11.09.2012

A Musing on Dream Sharing

Olde Schoolhouse Diner, a local dream
Today I ate breakfast in a 200-year-old house in Miamisburg, Ohio. The proprietor, a very friendly and hard-working woman named Theresa, had bought that house back in December and turned it into a tiny restaurant called Olde Schoolhouse Diner. It's nestled amid some historical old buildings in the village downtown, and you would probably miss it if you weren't looking at the right time or if someone who knew someone who ate there hadn't told you about it. Nonetheless, it stands there, a physical manifestation of someone's dream.

All of the original wooden moldings are still in place, the floor the same hilly old maple planks that have seen the shoes of at least a few generations. A vintage set of electric fireplace logs keeps the place warm, ticking contentedly on the old hearth in the front room. Fresh-cut flowers fill little vases on the tables that were likely purchased secondhand from a restaurant supply or the liquidation of another person's dream. The back of the house is a modern commercial kitchen and a reminder of how much things have changed since the walls around it were erected. Gleaming stainless steel and flat, clean surfaces for preparing food. 

Theresa probably got a loan to buy all that equipment and the house, to make everything "just so," right down to the mismatched salt and pepper shakers and the cooler that displays the homemade carrot cake behind the main counter. She gets up at 5 o'clock every morning and starts cooking. On the little white board in the front of the house, she lists her daily specials. Homemade cabbage rolls, meatloaf, and chicken and dumplings. Her eggs are delivered by a local farmer, and with them you can order homemade omelettes and French toast. The corned beef hash tastes like real corned beef, an impromptu breakfast thrown together with the leftovers from the previous night's St. Patty's Day feast. 

All of these things are part of Theresa's dream, and eating there is like having a front row seat to her wishes.  Every customer she has, every dollar she makes, is the fulfillment of a desire to carve out a little piece of this world and make it into something good and decent. The food isn't perfect, but it is simple, homey, and satisfying in a way that little to do with taste but more to do with the knowledge that you helped to validate a person's wish to serve others while doing something they love. When we ate it, we felt good. We felt content. We felt like we had done the right thing.

This is the beauty of local businesses and independent producers. We can see these dreams, and we can share them. When we buy their food, shop in their stores, buy their music and books and art, we can understand a little more of how and why we made society work long before the predictable brick shapes of impersonal commerce came to town and separated us from the those dreams and turned us into mere consumers of stuff and things of questionable origin. 

I don't know if Theresa's little business will last. If it doesn't, it will likely become part of someone else's dream, as all dreams eventually do. Dreams are fickle and unstable and ever-changing, after all. Time is the master of all things. If you have similar businesses or artists in your own communities, I hope you're making a regular habit of sharing those dreams while they last. It creates a direct connection between us. It humanizes us. I think we could all use a little more of that in this day and age.