Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Sunday Morning.

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Hey E Baby

I was thinking about that Sunday morning

Just after we bought the house

It was November and the rain

Was pelting on the window

All dark and dreary outside

So you put our first log in the fireplace

I made coffee just for the two of us

You were hanging photos of the family

Framed in black and white

And all those paintings from the artists

Who had passed through our lives

My Barbara Lewis CD was playing

Baby I’m Yours

The sweet soulful sounds

That have the power to break your heart

You took my hand

And we danced around our new living room

You sang the chorus into my ear

While I cried into that soft spot

On the side of your neck

Hey E Baby

I think those were

The best two minutes of my life.

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone.

4 Kings on a Wall

This morning

While I was sitting here drinking coffee

In the silent stillness and stifling solitude

Of my writing space

My mind drifted lazily

Back

To when I was a young woman

And my two oldest kids were still my kids

The time of two cats in the yard

Where everything was loud and noisy

Gritty and grating at times.

 

I was obsessed

With cleaning up my messy life

Which was actually

A deliciously divine messy life

But I didn’t know it at the time.

 

You see

Back then I believed

My messy life wasn’t good

And certainly not

Interesting

Beautiful

Virtuous

Or worthy.

 

It didn’t fit

Into the glossy pages

Of a coffee-table magazine

I would never ever be

Wife or mother of the year

But oh how I longed

For that impossible

That implausible

That unattainable

Distinction.

 

I thought

So foolishly

It’s laughable now

That this messiness was a problem

This glorious domestic chaos

And magnificent uproarious thunder

Racket and tumult

This callow tender tackiness

Of everyday life

Was something to be fixed.

Aimee + Tom Xmas

Halloween Aimee the Crayon + glum Tom

Halloween Aimee the Crayon

Polaroid Pictures Mom + T + A

Polaroid Pictures T + A Xmas

Tom + Aimee + Oona + DeeDee in Orange Chair

Tom + Aimee + the TO Gang

tom + aimee on bikes

Tom + Aimee on the steps of 402 Northcliffe

tom + aimee with cats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Saturday Night Spaghetti and Meatballs.

299899_10151127217141644_2016426915_nI love spaghetti and meatballs. Always have. In fact, it’s one of the first foods that I remember enjoying. Picky Eater doesn’t even come close to describing my disinterest in food as a kid.  But Ma’s S ‘n M was a whole other story.  Now I’m no connoisseur, but I have eaten enough to know a good meatball when I taste it.  Trust me, her’s were the best. And her marinara sauce?  To live for.

It wasn’t so much what Ma put into this weekly Italian favorite that made it so spectacular. But how she prepared it that made the world of difference. Like all good cooks she had her secrets. Her little arsenal of remarkable tastes that you couldn’t quite put a finger-licking finger on.

One of my all-time fondest memories is the smell of Saturday morning at 204.

Fresh coffee brewing, bacon and eggs frying, Shaw’s white bread toasting. Fused with these intoxicating breakfast scents, was the savory smell of Ma’s spaghetti sauce simmering on top of the stove. Imagine waking up to that every Saturday morning. Trust me, it was the top of the comfort mountain. A warm hug from heaven. A kiss sweeter than your first. A gentle breeze fluttering through gossamery white curtains. Quite simply, nothing else like it.

I don’t have a recipe to share with you because Ma never cooked that way. Like all good cooks, it was pinch of this, a dash of that, a dollop and a handful. Everything to taste and talent. There’s a certain kind of genius at play, that’s impossible to describe. Besides, you don’t need the S ‘n M recipe anyway. For it’s not the physical ingredients that made it taste so good.

