As a child, I was not fond of eating out. My family would eat at a restaurant, diner, or buffet at least once a week, often more than once. Every time we went anywhere, but for a little place called Rivenee’s, it was a challenge for my parents. Rivenee’s was that lucky exception – I loved the place and this made my parents love it too. The restaurant seemed magical and fascinating to me when I was an elementary school kid, and surprisingly, the place still fascinates me today. Recently, when I visited my old family house for Thanksgiving, I was astonished and pleased to find out the place still operated and, in fact, was still run by the same family. Apart from the house in which I grew up, Rivenee’s is probably the dearest place to me in the small town, just outside of San Ramon, where I was born and raised.
Rivenee’s is a small and cozy place, and this is what probably garnered my love of the restaurant initially. This, and the people who worked, and still work there. Unlike more spacious restaurants, diners and chain buffets my parents also took me to, Rivenee’s was a family-owned business run by a middle-aged couple, Janette and Derek. When I think about them now, I still remember their warm smiles and sincere care for each customer and employee. Mrs. Jan, as I would call her, loved orange shades, both in her outfits and in the restaurant’s interior decor. Warm orange and yellow-pomegranate furniture, sunny-colored napkins and curtains, country-style hard wooden tables and stools at the bar – everything was solid and comfortable about the place. Mrs. Jan would always have orange in her outfit – to match the place, as I then thought. Be it a bright orange ribbon in her hair, or a peachy neat cotton dress, or red nail polish – this woman always belonged to the place like nobody else, and I doubt it was only the external resemblance.
Her husband Mr. Derek was older, with graying hair and a miniature mustache, which made him look a bit strict to me at the time. But the moment he started talking with his deep, soft and half-laughing voice, with that particular tender frog-in-the-throat vibe, he would make me listen to his every word with an open mouth. The man was like a magician to me: mysterious and a bit scary even, yet so fascinating and magnetic. There was his daughter as well, the first love of mine. She was a blonde pony-tailed girl of 7 or 8 with cute bangs, lively and active. She would be running around the place, attracting the attention of visitors with her sonorous laughter that made you laugh in return, or at least smile back at the small, sunny creature cruising around the place.
When I visited Rivenee’s after all these years, the memories flashed back through my mind in a heartbeat, and I suddenly felt like a child again. The place was still an illuminating planet of orange and light, yet comfortably relaxing and pulsating with fresh energy. I instantly felt like I was home, and a big bouquet of freshly cut wild daisies, neatly tied with an orange ribbon made me think of Mrs. Jan. The food tasted the same – crispy and puffy home-made corn bread was my favorite part of the meal then, and it tasted like it did in my childhood to me now. My parents still eat at Rivenee’s from time to time, still order their favorite specials and enjoy the evening with Mrs. Jan and Mr. Derek, remembering the good old times.