I don’t know what happened to breakfast. Somehow, in the hustle to slide in ahead of the morning bell, I lost it. Now, when I think of breakfast, it’s with that soft glow of nostalgia–sepia toned and crackled around the edges like the bone china gravy bowl Meemaw jokingly called her petite spittoon.
I see it in vignettes, me caught in various stages of childhood, like a collection of Polaroids. Little details of memory remain in perfect focus. Daddy joking with a faceless waitress that he likes his coffee like he likes his women: tall, hot, and blonde as Mommy grins and busies herself cutting my little brother’s pancakes, her brown hair tucked neatly behind her ear. Sawing into a slice of country ham at the Holiday Inn and trying not to slosh the redeye gravy into my scrambled eggs. Papa crumbling stale cornbread into a tall glass of buttermilk and declaring it better than a Coke float. Uncle LD slurping his coffee from a saucer while Aunt Kathryn sips daintily from a teacup, eyeing her starched tablecloth. Aunt Charlotte serving a plate of fresh-sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and my cousins acting as if that were typical breakfast fare.
I am always elsewhere in these breakfast musings, never at home. I’m sure we had thousands of delicious breakfasts growing up; my mother was a fine cook, but the only images from those days I can conjure are of me propped up watching Saturday morning cartoons with a Tupperware bowl full of Lucky Charms. It wasn’t until I was married that I could appreciate those Norman Rockwell moments as imitations of life rather than extensions of a Walton’s holiday special. It wasn’t that I had a dark childhood; it was quite the opposite, actually. I just have little if any recollection of gathering around the breakfast table as a family when I was a child because we were always on the go.
My kids, however, should have little problem reminiscing over the wonders of a table laden with biscuits, eggs, and bacon for days. Saturday morning breakfast is an event at Grandma’s house. It’s not unusual to have multiple members of the extended family there, and everyone is ensured heaping helpings. When our daughter is home on leave, she stays with her grandma to be sure she doesn’t miss out on the fun. All four of my kids have been known to snub their noses at my meals (some more frequently than others) to hold out for Grandma’s wonderful breakfasts.
I envy them those memories, but I don’t really feel short-changed. Grandma whipped up these moments for me, too. Breakfast is not really lost; it’s just been pre-empted by all my scrabbling to make a future, to make ends meet, to make “it” in a world where it’s getting harder and harder to gather round a table and slow down enough to enjoy the simple pleasure of a pat of butter sliding down a mound of steaming grits.
But, you know what? It’ll be my turn to be the grandma one of these days. I’ll be the one who gets to call time-out so my kids can build their tomorrow while savoring the flavor of yesterday. I’ve been well-trained. Breakfast, after all, is so much more than bacon.