How Do You Remember Special Places?
We all have special places in our lives–schools, childhood homes, summer vacation spots, restaurants–and we all have different ways of remembering them. There are as many ways to do that as there are people. My mother, for instance, collected matchbooks. After she passed away, I went through them, taking note of the places that were special to her–the ones that had vanished, like Sign of the Dove and Lutèce; and the ones I knew well, like Buckram Stables and Le Charlot. There are matchbooks from her time living in Gramercy Park: from Pete’s Tavern, a family tradition of ours to go at Christmastime; L’Express, the all-night bouchon that serves some of the best steak frites I’ve had outside of Paris; and the National Arts Club, where she was a member for many years. There are matchbooks from the places we’d go when we lived in the East Village: notably John’s of Twelfth, where I got to take my husband when we were engaged. There’s the uptown contingent too: Bemelmans, the Lotos Club, and, naturally, one of the coveted matchbooks from J.G. Melon.
Of all the special places in my life, Melon’s is definitely up there. It’s hard for me to remember a time without Melon’s. I have so many great memories of brunches or dinners with friends; dates with my boyfriend-now-husband; and even earlier, special trips uptown with my mom, both when we lived in the city and after we left. I was lucky to have a lot of time alone with her in our favorite place; I feel very lucky that so many of those memories center around a handful of places where I can remember her now.
Melon’s, from the outside, is nothing special–a brick building painted green with a neon sign out front. Inside, an abundance of watermelons prevails, naturally–from paintings to signs to needlework. It’s small, perpetually crowded even at three in the afternoon, and only takes cash–but it has the best burger in Manhattan and if you stick around long enough, you’ll see just about anyone. (Tory Burch once sat next to me and one of my best friends at the bar and bought us a drink!)
It’s a really special place to me. I went so frequently, even when living in D.C., that after I moved back to New York and into the apartment my husband and I shared, we were such great friends with our bartender (Bobby!) that he offered to officiate our marriage! There’s something very special about walking into a place and having your drink at your seat when you reach it; in knowing the menu by heart; in relaxing in familiar surroundings with familiar people, enjoying yourself.
While we haven’t been back to Melon’s for a while thanks to the pandemic, it’s still a place near and dear to my heart. I’ve been thinking about ways I want to acknowledge special places. While I like the idea of collecting matchbooks, that feels like I’d be copying my mother instead of honoring her. I also would be hard-pressed to find a good way to display them without feeling cluttered. Instead, I’m going to try immortalizing favorite places in needlepoint. I stumbled across this wonderful canvas by The Slippery Needle via Greystone Needlepoint, and I’ve already started. While I am not sure I’ll finish the canvas before Christmas, I do hope that this will be the beginning of a wonderful collection of Christmas ornaments.
How do you remember your special places?