What made my all-time fave comfort food so lip-smacking, scrumptious and sinfully delicious were these 5 things:

1.  Start early. Be the first one up. Breathe in those early quiet and peaceful moments just before dawn. Solitude in the kitchen is a divine gift. Cherish it. Let the whisper of God and the whistle of nature inspire you. Run your fingers over the fresh ingredients that will be the life of the sauce. Let your eyes feast on their colors. Inhale the herbs and spices that will infuse spirit into the sauce. Begin.
2.  Good things take time. Never rush the sauce. Honor the process.  Allow it to simmer on low. To slowly fill the house with its intoxicating delectable aroma. Room by room. Let it fill every inch with pleasure. Long and lazy that’s the key. Enjoy.
3.  Double-dip family style. Let the taste testers dive in. All day long. Let the lid lift and open to an explosion of fragrant Italian goodness. Let the well-seasoned wooden spoon plunge into the saucy depths.  Let them sip, sup and savor. Repeat.
4.  Anticipation. Things taste better when filled with scrumptious expectancy. The longer the wait, the better the taste. Especially with marinara and spicy meatballs. As the divine bouquet fills the air, let your imagination wonder to the end of the day. Mealtime. Picture yourself there. Lick your lips. Savor.
5.  Love. The essence of everything. The heart. The soul. The gist. The marrow of all good things.  And all things that taste good.

There you have it. The delicious intangibles. The ethereal ingredients. The exquisite elements. The sorcery in the sauce.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Depression.

Face of DepressionThis morning I woke up.  Thank God.  As I was making the bed I thought about my plans for the day. Making a cup of cinnamon coffee. Writing my blog. Banking with E.  Shoe shopping with M. The first two items on the list made me happy.  The third, not so much.  The fourth delighted me.

Then I had this thought.  My two daughters are my best friends.  Then I had this thought.  I wonder if they’d find that pathetic.  I know I’m not theirs.  Nor should I be at their ages.  Then I had this thought.  My mother was my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  When she died I not only lost my mother, I lost my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  That blows.

Then I started to cry.  Bawled my fucking brains out as I was making the bed. The whole nine yards. Messy tears and snot all over my face, the pillows, sheets and my new shabby chic comforter.  Which by the way, was incapable of providing neither the degree, nor the depth, of comfort required to stop this sorrowful eruption of muck and mournfulness.

Then I had this thought.  I’m sad.  Probably even depressed.

I come by this melancholy honestly.  Not that he talked about it.  Not ever.  But I think The Old Man was depressed, most of his adult life.  Maybe it was because he was Finnish.  Their suicide rates are high, especially in the winter, which is long, cold and dark.  Much like Northwestern Ontario, where he lived his entire life.  I got out when I was twenty-four.  It was too dreary for me.  On so many levels I can’t even begin to describe.

What caused his depression?  Who knows. I can only speculate.  One part environment.  One part DNA.  One party magical mystery tour. The Hammond Organ

The Old Man sought refuge and relief from his misery in alcohol, watching sports on TV, buying new shoes, eating anything laced with sugar, swearing at inanimate objects, going to church on Sundays, shoveling snow in the winter and digging in his garden in the summer, umpiring little league games, taking long Sunday drives, scratching our dog’s belly, and sleeping. The older he got the more he slept. He was often antisocial, spending long hours alone in the spare room, behind closed doors watching TV or reading the daily newspaper.  There was a Hammond Organ in that room that he tinkered with but never really learned to play.  (However, he was an accomplished spoon percussionist.)  The memory of that room, and his self-imposed exile and isolation, makes me sad.

People didn’t talk about their feelings back then.  Men especially, kept things under wraps. Stiff upper lips and pulled up boot straps. The Old Man stuffed his sadness inside a profusion of plaid flannel shirts, only to unleash it every three months like clockwork, after a long night at the neighborhood saloon. The Crest on Red River Road.  Instead of manifesting in tears, his hurt took a far darker, menacing form.  He’d come home seething with anger.  Uncontrollable rage.  He never hit anyone because he was like a small yapping dog.  All bark and no bite.  But he ranted relentlessly and bullied the shit out of Ma and her kids. He was an unholy terror. It was one hell of a time.

