When I was little, a restaurant named Zuppa's opened up in an old storefront near where we lived. I remember noticing from the street, even as we raced by, my mom semi-dragging me by the elbow, that Zuppa's had abandoned many of the contrivances of 1960's restaurant design. All the old, safe concepts--the cooled down colors, the thick, unifying coats of white paint, the ubiquitous white table cloths were gone. Instead, Zuppa's interior glowed with warmth. The walls were rough, ocher colored and outlined by dark wood trim. And the room was faceted by the sparkle of candles, rich textures and colors.
When Zuppa's opened in the fall, they put fairy lights in the trees just outside pulling this magic out into the street for everyone to enjoy. The effect was inviting and maybe even a tiny bit shocking at the time. Had they actually put Christmas lights up before Halloween? On deciduous trees?! It didn't matter, though. The incredible smell of velvety tomato sauces, roasted garlic, fresh baked bread, steamed muscles, braciole, mushrooms melting in butter with white wine mesmerized the neighborhood. People went in the door of Zuppa's--in out from the cold--laughing amongst themselves, leaving behind their own trail of wonderful suede and lemony perfume. These were people that were just that much younger than my parents. These were people that I was going to be one day.
This version of adulthood--which I, for whatever reason, projected onto the patrons of Zuppa's--contained no years of struggle, no troubled friends, no loneliness, no searching. This version of adulthood as imagined by a nine-year-old contained no bad people, no great-big mistakes, no strife. It was simply 1) four years of college (bangs, Levis, Addidas and probably Love's Baby Soft) followed by 2) being a grown-up (cashmere sweaters, Joan & David and most certainly Chanel No. 5). 'Grown-up' being that juncture in one's life that directly follows childhood. That juncture where one not only has everything figured out but also has great hair, a career and a small circle of happy, supportive friends.
One day I was going to get to Zuppa's. It was true. And this meant many things that I never literally put into words so much as knew or felt. It was just that every single time I walked past Zuppa's this goal, this image of idealized adulthood was reinforced in my mind as always out there somewhere in the future. The events that would connect those dots were still uncertain. And, although those grown-ups (as found at Zuppa's) had some hard to define quality, it wasn't about one's station in life, necessarily, or success. It was something about being perfectly comfortable in the world. About laughing. About being happy. And I, too, would get there, one day. I had it all worked out.