When I was growing up in Aurora there was a restaurant down the street from my uncle's place, in a plaza (some may know them as strip-malls) on the Southeast corner of Murray Avenue and Yonge Street, at one point the longest street in the world and the eventual route that would take my family on our short but life-altering pilgrimage from Aurora to our current home on the Georgian Bay.
My memories of this establishment are fuzzy yet curiously vivid as well. Glaring yellow signage ran the length of the outer end of the building - it was the last unit and faced the traffic of Yonge street. I recall caricatures of old comedy acts such as Laurel and Hardy and W.C. Fields gracing either end of the stylized lettering, now blurred in my mind's eye.
It was a fairly large, licensed establishment, specializing in Italian fare - a family restaurant, before we became inundated with proto-family-cookie cutter chain eateries. Upon entering, one would walk into a sparsley furnished, harshly lit entranceway with a small counter for picking up takeout orders. In contrast, the main dining room was lush and romantically lit, a sea of dark wood, leather and tiffany lamps. As a small child I would swing my feet from the huge bench seats of the booths and look around curiously, in my own world, ignoring the chatter of my parents and sister.
What stands out in my memory, clearer than anything is the Pac-Man game. The PacMan game sat in the entryway, close to but not quite in the dining area. It was one of those table-top arcade games where two players could sit on either end and play head-to-head games of Pac-Man. Occasionally I was lucky enough to be given a shiny quarter to play while we waited to be seated, but even when no quarters were available I was content to sit hunched over the bright flat screen and trace my fingers along the plexiglass, following Pac-Man's gluttonous feast. My little brain, just then learning to read, would watch as the screen flickered and switched from the demo to the menu screen and mouth along as the rival ghosts were introduces.. Inky, Blinky, Pinky and...
What was the last one's name? I can never remember.
The last time I was there, I was seventeen. My friends and I had embarked on a road trip to the city for some reason or another and I, being full of ideas, suggested going to Aurora and driving by my old house. We stopped there for lunch and it was as I remembered it, mostly. I don't recall now if the game was still there, but the food and the atmosphere was as I remembered.
That was nearly fifteen years ago. The restaurant has since been shut down, re-named, under new management. It's funny though, that with all that I can remember of that place, of the details in the decor and the food and how my child-mind perceived eating in a big, grown-up fancy-pants restaurant with china and cloth napkins and where I was even allowed to order a Shirley Temple and felt very grown-up doing so... well, with all that, to this day I cannot recall it's name.
UPDATE: So, I was at work and standing in the bathroom washing my hands and out of nowhere, it hit me like a ton of bricks.