By Abe Villarreal

There are some things that I like to experience when I go to restaurants, visit new places, or simply make my way through the workday. We all have our favorite things to see and do. Without them, we feel like life is just passing by us without feeling, without those moments that make us smile.

I like to read menus that tell the history of the establishment on the back page. Sometimes the story is heartwarming, other times hard to believe. I read one recently on a visit to Chicago that told the story of a family of immigrants who arrived in America with not much in their pockets but a heart full of courage and a head filled with ideas. Before they knew it, a restaurant was born. The rest is history.

I like to walk by those old pubs that have been in the same spot for generations. You peek in and hear those songs playing in the background that seem to only play in the movies.

I like it when I'm in a crowded room, people taking up every seat, and everyone is speaking at the same time. Different things are being said but somehow one harmonious sound is heard.

I like it when a waitress at a restaurant comes up to me and greets me with "hey, sweetie" or "what can I get for you, honey?" with a big smile and a tilt of the head. It makes me feel like she's been waiting for me for a long time.

I like going into a church and seeing the excitement of people embracing each other as if they haven't seen each other in ages. You can hear neighbors, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, catching up on what has happened during the week until the lady begins to play the piano quietly because it's time to get ready for the teaching.

I like when I'm driving to work in the morning and passing by the gas station at the edge of town. I go by it around the same time each day, and each day the city or county laborers are there to pick up their coffee and a breakfast burrito.

It's early for me, but for them with their oil-stained overalls and bright yellow safety jackets the day is halfway done. When I see them, I know that the town is at work, making progress.

I like it when I'm in the car and that same commercial comes on that I've heard more times than I could remember. A familiar voice, a jingle, and an advertisement for the local mechanic or insurance provider.

I like it when I go home after a long day at the office and my cat Nadya is waiting at the window. It's one of the only times that she shows affection by wagging her tail, meowing, and letting me hold her.

I like it when I'm winding down, late in the evening, and the only thing to see on TV is the news or old sitcom reruns. There are certain shows that I have memorized but that I could watch over and over again.

I like it when I know what I have planned for the week and when what I have planned happens. The volunteer day on Saturday, the church service on Sunday, the trip to the plaza for tacos or an elote on Sunday evening. I like it when it all happens, just as I expected it to happen.

I like it when life reminds me that in small, familiar ways, life is mostly about small, familiar things.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in America. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.

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