During those dark nights of the soul, I hated him.  Wished him dead.  Prayed to God to strike him down with a bolt of lightening.  A precise and explicit message from heaven.  But that didn’t happen.  Thankfully.  Because the truth is, The Old Man was a good man when he wasn’t drinking. He had a kind, tender and sensitive heart, and he loved his family fiercely.

And he was ill.

An alcoholic.  But the alcohol was merely self-medication.  The deeper illness was depression.  It makes me sad now to think that we didn’t know that.  I mean, we knew intimately the subject matter of his rum and coke induced rages.  The things that angered and tormented him.  But we never understood why. Our family knew very little about the pathology of alcoholism as a disease.  And even less about depression.  Back then depressed people were crazy.  Plain and simple.  It was far better to be a self-pitying miserable alcoholic.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered if while I was praying to God to strike him dead, if he was doing the same thing. He went to church every Sunday.  What were his prayers?  Did he pray for help?  Beg for healing?  Did he seek forgiveness?  Did he find comfort there? Did it any of it help?  I hope so.

So here I sit.  Years and miles away from Northwestern Ontario.  Daylight is breaking.  How do I deal with my sadness?  This depression?  The tears that stain my cheeks and cover my shabby chic comforter? I do this.  I write.  I run.  I do yoga. I take long walks along quiet country roads.  I take photographs.  I play with my dogs.  I love my family fiercely. I eat well. I take vitamins. I talk to my wise girlfriends about deep dark feelings.  I pour my heart out to my husband.  I listen to my children and look for clues on how to live a joyful life. I laugh my guts out.  I pray.  I meditate.  I write letters to God. I count my blessings. I get up, go to work and give it my very best shot.  I play my guitar and my clarinet. I read books. Listen to music. I dream. I hang out. I waste time. I watch TV. The Old Man Hipster

But I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t do drugs, except for the occasional ibuprofen. I do my best to stay away from sugar, especially white. I don’t give myself pep talks. They don’t work. I also don’t scold. Engage in self-pity, self-loathing or self-flagellation. I watch my inner dialogue. I try not to spend too much time alone in this room.  Although that’s challenging because one of the things I love to do most requires that I spend long stretches of time in isolation.

Over the years I have found solace in motivational books and tapes, teachers, preachers, the wise and the enlightened. I’ve learned acceptance. Of what was.  And what is.

Will I ever be completely free from depression and sadness?  No. The truth is, I don’t want to be fully extricated. It’s part of who I am.  Like my hazel eyes and crooked smile.  It’s the fuel that fires some of my richest writing. The fountainhead of a few of my best ideas.  My literary wellspring. It’s what allows me to feel things deeply. Not just my suffering.  But yours.  And yours.  And yours. I shed tears for all living creatures. Even the dead rats I come across on the country road I walk.  I like that about me.

Depression reminds me of my humanness.  My weaknesses and strengths.  It dictates that, in order to stay healthy, I must stay connected.  It opens the eyes of my heart. And unleashes love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, hope.  And above all.  Empathy.

I get it Dad.  I get your pain.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Rhythm of Running.

running gearRunning doesn’t come easy for me.  The first few blocks are pure hell.  Psyching myself to go for a run is a marathon in itself.  Each new day is like starting over.  Even after 30 years, it’s still the same.

Before I run there are a few things I do first.  The Monday to Friday pre-run routine and ritual goes something like this:

