Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Listen Up.

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Girl Warrior. Listen up. Listen attentively and actively when someone is speaking to you. Listen empathically. Sympathetically. Conscientiously. Listen with your ears. Listen with your eyes. Listen with your heart. Engage all your senses. And your extra senses also.

Give all your attention to the one doing the talking. Whether they have come to pour their heart out and confide in you. Or pour you a cup of tea and all that is required is some comfortable conversation with a cookie.

Focus on the one across from you. Do not allow yourself to become distracted, diverted or drawn away. Don’t let anything trump or eclipse this moment between you. Turn off your cell phone. Close your tablet. Shut down your laptop. Turn off the TV. And tune in.

Then lean in. Look hard into their eyes. Let them know they matter. What they have to say matters. Their thoughts and feelings and fears and hopes and dreams count for something. This is important stuff Girl Warrior. Respect, regard and reverence are composed and crafted here in these everyday exchanges. These ordinary little tête-à-têtes that happen so often we take them for granted. These soulful heart-to-hearts that we assume will always be. But the truth is, they won’t. So don’t squander even one single solitary conversation by not being fully present.

Girl Warrior let the one across from you know that you have not only shown up, but you are fully engaged. And listening.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Missed Conversations.

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As I was driving into work last week a Jim Croce tune came on the radio. I’ll Have To Say I Love You in a Song. I was reminded of what a lovely and gifted songwriter he was and that he died too young and far too soon.

As often happens with me, a fleeting thought like this can lead to endless musings on various and sundry topics. I have an eternally wandering mind and I’m always getting lost in thought. On this particular day, I was thinking about all the people, famous and not, who also died before their time. The list is long so I won’t even go there. But we all have people we loved and admired, either close to us or amongst the celebrated and famous, who checked out of Hotel Planet Earth when we weren’t ready for them to go. The remarkable ones we wish had been around even a little bit longer so that we could enjoy their particular brilliance and perspective on the world.

I often wonder what kinds of songs these dearly missed ones would have sung, stories told, canvases covered, poetry rhymed, jokes cracked, goals scored, pirouettes twirled, music written. I also wonder what they’d think of this present-day world they left behind. What would they have to say about it?

But the really big thing I pondered last week, as I drove across the country road in my Ford Ranger was, “what about all the missed conversations?” All those marvelous words that were left unspoken. The winsome thoughts yet to be expressed. The pillow talk. And dinnertime discussions. The tete-a-tetes over tea. The long distance telephone calls. The gossip, the gabfests, chitchats and chinwags.

Ma died fourteen years ago today. And I have to say these are what I miss the most. Our beautiful little conversations. What I wouldn’t give for a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart across the kitchen table at 204.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6Vn17S37_Y&list=RDE6Vn17S37_Y#t=30

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Dream.

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I’m not much of a dreamer. At least not at night when I’m asleep. I do a lot of daydreaming. But the other thing, not so much. I guess technically, I do dream. We all do. I just have poor recall.

When I do remember a dream though, it’s usually a doozy. Nightmares. Being chased and can’t run away or scream for help. Embarrassing. Forgot to dress and find myself on a crowded bus stark freaking naked. X-rated. Stark freaking naked. Enough said. For the sake of my three adult children I will spare all the sordid details. Some make me sad and I wake up crying. Usually involving the death of a beloved human or pet. Sometimes myself. From others I wake up laughing. Like I was in bed with Louis C.K. Enough said.

But every now and again, there’s one that flat-out leaves me believing. In wonder and amazement at just how stupendously miraculous this thing called life and afterlife really is. It’s the stuff of good science fiction. Time travel. Parallel universes. Eternal connectivity. The never-ending story. The stuff that bears truth to statements like, “She/he is still with me” or “I feel her/his presence.”

On Thursday night I had a two-part dream like this. The first part was kind of a silent nightmare. I was in a subway car with my daughter M and her best friend A and we were headed to some unknown destination. The strange thing was that neither girl was talking, which I suppose is proof that I was indeed dreaming. The even stranger thing was that the subway car was actually a rollercoaster car, which I am terrified of. I was sitting between the two girls. We went around a hairpin curve at lightening speed and somehow I flipped out of the car and was hanging on to the side of the car like my life depended on it, because it did. I called out to one of the girls (who shall remain nameless) to hold onto my arm so I wouldn’t fall off and be crushed by a million tons of fast-moving steel. But it was as if she was deaf. Much like our waking relationship. Then I grew very calm. I knew I would be fine, that everything would end up okay. I hung onto the side of the car, cool as a cucumber. Fearless even. I just love how you can manipulate dreams to make them work in your favor. We arrived safely at the next subway stop and all was well. End of part one.

In part two I’m still at the subway stop. My young female travelling companions are gone. They left without a word, which made perfect sense since this was a silent movie. In the next scene, a door opens and it’s The Old Man. Finally someone speaks. He says, “Look who I brought.” He steps aside. And there’s Ma. It was a younger Ma. The one from when I was about eight or ten. She looked beautiful. I ran into her arms. We embraced. I hung onto her for dear life. Just like the rollercoaster car in part one. I could feel her. And smell her. I cried into the collar of her faux fur winter coat. I told her how happy I was to see her. And that I missed her dearly.

