early shift

by bam

yipes. i don’t want to come off sounding like a cereal commercial, or, worse, some government-backed federal nutrition committee, but i’ve been thinking a lot about breakfast of late.
might have something to do with my waking up with the stars. the flakes you spoon in your mouth ’round the 8 o’clock bell, that’s a midday meal, far as i’m thinking.
my first meal, the one i’m gulping right now, is coffee, coffee, and more coffee. straight up, thick as a spoon. no room for sugar, thank you.
oh, i nearly forgot. i start with a concoction of–wait, let me reach for my glasses, the itty-bitty ones that make print boing off the page–hmm, looks like i guzzle 31 organic fruits, veggies and a handful of probiotic species (whatever that is; should i call the police?) for good measure. i never knew i drank okra for breakfast. and brussels sprouts too. maybe that’s why some mornings i bounce in my chair.
it’s all green and powdery. i add water, plug my nose and down it like some sort of vegetarian liver. the label tells me it’s “an awakening of organic greens and fruits.” i feel better already. and mighty awakened.
but that is not the meal i’ve been thinking about. it’s not me that i think about feeding. it’s my boys. the ones leased to me, for as long as it takes to get them sitting up straight, brushing their teeth, saving the world. (good thing for that last clause there; guarantees they’re mine for a while.)
it must be the back-to-school thing. it might be that voodoo inside me, the one always concocting some magical plot to protect them, to fortify them, to get them through life without wobbling.
i’ve got one growing so fast his jeans seem to shrink inches each morning. and another one whose butterflies are still banging around in his tummy, fluttering this way and that. he cried in his pillow the night before last, asking if maybe i’d call up the school, inform them he was switching to the half-day school plan.
oh, holy cornflakes. these children need sustenance, need joy, need snap-crackle-pop in the morning.
call it my latest lame-brained idea but i woke with a start near the first day of school and i realized there is but one tiny window when i can unfold the day, lay it before them, set the pace and the tempo, surely the mood.
it can be harried, and hurried, and me, like one of those curly-coifed mutts with the hair bows, yapping at their heels. or it can be filled with grace, and a few tricks up my sleeve.
i went with door no. 2.
i even invented a game. but before i let you in on the rules, before you call the martha police, lock me up, toss the key, you must know: we didn’t play very long. the game, like so many routines around here, wound down before it gathered much steam.
it went something like this: i was the waitress. they were the customers. (i can hear the chorus kicking in right about here, the ones who abhor mothers who dote on their darlings. but this was not doting, the doter feebly attempts to convince, this was, um, survival. this was desperately hoping to get bodies hoisted from beds.)
enough of the backpedaling my very own story, my very own plot. (psst, you in the back of the room, you stop making fun.)
fact is, every once in a while we need a little pretend, a little artifice, to make things crack out of their humdrum old shell. so i concocted a menu. i grabbed a ratty old order pad, left over from a long ago birthday party for a girl now in 8th grade. she wanted to play diner on a rather grand scale, so she did, and we wandered home with a peach-colored pad that looks so official.
anyway, you get the drift. i knocked on their doors each night before bed, and in my best gum-crackin’, pencil-behind-the-ear waitressy talk, i got them to tell me what they wanted for breakfast.
i’m telling you, it worked. it gave me a leg to stand on down in the kitchen, where, instead of staring into the fridge, waiting for foods to start floating, mary poppins style, i could get right to work, whipping up eggs, frying bacon. slinging some hash. (all right so i wouldn’t know from hash if it knocked me in the cheeks, but that litany there demanded the slinging of hash. it’s a writing thing.)
for three days running, they short-ordered, i cooked. then the weekend came. we forgot. the pad and the pencil sit idle still.
but it gave me a glimmer of something that’s sizzling yet: taking time in the morning, making it matter, is a blessing for whoever comes to your kitchen.
morning, by all definitions, is a gift. you put your head to the pillow, you don’t even think the morning won’t come. but, people, it is always a scratch-and-win card i’d not want to lose. not yet anyway.
so, dang, make the most of it. in the chunk of an hour between sleep and bus or train or whatever mode gets you and the ones who you love to wherever you all need to be, you can, if you want to, delight all the senses.
see, there i go sounding like the national committee for the prevention of breakfast abuse.
all i know is, it’s working. people around here seem to be smiling. they might even be humming.
they notice the table is set. the papers are waiting. they are diving in to breakfasts that clearly take time (fear not, i can type and flip pancakes, even pour juice, all at once).
it’s a little bit busy for a little bit of the day, but then the calm comes. and so does the quiet. and the ions who inhabit my planet, the one i call home, are out charging the world.
that’s when i pull out a chair, sit down to my mid-day meal, and feel blessed beyond blessed that already this day i have fed much more than their tummies. i have fueled them with all that i know.
i am incurably, insatiably in love with the early shift here at my diner. it’s just the dishes i wish i could outsource.

every once in a while i get brave and give you a peek at some totally queer part of my heart. this would be one. what i’m hoping for here is not a list of ideas of ways to slice apples into cute little faces, but rather your thoughts on making the morning matter. lest you shove off thinking how harried your morning just was, know that mine have been plenty harry. it’s just that i’m trying for a new level of grace. and i find that the morning soaks it, like orange juice to a paper towel when it spills. which it does at least one morning a week.

up-to-the-minute report: because the gods of the morning are wicked funny, sit up on the clouds laughing at me, this is how my most blessed morning just unfolded with boy no. 1–when i struck the match to turn on the broiler, for this apple, cheese, bread melt thingie he loves, something went pop and blistered the top of my finger. boy 1, having no time to eat, took his melty-blistery thing in a baggie, wolfed it as he loped down the walk. the little one’s still sleeping, so strike three might be awaiting.

last note of the day: this here marks nine months of pulling up chairs. i’m committed to every monday through friday for a year. after that, we’ll shake things out. see what changes we’ll make, maybe not bombard you quite every day. but i wanted to follow a year, wanted to feel the light change, and the trees. didn’t realize how much with my boys would unfold. or how my heart would hold up, under all this dissection. for the record: i love this here table. the friends that i’ve made, the ideas we’ve chewed on. i love reading your stories, those of you who choose to write back. but i love too knowing, i think, that someone is out there. bless you and thank you for coming. see you tomorrow.