1. Get up early. 5:00am at the latest. Except for the summer months, it’s dark outside and quiet inside.  The house is hushed and still in the undisturbed darkness before dawn.  Just how I like it.
2. Put on sweatpants and T-shirt or some other comfortable running attire.  These are found heaped on the floor next to the bed where I left them the night before. I prepare ahead.
3. Grope my way through the hallway to the kitchen where I put on the kettle. Sometimes I hit the bathroom first and take a pee.
4. Head to my office where I check emails and cruise through Facebook while the kettle boils.  Sometimes I read a Cowbird story.
5. Make a cup of Tetley’s Orange Pekoe tea. I like how the round bags fit perfectly int the bottom of the Vegas mug D gave me.
6. Practice yoga for an hour.  Because I’m so spiritual I do this in front of the TV.  Depending on my mood it’s either Steven & Chris or CMT. Until January it was CNN but I stopped that because it was counter productive and stressed me out.
7. Make the bed and tidy my office. I hate clutter and can’t get into an unmade bed.  Just one of my many quirks.
8. Make my lunch for work.  This is usually a salad and some kind of protein.  I don’t really care what I eat for lunch just as long as it’s reasonably healthy and doesn’t make me sleepy by two.
9. Boil the kettle again.  Make a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon. I like to live dangerously.  I also add cream, which is completely over-the-top and edgy.
10. Head back to my office, pull out my latest Hilroy notebook, a blue Bic pen and write my daily letter to God.  This is private.  But possibly some of my best writing.
11. Sip my creamy cinnamon coffee and say my prayers.  I don’t get down on my knees.  This hurts too much.  God knows and doesn’t expect it of me.  We’re pretty tight.
12. If it’s cold out, I throw on my big old grey hoodie with the bleach splatters and pills under the arms.  If it’s warm than the T-shirt is all I need.  I don’t wear a bra.  I like to flop when I run.
13. Head downstairs and lace up my sneakers.  Nothing fancy here.  Nor expensive.  If they aren’t on sale I don’t buy them. One of my best pair of runners came from Zellers. This was before Target took over.
14. Check the clock next to the back door.  I don’t know why I do this. I never check it when I return and I don’t time my runs.  I really don’t care how long it takes.
15. Walk around to the side of the house, past the Camellia tree, the bamboo and the old rose bush that scares the shit out of me.
16. Open the front gate, take a deep breath, hesitate momentarily, mumble ‘what the fuck’ under my breath and hit the streets.

I start to run immediately.  It’s uphill right out of the gate. Brutal. Punishing.  Grueling.  My legs are already tired and I feel the burn.  It’s killing me and I haven’t even gone a block.  All I can think about is how lousy I feel.

But just when I think I can’t run another step, the sidewalk slopes downward and I coast along for the next bit. This is where grace and mercy come into play.

It’s during this little stretch that I set the pace. This is different every day.  It all depends on how I feel that morning.  Not just physically but emotionally.  One day I could be the hare. The next, the tortoise.  Sometimes I feel like a freebird.  Other days, a slug.  There are mornings where I feel like I could run forever.  Or at least a mile or two.  Maybe even ten.  Then there are days – many, many days – where I ask myself, ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I just want to roll over onto the boulevard and curl up like a wood bug.  Go to sleep. For a long time. Like Rip Van Winkle.  Some days, my youth is renewed like the eagles.  Others, I’m an old wizened woman.  Gnarled.  Weather-beaten.

The difference between a good day and a bad one usually comes down to rhythm.  I don’t plug in while I run.  No iTunes. No playlists. No music. No motivational talks.  No podcasts.  None of that.

I listen to my soul.  My heartbeat.  My inner cadence.

I hear the sound of my breathing.  My footsteps on the concrete. Crows squawking on the telephone lines.  The voices of the squirrels.  Leaves rustling.  Wind howling. Gentle breezes calling. Dogs barking. Cars racing.  Doors slamming.  All the early morning reverberations.

I hear the silence.  And the pauses between the clamor. I hear God whispering my name.

It is here that I get in the groove.  Find my rhythm.  This is the sweet stuff of running. This is the meditative place. Where everything works.  My body, mind and spirit are all in tune.  Harmonious.  Peaceful.  Grounded.

I run to the rhythm of me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Best Friend Forever.

B at Boulevard Lake posing in bellbottoms.

B at Boulevard Lake posing in bellbottoms.

I have a best friend.  Ma always told me that if I had one really good friend in life, then I was truly blessed.  She was right.  And I do.  I was reminded of this on Saturday when a little package arrived just for me.

