pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Tag: breakfast

no empty chairs

this is what it looks like at my house at the breakfast table, on the mornings when the chairs are filled. and the bench, too, lined up with little bottoms, squeezed in, squirming in the ways that little boys do.

this is what it looks like when the early-morning whispers wake me, when a bedroom’s filled with little boys, sleepy-eyed boys, boys who can’t help but look little in their waking-up moments, boys who by day are practicing being big. one of them even sports a cell phone. they all use it, communal cell.

they are little boys and they have come to inhabit not only my house, but my heart.

ever since the big one moved on to college, the little one seems to have decided that this is a sharing house, a house where more is better, more is most.

and so, come friday nights, or saturdays, little boys with sleeping bags and pillows (and the occasional cell phone) come stumbling in the door, tumble up the stairs. they play and run and giggle. much giggling.

they are shy, some of them. and polite, all of them. heart-piercingly so. they’ve not read the journals mourning the demise of innocence. they still blush, some of them, when i call them, “sweetie.”

but it’s okay. i’ve not been scolded, not yet anyway, for calling those little boys all sorts of oozy names.

those boys, in ones or twos or threes — and once, so help me God, a four — they animate this house, they lull me off to sleep with their whispers past the midnight hour, and they stir me in the morn when i hear the pillows rumble way before i expect to hear a sound.

a bedroom filled with little boys is a beautiful thing. is a thing i thought i’d never see.

when you’re the mother of two boys who span as many years as mine, you’ve not grown accustomed to the rolling, sprawling, tumbling of double-decker boys. you mostly watch them spin in passing orbits.

so this little one, this little one who springs to life when with his buddies, he seems to have ordered up the very prescription for all our hollowed-out hearts.

he skipped no beats in dialing up that first slumber fest, the first week beyond the college drop-off. nearly every weekend since, this house has doubled or tripled its population of boys.

and i could not purr more contentedly. i could not cluck more cluckily.

best of all is when the morning comes. and i get to mother henning, all right. i crack eggs. pour milk. add dashes of vanilla and cinnamon. i slide bacon in the oven (for we learned that roasted turkey bacon, sprinkled with a dash of brown sugar, maybe rosemary, vulcan salt when the college kid comes back, is not only splatter-free but perfect to the tooth).

i set that table with a vengeance. just like in the old days, before the college boy was gone. i slap down forks, knives, spoons. in multiples. i line up glasses. set out jugs of juice.

and then the footsteps come. less a pitter-patter than a galump down the stairs. and there they are, the sleepy-eyed, pink-cheeked little boys, lined up by the cookstove. taking what i offer. always saying thank you.

sweet boys, these boys.

that’s when the old maple table springs to life. it is crowded, along each edge. arms are grabbing, passing, oops, sometimes spilling. but no worries here.

i know, through and through, that a house where food is good, is plentiful, is a house to which the gaggle will return.
and i want those boys to grow up here. i want to be a seamless part of their unfolding before my very eyes.

i want them to think of me as that nice lady who looks them in the eye, who can’t help but love them. who knows their favorite cookie. who knows who drinks milk and who does not.

i believe with all my heart that mothering extends far beyond the womb, far beyond any particular connection to any particular womb.

mothering is just another name for a certain brand of love. in my book, the most resilient love. the deepest, purest, most unbreakable love there ever was.

mothers don’t give up on their young. they wring their hands, they wrack their brains. but they get up the next morning and they ply it all again.

over the years i’ve heard tales of grown-up folk who found the mothering they needed at someone else’s house. of the certain pair of ears who listened in a way that no one did at home. who loved without sting. who set another place at the table, no matter how late the hour, how empty the fridge.

i know, because i’ve watched one crew grow up, head off to college, that once in a while even the greatest, finest, smartest kids can stumble into tight places and not quite know the way out.

i’ve been the mama who at 2 a.m. drove a car full of kids where they needed to be, to get there safely, no questions asked. no scolding, thank you.

