a serving capacity of just 4 people; but now we could serve more than 28 people at a time. I would say it is one of the ‘happening’ places of the area, with hand-crafted decorations and lighting. The Reynold’s was my parents’ passion and love for which they never thought of leaving this town. But I knew that, at some point, I must leave to find my passion…which lay outside this small town.
My childhood and adolescence revolved around The Reynold’s. I never wanted to hang out there as it was my parents’ restaurant; but I always had to since my friends loved spending time there. Everyone enjoyed the food and the “Reynold’s Special Latte” was a benchmark. What else does one need to create a moment other than a special latte in a heart-warming environment! Everyone suggested that I should get more involved with the family business, but inwardly I always wanted to escape from this town.
As their son, I always had the privilege of getting the “Paid in full” seal on my receipt no matter what I had. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable as my friends paid their full bills, but I never spoke about it to my parents. As a young man, I was obsessed with my dreams and considered nothing to be more important. Days went by and my school days were over but getting the “Paid in full” receipts continued. Soon, I graduated from school, and my parents wanted me to pursue my dreams out in the big city. They understood that I do not have any interest in their restaurant business. Soon, I got admitted to my desired university and despite the high tuition, my parents agreed to pay. Finally, I left the old suburban town in pursuit of my dreams.
I started enjoying living in the new city and became busy with my life. At first, I spoke to my parents quite a lot, but slowly that became a very rare occasion. I always gave the excuse that I was busy. But I was never too busy to ask for my tuition fees. Eventually, that became the only reason why we spoke. I completed my degree and soon got a decent job. I gave my parents the good news and sent them some money for their well-being. However, all they wanted from me was to spend some time with their son. I wish I had realized that earlier.
I asked my parents to move in with me, but they refused. As I said, they gave their everything towards the restaurant which they can never leave behind. Soon, the distance between us increased. I became so busy with my work that soon I forgot to communicate with my parents completely. I now go to a lot of restaurants, but never get a receipt with that warm “Paid in full” seal. It has been seven years since I met my parents.
Finally, one day I decided to visit our old town. I wanted to spend some time with my parents in the upcoming new years’ eve and so, I booked my train ticket immediately. At the same night I got a call from a lawyer informing me that I needed to take care of the ownership of a few assets that my parent left for me. They passed away in a car crash 17 days ago – which was the day before my birthday. They were coming to visit me on my birthday! Now it made sense why they had not wished me on that day.
The suburbs had developed so much. I still remember every spot of the town clearly. I never noticed before that this town had a distinct smell in the air. It was heart-warming and reminded me of my childhood.
I completed all the formal paper-works with the lawyer. I was very surprised to see that my parents had sold the restaurant six years ago and never mentioned it. I also never cared to ask anything about it. I cannot believe that they could sell The Reynold’s, their lifelong passion. They sacrificed their entire life’s work just to pay for my tuition and help me fulfill my dreams.
Finally. I visited The Reynold’s. It still had the same hand-crafted decorations and lighting that my mother had single-handedly made. The new owner seemed to have maintained them well. They added some new variations of coffee but the “Reynold’s Special Latte” was distinctly visible on the menu board. I started to reminisce the old memories of my school days. For the first time, I had lunch alone in this restaurant. I recalled how I always got the “Paid in full” seal on my receipt. It broke my heart that I could never thank my parents for doing so much for me.
I ordered the special latte. It felt like I never had such a coffee anywhere else…or maybe I was just too emotional. I asked for the bill and, for the first time, I did not get any “Paid in full” seal. I called the waiter to take my payment but instead of the waiter, the owner himself came over. He listened to my feedback on the overall environment and the quality of food. Then, he just turned over the receipt and there it was – “Paid in full”!
I forgot that the seal used to be on the other side of the bill. Looking at my astounded face, the owner smiled and informed me that my parents sold the restaurant on a condition that if I ever came to have food, my bill will always be paid in full. My parents made sure that their son never had to pay for any meal in this restaurant. And for six years, they new owners saved the “Paid in full” seal just to use it for me.
My parents’ efforts towards me remained unpaid, maybe like those of most parents. I wish I had wanted to grow but TOGETHER. I left everything behind to be successful and escape from this place. I finally fulfilled my dream. I grew…ALONE.
Written by MEHRAB MOMIN