From the back entrance, you can see the curly black haired caricature of the Maryann holding a waitress tray and a bottle of old fashion coke. Her big smile standing invitation to enter the metallic silver and cherry red diner and fall back into the 1950’s, in a place where Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley taught you about love and what a quality frappe tasted like. This was where I first fell in love with the mystery of James Dean in his worn leather and hooded eyes. Maryann’s Diner was the first time I had ever listened to the rebellious cantation, the string of nonsensical words, the repetition of the lyrics forever recorded in my mind. I embraced the cultural time period that I was never a part of.
This was in 2001, during those early stages of my relationship with my father, when weekend sleepovers brought both excitement and anxiety. Despite the inconsistencies of life that come with the responsibility of being an adult, when I did see my father I could always rely on him to take me to Maryann’s diner that Sunday. Maybe it was the metallic pink convertible trunk that has been converted into a couch, the iconic Marilyn Monroe plastered on the walls in that white halter dress, or the waitresses wearing the poodle skirts, that drew me to the retro diner. Sometimes on special occasions we would sit at the counter, on the plush teal vinyl stools that spun around, a child’s favorite pass time while waiting for a famous homemade vanilla shakes displayed in a vintage glass. Sitting on that stool, humming the upbeat lyrics, embraced in the quaint and simplistic ideas of love. In all of those happy upbeat songs that define the 50’s, I think that Buddy Holly may be the only one that managed to get it right.
It was at this diner where he told me he ask Amy to marry him. When she came over refill his coffee, she whispered “Have you told her yet,” I assumed she was referring to the kid’s special, Mickey Mouse pancakes. My father, shaking a sugar packet between his fingers to hide his nervous tremors, told me that he had something important to tell me. When he told me about proposing to Amy, all I could say was, “Who?” In the many visits to the diner I had never occurred to me that our usual waitress did more than just bring me my vanilla shake.
“Amy,” my father said, “She was the woman who just brought me my coffee. We’ve been dating for a while.” Whatever memories I had of them dating or spending time together, was foregone in my memory, and I was left with this woman, in a pink poodle skirt and a high ponytail, that had an uncanny resemblance to my own mother. I smiled, genuinely happy for him, in hopes that this would bring him the happiness that he so desperately craved.
I wasn’t against my father getting married again, I suppose that I never thought anyone else would want to marry him. I suppose I wasn’t all that surprised, despite having very little recollection of Amy, my mother’s own engagement had occurred only a month earlier.
Those Mickey Mouse pancakes came out moments later, along with Amy. I realized I was too full from my frappe, and mostly pushed the pancake around on the plate and bit off pieces of bacon. That afternoon I listened to Bobby Darin and Ritchie Valens sing about the simplistic loves between a man and a woman. I didn’t hear Buddy Holly’s song until the check came, and I sipped the rest of my frappe slowly, just so he could explain to me how strange love is, complicated and often confusing. At nine years old I hoped for the day that I would be an adult and understand. I should have realized that Buddy was trying to tell me as the years continue love just becomes more confusing. Years later I discovered that Buddy Holly was not the original singer of Love is Strange, but it has yet to stop me from playing it when I want a vanilla frappe.