i’ve lived to hear that that middle-of-the-night ride was the single thing that made one kid realize you can grow up without the need to hide the truth, tell lies. and ever since, he’s been a new kind of kid. a kid who still pulls up a stool at my kitchen counter, who still tells me stories he might not tell at home.

and now, with this little gaggle underfoot, still not big enough to cross a busy street without a grownup worrying, still not savvy enough to call a girl and not spit out laughing, i’ve got another chance, another round of kids to love as if my own.

i might not have birthed the 13 or six or even three i longed to mother, but my little one has fixed all that.

he fills my kitchen table most weekend mornings. and i have every intention of being mama to them all. i start now with french toast, and loads of maple syrup.

soon enough, i hope, i pray, i’ll be the house they run to, when there’s no one else to listen.

in my book, there oughta be a nobel prize for mothering. and we’d all win. all of us, and i know throngs, who have discovered deep inside that the one pure hope for civilization, for humankind, is to raise our young–the ones we birth, the ones we don’t–with every reason to believe there will be kindness, and honesty, and undying love just around the corner. the one where some big-hearted mama is just waiting to make it all all right.

who was the big mama in your life? the one who loved you unconditionally, who loved you through and through. (and always threw an extra cookie on your cookie plate…)

breakfast by myself

i know, all across america right now, folks are guzzling, grabbing, driving-thru for breakfast. they are sloshing little o’s into their mouths, avec kiddies. they are ordering up uber-venti-soy-mocha-latte-blah-blah-blahs. sipping to their heart’s content, there at the dash board.

not me.

i’m slow and solitary when it comes to breakfast on the weekdays. i eat alone. i eat with ceremony, even.

yup. no slap-dash for me. i make a meditation of the morning stop for fuel.

especially on a monday.

like a shepherdess with her lambs, i get the first flock out the door, nudging out of bed, knocking on the bathroom door, reminding that time’s a-tickin’, sometimes shoving on shoes while boy no. 1 desperately tries to shovel in at least a few spoons of gruel. sometimes it’s not so pretty, this sheep herding in the morn. but eventually, i get all parties out to pasture.

mind you, all of the above occurs before the clock strikes seven.

and then, by the grace of a quirky little body clock and afternoon kindergarten, baby rip van winkle snores while the little hand sweeps past 7, 8 and, often 9. i’ve even had to rouse the sleeping mound as late as 10. it’s such a shame to have to tap the tiger that sometimes bites, though he sometimes wakes up purring.

as for me and my breakfast, i find great joy in a.) making it beautiful, and b.) packing it with what might sustain me through the long hours ahead. but best of all is the cloak of quiet in which i wrap that sacred hyphen in my day.

i know souls who meditate, legs crossed and tucked like human pretzels. i know souls who open to the divine through the lighting of a candle. and i know plenty of souls who skip all of the above and just dive, headlong, into the madness of the day.

seems i feed my soul through the careful feeding of my corporal self. at least in the morning, i do.

over the years i’ve gathered a little stack of little plates, plates just big enough for the few things i eat for breakfast. i have blue glass plates, red tin plates, old willow plates and blue-and-white plates with roosters, or the latest, with a whole barnyard scene parading ’round the rim.

i pull a plate off the shelf, and thus the mood for breakfast begins. coffee, always, goes into the big red mugs, one with little white hearts, or the one that curves right into the clutch of my hand. queer as it sounds, i lay out the fruit as if i’m getting ready to paint it, a study in color and contrast, glisten and fertile earth bursting. the bread is bread most often baked by a friend of mine, a gentle man, a man who kneads his longing for simplicity and a life nobly lived into the risen dough each night. i slather on cheese. i snip herbs from my little pots and lay sprigs of green, more life bursting, on the bumpy ridges of my cheese.

i lay all this at the place at the table looking out, looking out my window into the great beyond. i catch the birds in flight. i see squirrels romping. when the spring comes, i’ll watch buds unfolding. and in the deep of summer, i will carry my breakfast to the edge of my garden, and i won’t mind the buzzing bees. in fact if they descend on my portrait-ready pile of fruits, i’ll consider it a compliment and be quite pleased.

