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Looking Forward, Looking Back

December 27, 2018 | Frank Bonanno

Listen Marco. No don’t look at that picture, look at this one,  the old one. It’s faded now, too faded. That happens with Polaroid film. Since I can’t really show it to you, you have to let me describe it, so you can see the memory the way I do.

We are toasting. Jacqueline’s on the edge of the booth, her black crown spells out 2000 in sparkles. She’s laughing in red lipstick. I’m standing, grinning and leaning awkwardly down to press my coup to hers, the word Mel’s embroidered on my chef coat pocket. Doug snapped the picture, just after midnight, when Y2K didn’t break the world, and my memory is as much of him in a suit, pockets bursting with champagne foils and backup film, as it is of the photograph and the midnight toast. (That’s where your middle name comes from, Marco Douglas.) The three of us sat down for dessert while the photo developed face up on the white table cloth, eating molten chocolate cake and talking Possibility.

In one version of this memory (I may have even told you this one, Marco) Jacqueline and I go dancing afterwards, and my footwork is perfect, puncuated with glitter and confetti and champagne. We dance and kiss until the music isn’t any more, and then we head to Red Rocks, wrap ourselves in Pendleton blankets and wait for the sun to rise over snowy mist. A shooting star trails across the sky and we laugh steam into the cold morning, greeting the new century.

That is a false memory, though.

We brought in that year the way restaurant people generally do, drinking something fancy out of coffee cups in an industrial kitchen, some folks counting cash, some cleaning pots, some smoking in the alley, some sitting in lowboys waiting for their future husbands to finish work. 

I don’t often reflect, but December’s always nostalgic, and when I found the photo underneath the refrigerator faded and dust covered, well. I hug my wife a little tighter, linger when I kiss my sons, remember Doug with more intensity. This season’s been particularly sappy, because our theme for the final night of 2018 is “Looking Back, Looking Forward.” Every menu at every restaurant offers something from the best of our past, and a taste of what lies ahead. My entire family will be working at The Milk Market–Marco at the register, Luca scooping gelato, Jacqueline in heels bussing tables, me cooking the sit-down dinner. In 2000, when Jacqueline came to Mel’s, I surprised her with something off menu–tiny buckwheat pancakes heaping with illegal caviar from my dad’s Russian source in New Jersey. The Russian source is long gone. Dad, too. So I’ll make those blini for the Market dinner, to remember it all, and to share that food memory with you. To Look Forward, we’re loading the Market with the kind of fun that imbues my false memories–real dancers on stilts, a Turkish coffee grounds reader tucked in a corner and telling prophesies. Wish paper to alight. We have a poet and artists, and (get this) an industrial shredder to say goodbye to the minutiae of 2018–the calendars, the journals, the menus that didn’t quite work– in blasts of confetti and glitter and at midnight, a human canon ball (not a shooting star, exactly, but kind of, and better as far as the memory goes) greets the new year while glasses make toasting noises to music and the confetti and glitter, and we try to keep these moments from fading so one day, we can share them in a post that our youngest son may read that starts with

Listen Marco

(Join me here won’t you? There are memories to be made)