Little back story.  We met when we were both sixteen.  My recollections of our first meeting are hazy, veiled in layers of years. I think we were introduced at a party.  Why not?  We were teenage girls.  That initial contact put us into each other’s orb for life.

We might have met sooner, had we grown up in the same neighborhood.  The world is small in a small town but even smaller when you’re a little kid.  Now when I look back, there were many opportunities for us to have met before that night. The Old Man delivered bread to their house. Our neighborhoods weren’t that far apart.  We were both Finlanders.  But back then, I never wandered too far away from 204.

We had been going to the same high school for two years before the party and yet we had never crossed paths.  We were in different academic programs and travelled in different circles.  I was a band nerd and had trouble making eye contact.  She was one of the admin girls and painfully shy.

But once we were introduced that all changed.  Wham!  She’s in my universe and we’re bumping into each other everywhere.  Hallways. Gymnasium.  Cafeteria.  Washrooms.  Schoolyard.

We had a lot in common.

Soon we were walking home from school together. Sometimes we would stop at the corner before heading on our separate ways. These conversations that so absorbed us; it was impossible to let go. Other times she would come to my house for tea and the fresh-baked cookies Ma always had waiting for us.  Our discussions were large and deep for two teenage girls.

B and pregnant Boo on the shores of Lake Superior.

B and pregnant Boo on the shores of Lake Superior.

We explored everything.  No topic was off limits. We wondered and pondered.  Probed and mused.  Drilled down deep to places most young girls that age would never have contemplated.  The subject matter wasn’t always full of profundity however, nor was it terribly serious.  We were sixteen after all.  We talked about boys a lot.  She had a steady boyfriend.  I did not.  At times I lived vicariously through her romance.  It was fun.  And safer.

We were tender and sensitive.  Lovely and sweet.  Gentle and kind.  Creative and imaginative.  We both liked to write and sew and do crafty things.  We combed through teenage magazines and picked out fashions we loved.  One of our favorite haunts was the fabric department at Eaton’s.  She was a brilliant sewer.  I was accomplished enough but nowhere near as gifted as her.  She could have been a fashion designer.  That’s how good she was.

We were poets and Philosopher Princesses.  Our hearts were broken often.  Not just from love gone wrong.  But from all the pain, suffering and heartache we saw in the world. Everything touched our young fragile spirits.   We were emotional risk takers, willing to go out on a limb.  Fall.  Break.  And when we did, we helped each heal.

We laughed our faces off.  And cried until we were exhausted.  We ranted.  And raved.  We sang along to our favorite records.  And danced like wild girls in my small upstairs bedroom.

She taught me yoga and the power of meditation. Macrame and how to make the perfect square knot.  The fine art of stringing colorful beads into gorgeous necklaces. She gave me a slip from her mom’s African violet and taught me how to grow my first plant.

We hung out at local dives and smoked cigarettes and drank coffee until we were shaking from nerves rattled by too much caffeine and nicotine.  We wrestled with our own mortality.  Danced with our inner demons.  Contemplated what it was like on the other side of this life.  We were complex young women.  We were simple teenage girls.

B with my son having a tea party.

B with my son having a tea party.

We shared dreams.  Held secrets.  An unbreakable bond.  Sisters of the soul.  Best friends.  We got each other.  Really dug one another.  Like we were cut from the same cloth.  We were sisters from different mothers.

We marvel that this friendship of ours has endured decades.  We’ve gone from Teen Girl Warriors to Wise Crone Goddesses.  We can be apart for years, barely keep in touch, and reconnect in a heart beat. We’ve been through first loves, marriages and separations.  We’ve had children and watched them grow into beautiful adults. We’ve lost loves and discovered new ones in unexpected places. We’ve said goodbye to parents and stood at gravesides. We’ve been through a lot together and apart.  Yet one truth remains.  I’ve always known that no matter what, she had my back.  And I had hers.

