There is a diner on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester that is, almost single-handedly, responsible for my need to drop a bunch of weight during the novitiate. The Boulevard is an old train car turned into a diner that is open 24 hours a day, you can get breakfast anytime, or in my case, a hamburger, fries, and a coke. It got to the point during my senior year that when my friends and I walked in, the burger would go on the grill without my having to say a word. It should come as no shock then that on our last morning at Holy Cross, after the sun had risen over Mt. St. James, that we piled into my friend Matt's car and drove down to the diner for breakfast. The windows were rolled down as we peeled down College St. for one last time. We were all incredibly sleep deprived after two weeks of celebrating our impending graduation, and everything seemed funny at the time. It was the beginning of a brilliant May morning, and we were off to the diner one last time.
I remember the glow of the early morning light reflecting off of the metal top of old quonset hut turned field house, and the bleary eyes of a few of my friends as they walked back from the field where we have all just watched the sun-rise, since most of them hadn’t slept. Of course, when we arrived at the diner we weren’t the only ones with this idea, and so we sat down at the counter, instead of our regular table, and settled in for breakfast. The thing that I remember most about that morning was not what I ate, not what was said, the thing I remember the most about that morning was the sense that it was full of the possibility of something new. We were all on the edge of a big change in life, but it seemed most important to honor our friendship by having one last meal together before everyone arrived later in the day.
One last trip down to the Diner before the real events of the day began. Having gone now through the normal 3 changes of mission that every Jesuit goes through by this time in formation I have become pretty aware of what it takes to transition well, and what some of the pitfalls of moving on can be. There is a sense in which you do have to grieve a little, and a bigger sense in which you have to have the courage to move on. I love that stereotypical way to encourage someone in Italian is to say “corragio,” courage, because in these moments that is exactly what is needed. Moving on from a place isn’t easy, and in the moments before it, it is always important to spend time with the people that have meant the most in the places that have meant the most. That morning it wasn’t that the food was so exceptionally good at the dinner, though it was good, it was that one last time we were there together in a space that meant something to us, because we had spent so many nights there hashing out all of the world’s problems, but more importantly, relishing the friendship that we shared.I have been back to the Boulevard since, and it should be no shock that it just doesn’t feel the same. Everything changes and our experiences, when they are our best experiences, are never really about the burgers or fries, or the old tin train car, they are about the people that we have been blessed to share them with.