Twelve-Year-Old Empire

I’ve become comfortable knowing that my weight will fluctuate now and then, my crow’s feet will deepen over time, and I need to quit smoking. The calendar has no influence on these things, so I don’t usually make resolutions. But I guess, if there were something I thought was valuable to hold onto this year, it came when my son reminded me of the value of simple wonder.

Once a week my 12-year-old has a late start at his school. While my other two munchkins have to be to school at their normal time, he has a whole hour to spend with little ol’ me, which usually leads to him puppy-dogging me into taking him to breakfast or to get hot cocoa; a request to which I sometimes give in.

After dropping off the other kids, he asked if we could stop at Bidwell Perk.

“It looks pretty crowded in there,” I said. “How about Naked Lounge?”


“Empire?” I suggested.

“What’s that? I’ve never been there.”

And I realized that, to adults, the idea of getting coffee in a train car, while novel at first, may lose its luster after a while, but to a kid…I mean, it’s getting coffee in a frickin’ train car, and that’s, like, the coolest thing, ever.

Because I don’t often drag my kids with me to get coffee (I need peace with my caffeine) I had never thought about how much they might like Empire. Now, that said, I’m not calling Empire the new “kid-friendly” place. I’m not seeing tons of sticky fingered small-fries packed into a train car with adults carrying hot liquid. But my son is 12 (almost 13, as he likes to remind me) and right at the age where being cool is on the top of his list. He still likes one-on-one attention however, and apparently (thank the good lord above) he still likes to hang out with me in public and let me help him study for school tests on things like the history of Islam.

Our little excursion made me remember that sometimes, appreciating things around you takes seeing things like kids do: with wonder and innocent delight. Or at the very least, like adolescents do: with a balance of self-indulgent wonder and a what’s-in-it-for-me curiosity. I appreciate Empire, it’s really cool that Chico has a train-car coffee shop with an interesting color palette and old-timey furniture. I appreciate life more when I remember how beautiful simple things can be.

The moral of my Happy New Year story is that we must allow ourselves to be delighted. It might be dangerous and all – you might enjoy yourself. I mean, what if you fall in love? Remember your life passions? Develop a hankering to travel? Whatever it is, do it, and get coffee at Empire. As my son said, “I like it, it’s very linear, though.” Kinda like life.

Jen Cartier misses Chico! However, she has taken to the great beyond (er...The Bay Area) to be some kind of chocolate maven while simultaneously figuring out how the hell to navigate her long-ass work commute, and still kick ass at raising three munchkins, loving one soon-to-be husband, and keeping one rascally Brittany Spaniel in the damned yard. She loves Nutella, red wine, and American Spirits. She takes her dog along on runs to wear him out (sometimes he shits in someone else's yard - bonus!) and also to balance her own general consumption of all the fine tasty things life offers, ciggys included. Follow her blog at