It wasn’t a night that would stand out in most people’s minds when they looked back on their lives. It might not have been enough to be a highlight of the week. There wasn’t a big storm, there wasn’t a major news story, no member of the family had been empowered or imperiled.
It was a normal weeknight evening when Kathy and I greeted our daughter, Lucy, who’d arrived after dinnertime to take a few things from her high school bedroom to her post-college house. It was only going to be a few minutes of course, but when talk about the new job and updates on the old gossip stoked the conversational flames, it was quickly nine o’clock. It’s the time of the evening when I typically begin snacking and the monkey on my back was craving bananas.
I asked my daughter, “Are you feeling peckish?”
Lucy replied in kind, in old movie fashion, “I could eat.”
My son was due to quit his work shift thirty minutes later as Lucy shouted, “Somebody better text Dan.” Kathy quickly grabbed her cell phone and pounded a staccato beat on her keyboard before pulling another dusty box out of Lucy’s closet.
It was fifty cents worth of eggs, maybe a buck-and-a-half in bacon. Biscuits in a tube brought the total to three bucks tops. If you want to factor in the cheese slices and the margarine, hell let’s make it five bucks. I probably dropped something that the dog ate and I chose to forget it.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, it was just intended as a late night snack. Seconds of preparation had gone into the menu plan, so it was surprising to me when the back door flew open with splintering force and my son walked in. Dan, who never met a curfew he did NOT like, a fellow who often bridged directly from the time clock to the buddy’s apartment, was home for a mid-evening visit. “Mom texted me there was hot breakfast cooking,” he volunteered, an explanation that was sorely needed at the time.
I had it on the dining room table five minutes later and five minutes after that, you would’ve needed a C.S.I. team to find evidence of it. We ate too much and we stayed up too late, but I don’t think any of us regretted it. I felt a peculiar pride in having produced the humble supper that stuck with me into the next day. I was at my place of employment, changing out of my loafers into my work shoes…
Shoes equal love…
My mother always had a special bond with her father because of shoes. As a small child with a rheumatic heart, five year-old Carolyn Johnston wasn’t allowed out of bed. Most people would have just shook their head sadly when they heard the sickly child wish for an accessory she couldn’t use, but my grandfather didn’t. He bought his baby girl a pair of shoes. He bought them with money he didn’t have for a child that couldn’t use them…yet. My mother, to this day, has a fantastic set of shoes. It’s not at the Imelda Marcos level, but it should be respected. There isn’t a member of my family that hasn’t been shoe shopping with her. You knew she might buy herself a pair, but you knew for sure she was buying you a pair. Maybe two.
And where shoes equal love for some, it seemed breakfast was my Valentine’s card. When I was courting Kathy, I would come by on Saturday mornings after an all-night shift, with two Hardee’s fast-food platters. That obviously worked. A few years later, I was married to that girl, though still working midnights. We were, at the latter point, eating cinnamon rolls in our own house with our first-born, watching “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”. When Dan came along, Kathy had attempted chocolate chip pancakes. By the time he was three, she had mastered them. There was more than one sleepover that wound up at our house because of a promised flapjack feast.
They didn’t know at the time that we often substituted breakfast food for the usual dinner fare because many of the morning staples were cheaper than the steaks, chops and chicken we might have preferred. I could make an omelet that looked like it jumped off of a Denny’s menu. What I couldn’t do was stretch the grocery budget any further. They didn’t know it then and they don’t care now.
Now breakfast equals love.
Dan graduated from community college this weekend, opting to have the family gathering at The Bomber, a historic diner in downtown Ypsilanti, for the post-ceremony meal. There were eight of us, unanimously choosing breakfast for our mid-day sustenance. My rapidly growing boy showed me his scuffed dress shoes and asked if I thought they had any life left in them.
“Better talk to Grandma,” I advised.
Yeah, I know, a pair of shoes lasts a lot longer than a plateful of hash browns. But you can’t make an omelet out of a penny loafer, either.