I almost didn’t write this post. I sat down multiple times this past week to share my feelings but stopped myself. I felt like people would think I was being dramatic or oversensitive. And then I decided, f**k it. Some of you may not understand how I’m feeling, but I also think some of you will.
Many of us have places that we grew up in, places that feel like home outside of our home. Places that hold a special place in our hearts, that are filled with special memories. Places that feel safe even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.
I’ve talked about them before, so some of this post may be a little repetitive, but one of those places for me, was Colima Burgers. And last week Colima Burgers officially closed down.
Early Thursday morning (of last week) I got a text message from one of my best friends. All it was, was a crying emoji and a screenshot from Facebook. The screenshot was the announcement that Colima Burgers had closed down.
I was in complete shock. I was sad and I was frustrated. I felt guilty and regretful. I hadn’t been to Colima Burgers in months and had actually thought about going there just a week earlier, to celebrate my dad’s birthday, but instead opted for something with a drive-thru.
Once again it seems the universe is trying to teach me the lesson, you won’t always have more time.
I was upset, but it wasn’t until a few hours later that the weight of it really started to hit me. I started reading all the comments people were leaving on Facebook. And then I read my Colima Burgers post I wrote for this blog and then the posts I had written from my old blog. At that point, I started tearing up and could really feel the pain in the pit of my stomach. Around this time I started texting my friend again, the bearer of bad news, and we started reminiscing on our memories there together and all the memories came flooding in at once.
I had to stop what I was doing, sit down and cry. Colima Burgers was home. It was one of the few places I’ve felt at home since moving back to California. So much has changed over the years, but Colima Burgers always stayed the same. From the owners to the cooks, to the too small of a TV for a space that big, ceiling fans that barely did enough in the summer, and booths worn down by years of use, every detail of Colima Burgers felt familiar, felt safe, and felt like home.
When I was little my dad and I used to share their cheeseburger combo. One combo, lettuce and dressing only with extra ranch. He’d load up on ketchup and yellow chilis and I’d hog the coke. I can even picture the way he would flare out the little paper cups to make a lid for his ketchup so it wouldn’t spill on the way home.
Everytime I would come back to Colima Burgers since my dad died, the sweet owners would talk about what a great man he was and how I grew up coming there. They would tell stories about my dad to my husband who never really got to meet him.
I have memories of my mom and my dad sharing their pastrami sandwiches, while I enjoyed their chicken strips.
I also thought about how growing up I hated eggs outside of the home, but never had a problem with Colima Burgers. I can remember sitting in their small rounded booths at the end of the restaurant, which looked out on the street, with my dad and I sharing a stack of fluffy hot pancakes and scrambled eggs.
As I got older, old enough to walk a couple of blocks with my friends, I remember spending so many summer days squeezed into those worn-down booths, with my bearer of bad news friend, her older sister, and Steven. We’d share fries and fried zucchini. Steven and my friend would have to get their own ranch because they would ruin it with Tapatio. And we’d always end our visit by counting the “100s” of napkins my friend would go through in one sitting.
After we would finish our food, we’d refill our drinks, and then, too lazy to walk up to the crosswalk, we’d run as fast as we could across the street and back into our neighborhood. (This was before they installed the light.) (And what’s the statute of limitations on j-walking, did I just incriminate myself?)
In middle school, me and my friends weren’t very cool. We sat by bathrooms and pretty much kept to ourselves. We prided ourselves on being a weird mix up of people that didn’t really make sense together, but didn’t fit in with anyone else. And for some reason we all decided it would be fun to take a hummer limo to our 8th grade dance. (My friend’s parent’s had one, so it wasn’t like we had to pay for it or anything.)
Making that night even more iconic, we ended the evening by taking our limo to Colima Burgers.
In high school I gave up red meat so my order at Colima Burgers changed. Now instead of burgers and fires I would order a giant green salad, smothered in ranch and a side of fires. For some reason, it always came with a quarter chunk of tomato. Simple but delicious.
Also in high school it became tradition for my friends and I to kick off summer at Colima Burgers. All four years of high school, on the last day of school we’d walk from campus all the way to Colima Burgers.
In college, life got chaotic, but Colima Burgers was always right there for me. Countless nights I’d bring home a burger for me and a pastrami for my mom. I got to introduce my now husband to their amazing burgers and iconic chili cheese fries and it became a staple in our burger rotation.
When I left for Hawaii, Colima Burgers was one of the places I craved and missed the most. I could never and probably will never find a burger and chili cheese fries that competes with them. No matter how short or long my visit was, I always had to make time for a Colima Burgers visit. It was so comforting to walk into a place so familiar, after being gone for months at a time and be greeted as if I was just there last week.
After our wedding, this was the first place my husband and I went to eat. We had a courthouse ceremony and he and I along with my maids of honor and his best man, were starving after the ceremony. We knew we needed to get something to eat before we went home to prepare for the reception, so I in my dress, my best friends, and my husband and his best man (still in their dress blues) headed straight for Colima Burgers. The five of us, all dolled up squeezed into a tiny hot booth and shared the best meal ever. I don’t think there is any other way I would have wanted to start our marriage.
If you’ve been reading my posts for a long time, you’re probably well aware that moving back to California from Hawaii was a rough period for me. A lot was going on and I was stressed, panicked, and a bit depressed. I felt lost and scared and didn’t really know what to do. When things got really bad I had Colima Burgers.
Now I know it’s not healthy to eat your feelings or your stress and although that’s probably partially what I was doing, that wasn’t all. I was going there for a sense of safety and familiarity. When I was there I was reminded of good times, happy times, and everything that I had overcome. Like I said when I was there I was home.
Nothing would have made this loss hurt less, but as I write this I can’t help but think about the fact that I didn’t even have any warning this was coming. I didn’t have a chance to have my final burger, my final chilli cheese fries. I didn’t get to see all those familiar faces on last time and squeeze into a worn down hot booth.
I didn’t get to say goodbye…again.