I always say that everyone I know in Maynard I know because of the two cafés. While not completely true, it’s no lie that many of the people in my Maynard life, dare I say Maynard family, came to me over mocha lattes or little cups of espresso.
|The Boston Bean House|
is an extension of each and every one of our homes, where the downtown is the communal family room, and the heart of that great, big room is the coffee shops. In the Boston Bean House and Serendipity Café, you can hang out in the company of family and friends without having to worry about whether you have too much mail on your kitchen counter, or whether the pile of shoes by the door threatens visitors with an avalanche. Each place has its own flavor—small and cozy with home-baked goods, or spacious with an extensive sandwich menu.
But the real beauty of the coffee shops is the unexpected visits one can have, the would you like to join me moments, where you run into people you know, but somehow never manage to make time to see. Or maybe you only kind of know the person, but wouldn’t it be interesting to sit together for a little bit? I once had lunch with my mailman Sean.
The other day I had what I consider to be a perfectly-Maynard-kind-of-day. When we can, my husband and I like to have morning espressos at one of the coffee shops downtown. We sit and we talk about nonsense and important things while holding tiny cups of bitter—it’s wonderful.
And so she sat with us for a while, and as we spoke she told us that her husband has been unwell, she talked about her fears, and I got to talk to her about my own struggles, and we even got to laugh a little bit. While we were there Nancy came in. Our kids went to preschool together and it turns out that she also knows Shirley. And so we all caught up. And then a couple of other people came in and they also knew me, and they knew Shirley. And so it went for a little while, and each time it happened Shirley laughed a little, and so did I, and it made me feel so happy. There’s something about being recognized and acknowledged that seems so fundamentally important, and in Maynard it just feels so easy.
|Old Bill decided to help with snow removal.|
So how does all this lead to fifteen years of dinner? Well, it all started innocently enough. We all met, more or less, at the Boston Bean House when it was where Serendipity now is. Somehow I connected with people over a book someone was reading, a watch someone was wearing, a food someone was eating—that’s it. Sometimes a few of us would be talking to each other across tables. After a while we started sitting together so as to not take up too much room. We got comfortable.
But how did it lead to dinner? Well, it was before we had our daughter. My husband was into philosophy and we had heard about something called Socrates Cafes, where people would get together in coffee shops to discuss philosophical topics. Interesting. Maynard had coffee shops. So I asked some of the people I had met whether they’d be interested in joining us. They agreed. Some had daytime jobs, and since the coffee shops weren’t open at night, we decided we should just meet for dinner. And there you have it, fifteen years of dinner.
We’re an interesting group of people, a real cast of characters. Many are single with no kids with our average age being about fifty-five. We are a mix of men and women. Most don’t have family nearby.
A few people have come and gone, but mostly it’s the same seven or
My dinner mates are funny and quirky, as are most people when you get to know them, but they are also smart, and creative, and caring. If one of us is sick, someone will help. If someone needs a ride, another will step up. I know that if I needed them they’d be there for me. One offers sage advice based on a life of experimentation, another gives supportive sympathy. We have a couple of really good listeners, and some that are good at making friendly conversation. Some are simply willing to take their place in a nearby chair so that I am not sitting alone.
When our daughter was born she had a birthright membership to the group. Now she has these kind of informal Maynard aunts and uncles who, like her father and I, are watching her grow up.
Our group gave up trying to talk about real philosophical topics years ago, though some deep discussion does happen from time to time. Now it’s mostly a kind of family supper, a sort of check in. We rotate around choosing a different restaurant in Maynard for each week, trying to do our part to support our local restaurants as we do the work of supporting each other.
We still find each other in the late morning, where we chat across tables over mugs and reading materials, or we sit together quietly because we can. If you ask me, there’s really not much better in life than a coffee shop in a small downtown.