Last week, she posted a note on my Facebook timeline.

“Did I receive the pkg?”

“I got a notification but didn’t know who it was from.  I was going to pick it up on Saturday,” I posted in response.

I love surprises.  On Saturday afternoon while E and I were running errands we stopped into the local grocery store, where the post office is tucked away in one corner.  I picked up the parcel, which was light and rattle-free.  Its weight and silence only added to its delicious mystery.  E picked up a couple of pints of ice cream that were on sale and headed to the checkout.  While he was waiting in line, I went outside.

B's original design vintage sundress inspired chef's apron.

B’s original design vintage sundress inspired chef’s apron.

Suddenly I was sixteen again.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  Standing next to the row of grocery carts, I thought to myself, I’ll just take the tape off.  But once the tape was removed, I couldn’t stop. It was like Pandora’s Box.  Too tempting.  Before E was through the checkout I had one end of the brown wrapper removed and was opening the box.

And there it was.  Wrapped in green tissue, sealed with gold stickers, and inscribed with five precious words, “made with love for Bonney.”  An original design by B.  Vintage sundress inspired chef’s apron.  Meticulously crafted with attention to every detail.  Sweet whimsical buttons in yellow red and blue set on tiny pink flowers.  Wonder-filled.

There isn’t a word for the delight I felt at that moment.

Once home, and in the privacy of my sacred writing space, I held up this beloved gift to take in its full magnificence.  It was like I was holding B in my arms.  Love was radiating from every thread.

Tucked in the pocket of the apron was her “go to” dessert.  Plum Clafoutis.  I will make this my “go to” dessert too.

Her final instruction to me on the pink post-it note included in the package, read simply. “Enjoy!”

And I will.  Oh yes I will.

Footnote: Last summer when I was back East for my brother’s wedding anniversary B and I had a glorious visit.  It was brief, just one afternoon but long enough to reconnect.  She took me out to see her beautiful garden.  Everything she touches blooms and blossoms abundantly. One flower in particular captured my attention. The Brown Eyed Susan.  In the package, with the apron, was an envelope with one last note from B.  It was filled with Brown Eyed Susan seeds from her garden.  “Scatter them in spring and let nature take its course,” she wrote.

Yes, my dear friend. 

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: There’s Nothing Like the Smell of Coffee in the Morning.

Ma and boo in PJs enjoying a morning moment.

I’m a morning person. I get up early while my family remains nestled all snug in their warm comfy beds. This does not mean they are sleepyheads.  Or lazybones.  It’s just that I’m a particularly early riser.  For it is only at this time that the house is quiet and still.  Like the Herman’s Hermits song proclaims, “there’s a kind of hush.”  Just the way I like it.

When I’m in full-blown writing mode I get up, I make a cup of hot tea and head for my room.  But it wasn’t always so.  The room was there but I wasn’t.  I was in another room with a bed and a warm body next to mine.  That was, and is, nice.  But for a writer, and a creative spirit, it’s not enough.  I made excuses for why I wasn’t in my very special room doing creative things.  You know the kind. Family commitments.  Full time job.  Busy life full of distractions and diversions.  Pets to walk. Cakes to bake.  But excuses aside, the truth was it made me sad.  Glum.  Blah.  Whiny even.  Then I had this eureka moment about 15 years ago. The switch was flipped and the light went on. I had this notion that if I got up an hour or two earlier I could go into my room and do stuff.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what that would be exactly.  But as it turns out I had a novel to write.  Some poems. A ton more letters to God.  And a few song lyrics. Then some music to go with those.  I learned that much can be accomplished in the wee hours before 6:00am.

The truth is, it wasn’t all that difficult for me to get up that early in the morning.  Pre-dawn rising is part of my family heritage.  If geneticists were to look inside our DNA, I’m certain they would find some little atypical first-light wrinkle in one of our chromosomes.

