I am so grateful for my family. They’ve always supported me and had my back. Growing up, I hated working at the restaurant. It was exhausting and smelly work. I remember being so jealous of the kid down the street whose parents owned the furniture store. All I heard were stories about how he sat around trying out all the couches and watching football on the big screen tvs all weekend long. He didn’t come home smelling like grease and sweat with wilted hair, and he certainly didn’t have forearms like Popeye the way I did from carrying those heavy trays.

But now that I’m older, and I’d like to say a little smarter, I see how lucky I was. I’d get off the school bus directly across the street and sit in one of the booths with my siblings to do my homework. My mom would bring us dinner and sit with us. My dad, who did all the cooking, always added something special for us. As we got older, we’d come here ready to work—throwing down our backpacks in the office and tying on aprons in practically the same motion. Even now, when my older siblings could have moved on to other things, they’re still here. One of my brothers does most of the cooking now, and one is the office manager. My sister is still a killer waitress. She remembers every order without writing it down, which usually puts first-time customers on edge until they get their food, proclivities and all, perfectly. That’s a fun word—proclivities. That’s my sister’s voice talking, all the way. My parents are slowing down, and we’ve all been here to pick up the slack. They raised us right is all I can say. In a way, it makes me feel bad that I do want to quit working here one day. But I remind myself that not being a waitress/hostess there anymore don’t mean I’m going to quit the whole place. I’ll still come for holidays and Sunday brunches and birthdays.

I’ve always been allowed to display family photos around the place; it has always helped sell the “family owned and run” atmosphere. But I recently asked my mom if I could put up some other pictures, too, with price tags. At first, she tried to say no—she was worried that the prices would make the place tacky. There’s nothing worse to my mother than being considered tacky, trust me. But then my brother piped in, in his big man office manager voice way, that if I gave the restaurant a percentage, it could be a nice benefit for both of us. Of course, my mom isn’t going to argue with her best employee, so…. I get to use the wall above the bench we have for people waiting for tables as my own personal art gallery. I take pictures of things that interest me and recognizable places around Nashville for the tourist types that come in. It hasn’t really been a huge boon for the restaurant, but I still do a little dance of joy every time one sells. My mom makes a big deal out of taking her cut of the profits, too, even though I can see just how proud of me she is. And my dad, well, since he’s the host now, he’s always telling people to sit a few moments while their table is made ready, and while they’re waiting, why don’t they take a look at some fine pictures his lovely daughter took?

I really am lucky, aren’t I?