Gathered around the table, my grandparents, brother, and I devour challah bread and matzo ball soup. It is one in the afternoon at Lester’s diner, loud and crowded with families sitting around enjoying Sunday lunch. We laugh and talk about school as they sip their coffee. My grandparents order a large chocolate chip cookie, and my brother and I split it perfectly even down the middle. Just one memory of my childhood, repeated every month for eight years. Lester’s is a place in my community that everyone knows; everyone creates their own memories there.
I have not been to the diner in five years, but I went with my family in my senior year of high school. Physically unchanged, with the same scent of coffee in the air, a feeling of discomfort filled my body as I stood in silence. With a lone customer at the counter, the diner lost its sense of community, with only past memories and laughs to remind us of what it once was. The places of my childhood changed forever, leaving moments unfinished. As I slid into the booth, my awareness of Covid-19 strengthened: football games without screaming fans, movie theaters with an unfamiliar silence, and parks deserted without the giggling children jumping off the swings. With each day passing, these spaces become more empty. Years of memories fill the silence of the places where strangers would once gather together as a community.