Her name is Gulay. I refer to her as my Greek Busia… I believe Oma would be the appropriate term.
Every time I walk into her restaurant, she makes me feel like I’m her granddaughter.
Like she’s been waiting for me all day.
She notices me and grins ear to ear. Her eyes light up. She remembers my name. She approaches me for an embrace and I welcome it each time. She is my adopted Oma.
She remembers I always order hummus and lamb shish kabob. She asks if I want Lahana Domalsi because I’ve told her it reminds me of Busia’s golabki.
She always wants me to order baklava.
I bring her everyone I know. Every team outing, every double date, every visit with my mom. I bring a bottle of wine and wine glasses and she grins knowing I am so comfortable here. Her table is my dining room.
I want her business to thrive. I want the love she puts into her business and her culture and her cooking to last.
But on my birthday… on the most appropriate of all days for a hug… I picked up my birthday dinner and didn’t stay.
I called ahead. I ordered carry out. That’s all she was legally allowed to do. It came in a plastic bag, in styrofoam, with plastic silverware.
We approached each other. And we stopped. Closer than the 6 feet recommended distance. We paused. We smiled. She said my name with joy. That she saw the order and KNEW it was me. I wanted to cry. We waved. It was awkward.
I wanted to hug her.
I wanted to tell her it would be okay.
That their business would survive. That it will get normal again. But I don’t really know. I can’t tell her that. I can’t promise that.
I smile at her. I use my eyes to tell her I want to hug her. I think she understands. I overtip for carry out.
I tell her I’ll be back.
And we will hug again.
#SupportLocal and if you live in central Illinois, support Ephesus and Gulay and her family and the love they share through sharing their cooking their culture and their family