Little back story.  Because the Old Man was a Breadman, his workday began early.  Crack of dawn.  He had to get to the bakery, load his truck and be on the road delivering the bread and other baked goodies by 7:00am.  This was back in the day, when it was essential to deliver the ultimate in freshness door to door.  Warm and ready.

Ma always got up with The Old Man.  While he was getting ready for work, she was busy in the kitchen.  A fresh pot of coffee was perking in the dinted aluminum Percolator with the black handle and glass knob on top.  Once the water-coffee mixture began to bubble up into the knob, Ma would turn down the heat and let it settle and simmer on low.  While the coffee was brewing, the well-oiled cast iron frying pan was in full-on action.  Four strips of bacon fried to a medium crisp.  Two eggs.  Sunny side up with a fringe of brown crunch.  Two slices of white Wholesome bread toasted to golden perfection, then buttered.  The table was set for one.  Next to The Old Man’s plate was a jar of Kraft strawberry jam or orange marmalade, a bottle of homogenized milk, a bowl of white sugar, and glass shakers of salt and pepper.  These were the scrumptious aromas of morning for the thirty-plus years that The Old Man worked for the bakery.  This was the first heavenly scent of dawn and waking up.

Sometimes I would get up before The Old Man left for work and join him at the table.  But mostly I got up afterwards and had breakfast alone with Ma.  I loved my morning time with her.  I was never really that hungry in the morning but I ate anyway.  Mostly to appease Ma, so she wouldn’t worry or fret that I was malnourished or starving to death.  Ever since I was a youngster I drank coffee.  The Old Man was a Finlander so coffee was a huge part of his personal culture.  Next to Vodka, coffee was the Finn’s beverage of choice.  The coffee of my wonder years was nothing like it is today.  We’re not talking Starbucks super strength here.  Back then, coffee was akin to dish water.  And we were blissfully ignorant of any harm it may have caused a child.  I enjoyed my daily morning coffee until I hit my early twenties when I quit cold turkey.  As it turned out, it wasn’t so good for my sensitive nervous system, causing my body to shake rattle and roll after one or two sips. Tea, in particular herbal or decaf, then became my beverage of choice for decades.  It’s only been recently that I have started to enjoy one cup of coffee in the morning.  All things wonderful.  Ma and I were also Tea Grannies and loved our Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey.  Especially with fresh-baked cookies.  Simply divine.

For the most part, Ma and I had toast and jam for breakfast. We kept it sweet and simple.  White bread.  Lots of butter slathered on first, then a big dollop of jam.  Sometimes we’d add peanut butter.  Sometimes we didn’t add anything.  Just butter.  It all depended on whether we were in a sweet or savory mood.  My morning coffee was really more milk and sugar than it was coffee.  And it was delicious.  Sweet.  And creamy.  I drank it down quickly in big gulps.  Sometimes I slurped it from my spoon like soup.  But mostly I poured it back. “Ahhhhh.  That was sooooo good Ma,” I’d exclaim.

I enjoyed this quiet breakfast time with Ma.  We drew together, both in our flannel nighties, and talked about things.  The kinds of conversations mothers have with their little girls.  Precious.  Intimate.  Confidential.  I shared all my secrets with her.  I knew she was the one person in the entire world that I could trust completely with my tender young heart. I told her funny stories.  She laughed.  I relayed the nightmare that woke me up in the middle of the night.  She comforted.  I confessed my unrequited love.  She consoled.  I cried over my broken heart.  She caressed.  I confided my dreams for the future.  She encouraged.   I hurt her feelings.  She forgave.

On special occasions or holidays, when the family gathers, I still like to get up early, even though I don’t write during vacation time.  Our entire family comes together at Christmas and I’m usually the first one up.  I like to putter around in the kitchen and put the coffee on.  And that’s when it happens.  The fresh brewed aroma takes me back.  To a little kitchen table with its cheerful homespun tablecloth.  It’s set for two.  It’s cold and dark and wintry outside.  But it’s warm and bright and safe inside.  Ma pours me a cup.  Life is good.