Growing up my family and I would visit our cousins in the summer. It was a 7 hour road trip that my dad preferred to do overnight. We would pack our things into our 1976 Chevy van, take our blankets and pillows and head out on the road. I would do my best to try and stay up but I could never manage to stay awake the whole way.
Sometime during the road trip, after I had drifted off to sleep, my sister would shove me awake. I remember that she would still look kind of groggy herself, like someone else had just woke her before me.
"Put your shoes on, we're at Denny's."
Talk about some magical words. I would put my shoes on and we would make our way out of the van. Everyone's hair was disheveled and it was perfect. It was always between the hours of 11 - 2am each time we'd make a stop. After talking to my mom, she clarified that it was the Denny's in Grapevine. My dad would grab a plate of pancakes and a couple of cups of coffee. We got whatever we wanted. I usually got a hamburger.
My clearest memory of late night Denny's was when I was 11. We were just about done and the place was dead. The staff must have been made up of college kids. They lined up the dining chairs and had a race. It was exciting. I think I had put the occupation of "waitress" on my list of things I wanted to do at that moment.
Before I had my daughter....late night dining was always on my list of things to do. My husband and I would meet up with friends, hang out then make our way over to Denny's or to its rival IHOP. I don't know what it is about late-night dining that I miss. Maybe the freedom, the way hot food tastes on a late chilly night, laughing about splitting the check...who knows.
My husband told me that his dad would bring hamburgers in the middle of the night and he'd be up at 1am half eating/half sleeping. I can imagine him trying to hold his head up with one hand and trying to eat a burger with the other.
I think when my kid is older, we'll keep up that little tradition. When I was a kid, it was an adventure. It was fun yummy spontaneity and I can't wait to start it up again.