Ever since I was a wee little lady, my sweet daddy and I have shared lunch dates. While our family trio has always been close and enjoyed spending time together as the three of us, there has always been something irreplaceable and special about my dates with daddy. I remember fondly such papa-daughter outings at New Orleans “hot spots” like Pancho’s of Airline Hwy (mama always shuddered with distress when she found out about this regular choice), the classic Taqueria Corona on Magazine St., Cuco’s near Carrollton (can you sense the common theme here?), and occasionally Camellia Grill. We even shared breakfast dates at the doughnut shop (be still my heart) on the corner of Prytania and Napoleon — a sweet dozen savored between us, down the hatch in no time flat. While the food was always important (I mean, we are both true New Orleanians!), it was the simple pleasure of being together — sharing giggles, conversation, delicious bites — just being papa and me.
Over the course of the past few months or so, papa and I have rekindled our lunch dates. Work/school schedules have prevented such from happening regularly since I’ve been back in Atlanta, but given the freedom of an intentionally restful summer this year, we picked up our old routine. However, in the name of healthy eating at sustainable, locally-minded eateries, I decided to introduce my papa to my absolute favorite place in the ATL: Urban Pl8. Nestled off the beaten, rugged, and oh-so-eclectic path of Huff Road between Howell Mill and Marietta Blvd, Urban Pl8 takes the cake in every category of what I look for in a top restaurant: value, atmosphere, open kitchen, down-to-earth folk, green-minded practices, whole food (and gluten free!) offerings, and TASTE.
To say that papa enjoyed this new adventure would be the king of understatements. To say that now he would, could, and probably will eat there for every meal of the day is more like it. In fact, Urban Pl8 has been the ONLY destination of these recent papa-daughter outings. We’ve become pals with Matthew and Cathy, our most beloved waiters, we have “our” designated table, we guess what each other is ordering THIS time, and we lovingly (yet quite consciously, each feeling mildly protective about our own order) share bites while our eyes dance to the back of our heads, marveling in delight. We have our special tidbits – those nearly intangible ingredients that make our dates what they are. Yes, the food is amazing, and neither of us want to leave or have the meal come to an end. But what’s so powerful, so simply powerful about these dates with daddy is how full and content we feel just being together.
Sometimes, it seems like I could be 10 years old again, except this time FOR ONCE I’m not wearing a Saints’ jersey or ball cap.
Yet, I’m no longer 10 years old, and he’s no longer 50.
And that wide span of years between our past and present selves reaches across a beautiful expanse of experience — times that were both distressing and joyful, challenging and simple. As human beings, we often long for that past — to reclaim, relive, or perhaps recapture what was — before that clutter crept in. We often long for the less complicated times.
However, what I find now is that the tangled mess of experience between us has flavored our laughter, warmed our glances, seasoned our conversations, made deeper our dimples.
That tangled mess of experience has made more real and true and honest our love.
Today, I celebrate the dates we have shared over the course of these 31 years.
Today, I celebrate our present intention (a successful one, I must say!) to make time for the dates in the midst of busy schedules that have crept up again.
Today, I celebrate the dates that are yet to come, both on earth and in heaven.
Today, I celebrate his successful three rounds of immunotherapy to knock out the cancer that has invaded his bladder (three down, five to go, thank you, Lord!).
Today, I celebrate the joy I feel knowing I’ll always be his little girl and he’ll always be my daddy.