but in the cold months, the window is as close to the outdoors as my breakfast gets. so i get as close to the window as i can.

and then, i’m quieter still. i quiet every muscle and every bone, every thought and every worry. i only breathe. i only feel the pumping of my heart. softly. tenderly against the edge of the table, if i’m pushed up that close.

i breathe in deeply. i invite the powers of the universe, of the divine, to fill me. to fill every crevice and abyss. every part of me that aches. every muscle bursting to get on with the day.

and then i eat. trying to keep breathing. in that slow, deliberate way that all great wisdom tries to teach us. inspire. expire. the lungs taking over as the cleansing act of morning.

i hold the quiet. i taste the earth. i am swept up into the divine.

and then, alas, it’s over. i push back the chair, grab the plate, swish it under the faucet. grab one more gulp of coffee. then i’m onto the day. lord only knows what the day ahead will bring. but i’ve consumed so much more than you can see on my little plate.

i am, thanks be to God, fueled for yet another round of this wild thing called living.

so, now you know my little secret, my morning meditation, masquerading as a simple breakfast. i have an inkling i might not be alone in facing the day, fueled by more than pop tarts. anyone willing to divulge a morning ritual, meditative or otherwise? i would be so curious to know if there is a whole circle of us mustering sustenance beyond grams of protein on a plate….anyone else bold enough to admit that they find joy in making it beautiful for the eye, in a way that feeds the soul? however you jumpstart your heart for the day, i send blessings, and a prayer that you’ve found sustenance in the form that feeds you best.

p.s. lazy susan, restocked over the weekend, spins anew. take a gander. there’s the herb-off recipe, david’s hands, a blessing of the week. and even more….

breakfast for michael

i wish you could hear the sounds here. yes, yes, the bacon is sizzling, and so’s the french toast. but the sound that truly makes my heart sing is the sound of sweet tedd in rapturous love with his uncle.

uncle michael.

reason for joy.

michael, you see, is one of the four. four uncles, each so beloved. there’s uncle airplane, uncle piano, uncle computer and uncle everything. and now all four are spread all over the country; maine, california, the mountains of north arizona, and, soon, toledo.

when an uncle comes home, there is reason for joy.

michael happens to be emphatically so.

michael is the brother just younger than me; we came every odd year, the first four of our brood. then, years later, an even one, mind you, came the caboose, came the sweet angel bri.

ever since we were little, michael and i have been particularly close. we used to lay on the extra twin bed in each other’s room, and talk the bedtime away. in the way back of the wood-paneled ford station wagon, we swapped stories and secrets, looked out the window, spun tales of all that we saw.

two christmases ago, michael was nursing his wife through her final excruciating days. she died before january ended, leaving my kid brother, at 45, broken-hearted and widowed.

last christmas, to change things, he came to see us the day after christmas, once his church job was finished, the songs put away.

after spending hours of each day on the phone all that long year, nursing him through his unbearable grief, finally having him here in the kitchen was the embrace i’d been waiting for, aching for, each time we hung up.

you see, michael is brilliantly funny, brilliantly quick. and brilliantly shining with love. to know him is, i’m not kidding, to utterly love him, and love him we do. he has been sunshine as long as i’ve known him, and i’ve known him as long as he’s been. one minute he’s playing the charlie brown theme song, the next he’s juggling oranges. he makes a game of dunking chips into salsa. and tedd, at his side, laughs and laughs ’til it hurts.

so this morning, once again, beats christmas in my book. it’s breakfast for michael, and michael for breakfast. if cooking for someone you love is a giant embrace, then the feast i just made was a boa constrictor.

it’s one thing to love someone on a long-distance phone call. it’s a whole other thing to fry up the bacon, slice the cranberry-studded, almond-paste-swirled holiday bread. heck, we poured cream in the mix of the eggs and the milk, the dunking sweet soup that turns bread to french toast.

the coffee was spiked with dashes of cinnamon. the pomegranate seeded and sprinkled on clementines.

and then we all sat, we held hands and we prayed.

it gets no more delicious than michael for breakfast.