Old Country Buffet has been a long-time favorite of the Clark Family; for me in particular my experience with the chain goes back to the days of “Royal Fork” – a merged predecessor of OCB – when as a kid I would visit the location on Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline WA (It is now a Japanese Steak House). It also helps that I have many relatives from the Midwest, land of comfort food, courtesy of buffets and supper clubs. We started taking son David to Old Country within weeks of his birth in 2001. While we ate, he would sleep. It was a perfect opportunity for us to get out of the house and do something other than caring for a newborn.
Nadaya was our server almost from Day One.
She was gracious and quick with a smile. Her attention would usually turn to David as she would smile and ask about him – how old he was, if he was sleeping well, etc. She shared in his developments as much as our family and friends did, as he got visibly bigger and more like the boy we know today.
By the time he was three years old, David was looking for Nadaya in the restaurant whenever we would go.
And she was always there. We discovered later that Old Country was one of multiple jobs she held, and that her daughter was in college. I met her husband once, an amiable guy with whom she conversed in their native language. She told us they were from the Ukraine, and had been in the US for about a decade. Nadaya would have a hug and a greeting for David every time we visited Old Country. WIth her deep accent, she would wrap her arms around David and call him “My David” or “My Baby.” Either one was fine, because he adored her. When our son Jack arrived in 2005, the cycle started all over as he was introduced to this loving person. Another little boy got the opportunity to go find Nadaya and experience her hugs and smiles.
David would share pictures and homework with her. He also introduced Nadaya to his good friend Jaelin, who became a huge fan of Old Country. David would even sometimes help her clear tables. We also shared some excitement in late 2007 when Nadaya became a US Citizen.
One evening in September 2008 we arrived at the Totem Lake Old Country Buffet, only to find closed doors and a dark restaurant.
Totem Lake Mall has long been in development limbo, with a design firmly stuck in another era. Most of mall – long as I can remember – has been empty. Seasonal stores like Halloween suppliers would be there for a short time each year, and there were regular collector-card shows in the hallways. But there was always an air of despair once a person walked out of Old Country. A redevelopment plan had been hanging over the site for a long time. As of 2010, nothing moved forward. And OCB was gone, which left us little reason to even pull into the parking lot.
To this day we don’t know what happened to Nadaya, as we never knew anything more than her first name and trace details about her family. But the time we had with her was great for David and memorable for the whole Clark Family. While we continue going to Old Country – now in Factoria Mall – we miss Nadaya’s smile, friendship, and love for The Clark Boys.
Thank you Nadaya for being a wonderful part of our family story – wherever you are.