Mark Ballard

Satisfying a craving

Mark Ballard
Mark Ballard jvorhees@macon.com

Have you ever had a hankering for something to eat that hopped into your mind and refused to leave? The kind of intense craving that makes your mouth begin to water and holds all of your thoughts captive. Once the yearning is there, you may as well surrender because you are powerless while under its spell. This happens to me quite often.

For a day or so, I had a craving for food from one of my favorite restaurants when I was growing up. My family and I ate there at least once a week — if not more — for as long as I can remember. I was running some errands near the restaurant and, before I knew it, had pulled into the parking lot. Starving, I quickly walked in and was seated in a booth by myself — something I rarely do.

It was the middle of the afternoon and the lunch crowd already had eaten and left. Only a few people were scattered here and there. I noticed another man sitting by himself in a booth cattycornered to mine but I had taken off my glasses and couldn’t see his facial details. As I was taking my first bite, I heard him say, “Hey, Mark. It’s funny seeing you here!”

I quickly put on my glasses to see who he was. I really couldn’t believe it! There sat someone who went to school with my sister and me. Someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. At first, our conversation started off with just the normal pleasantries while we continued eating in our own booths. The space between us didn’t hinder us at all.

We discussed how this particular restaurant had been an important part of our history and how, every so often, we have to come for a visit to squelch the fires of an unhealthy food craving. Scanning the dining room, it basically looked exactly as it did the better part of 30 years ago — but we certainly didn’t.

Before long, we were caught up in a captivating conversation. I’m quite sure the other diners weren’t as interested in our school recollections as we were, but they never said anything. When you travel back in time involving memories, there are many winding roads, hills and valleys you must traverse. But the journey is so worth it!

One story leads to another. We talked about other classmates, former teachers and anything else that had to do with our school years. In my mind, I could see the school and teachers, even remembering the unmistakable smell of a classroom. Our journey back spanned many decades and thought-provoking events.

At some point while traveling down memory lane, I left my booth and joined his. I couldn’t even remember when. We completely lost track of the time as our thoughts turned to our parents and what great people they were. We also discussed how it feels to lose a parent. Both of my parents had died years ago, as had his father, while his mother is alive and well.

Traveling back, we went through a gambit of emotions. We laughed uncontrollably, smiled often and, at times, even got a little misty-eyed. That’s what happens when you reminisce. You invite all your emotions — both the good and the bad — to the surface.

Looking at him across the table, I realized we were not in school anymore and, somehow along the way, we had morphed into two middle-aged men. With over 40 years of life experiences, we were definitely wiser than we were back then. Even though we are seeing with the same eyes, our perspectives on life have definitely changed. There is no doubt that experiencing life makes you see things differently.

A wrinkle here and a wiry gray hair there only show how life has altered our outside appearances, but I think time changes us even more on the inside. Each life experience modifies who we are. The process is slow but hopefully one that teaches us how to become better people.

We said our goodbyes and left the restaurant with full stomachs and hearts. On my ride home, I thought how blessed I was to have had the impromptu visit with a former classmate. What were the chances of us being there at the same exact time? It was the best of both worlds. We were able to eat some of our favorite comfort food from back in the day while discussing our journeys since last we met.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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