There is a group of Charlottesville friends who have met for breakfast, somewhere between 7:00 and 7:15, every morning for over 25 years. I think these are the coolest people in town. They’ve outlasted multiple dives, moving from one to another after old haunts call it quits. The group began when several strangers found themselves, again and again, at the same coffee shop at the same hour. They figured they should make it official and formed “the breakfast club.” They’ve welcomed spouses to the circle, embraced retirements and job changes and danced the night away as they’ve married off their kids. I told one of the ladies I wanted to come and sit with them a few mornings so I could write a profile article on them. I’d sell the piece, but mainly it’s a ruse. I just want an excuse to pull up a chair at that table and pretend I belong.
When I think of my retiring years, I have several images. One of them is a group of old geezers, of which I am proudly one, at the same cafe every morning with the same group of scruffy cohorts. The fellas around the table are friends I have now, only in the future I’ve got us all pegged for living in the same neighborhood. We sit at the same outdoor table drinking from a french press. We laugh and tell stories and quote a little poetry. We talk about how insane and foolish and marvelously beautiful the world is. We talk, as we do even now, about the women we love and who have been kind (and crazy) enough to love us for so many years.
At that table, we experience a grace too many never know: we belong, and we like who we are – and we rest in the goodness of knowing others like who we are every bit as much. Helen Simonson describes it right: “They are a motley and ragged bunch … but they are what is left when all the shallow pretense is burned away.”
The younger guys and gals, zipping in for a latte to go and frantically fiddling with their phones (or some bedeviled futuristic contraption) while they shift anxiously in line, eventually begin to notice us. Each morning, they rush in, and each morning, we’re just passing the time, watching the world race by. Soon enough, as they strap themselves back into their Audis for their dash to the office, they fantasize about receiving an invite to what they have now secretly christened The Table.