And that was it. I woke up crying. But I wasn’t sad. I was happy to have had this moment with Ma. To be hugged by her again. No one, and I mean no one, hugs you like your mother.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve dreamt of Ma since she died 14 years ago. We’ve had “visits” before. Most of the time they are sweet and simple and far too brief. Much like our time together on earth. Sometimes we’re shopping or having lunch. But mostly we’re sitting together at the kitchen table at 204 enjoying a cup of tea and a good chat. Nothing has changed. We talk about the “daily things” that fill our days with meaning, hope and love. She still refuses to tell me why we’re here, what it’s all about, and where we go after this is all said and done.

One of the wonderful gifts of these visits, or close encounters from the other side, is that I get to have “the one mores” with her. One more kiss. One more hug. One more cup of tea. One more conversation. One more chance to say, “I love you Ma.”

Is it real? Is it just a dream? Are we living parallel lives now? Am I able to traverse from here to wherever she is? Cross borders and meet-up with her in my sleep? Slip from this reality to hers? Is this possible?

I don’t know. And I don’t care. I only know that seeing Ma on Thursday night comforted me. Brought me peace. And made me happy. I look forward to one more.

Ma Girl Warrior - Feature Alt

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: I am a Couch Potato.

In front of my blue couch in my writing room.

I must confess.  I am a Couch Potato.  In my defense, I come by my CP status honestly.  Ma and The Old Man were also big CPs.  That was back in the day when this activity, or lack thereof, was considered an acceptable pastime.  Before there was an actual term for it.  Pre-guilt era.  Before I thought I should be making better use of my time.  By accomplishing stuff.  Getting things done.  Being a doer.  Not a layabout.  Back when it wasn’t synonymous with sloth.  Laziness.  Wasting time.  Or worse yet, my life.

There was a time when a potato was just a potato.  Mashed, baked or fried.  Served hot with vegetables and meat.  And a couch was just a couch.  A place to sit and put your feet up. Take it easy.  Stretch out.  Lie down.  Languish. Unwind and relax. Rest your weary bones.  Catch forty winks.  A little catnap.  Doze or fall into a deep sleep.

For the record, I like my potatoes mashed, baked or fried.  And I love couches for all the reasons I’ve just described.

Ma’s four kids on the maroon couch.

Little back story.  Ma loved couches long before I ever came into the picture.  We had more than a few during my life at 204.  But the first one had to have been my all-time favorite.  This seems to be the case with many “firsts” in life.  The benchmark for all that follows.  This particular first was a luxurious deep maroon embossed velvet, worthy of being called a “sofa.”  Comfy plush cushions with kid-sturdy wide arms and a head-resting back.  Designed for comfort and built to last.  It could accommodate a family of six easily.  Photographically perfect for portraits of children.  They just don’t make couches like that any more.

Ma asleep on the turquoise sectional.

After Ma’s mania for all things maroon passed, we moved into her turquoise phase of the sixties.  With that came the modern turquoise sectional, which Ma kept covered in plastic for the first year we had it.  This served not only to preserve the pristine newness of the couch but it also appeared to have been a peculiar part of the decorating trend of that era.  There was a spate of plastic covered furniture across the cities and towns of North America.  According to black and white photographic evidence, it seemed to be all the rage.  Why else would so much plastic have appeared in so many family photos?  What else could have accounted for this phenomenon? It was as much a part of the domestic decorating landscape as pole lamps and shag rugs.

Cuddle time on the brown couch with the floral coverlet.

After the plastic covered couch, there was the brown nylon ditty of the seventies.  Equally modern in style, and although not split in two, it did have a matching chair.  The plastic was replaced with fitted slip covers and loose coverlets.  First there was the brown and orange floral patterned coverlet with the fringed edge.  This was draped over the couch like an oversized table cloth.  It was awkward and never stayed properly tucked.  Ma replaced this with a snug fitting gold slip cover that almost looked like it was tailor-made for the couch.  Except when it shrank and no longer covered the cushions fully.

One year, my sister gave Ma a cozy harvest gold mohair throw that was perfect for snuggling under in the evenings, especially during the long cold winter months.  It also looked marvelous draped over the back of the gold slip-covered couch, adding a tone on tone decorative embellishment.  Practicality aside, the slipcovers and coverlets provided a fresh look without having to splurge on an entirely new couch.  Ma loved to experiment and change things up but we were not a family who could afford such whimsy.  So in typical Ma fashion she used her creativity to fill the gaps where her pocketbook was lacking.

Sleepy time on the brown couch with the gold slip cover.

At some point in the eighties Ma went “colonial” with her decorating scheme.  This meant everything had a casual country feel.  Veneer coffee and end tables were replaced with ones made of maple or pine.  The couch to match was large and tweedy.  Warm and earthy in orange, rust and brown. By this time Ma had fully embraced her “orange” period.  The floors were covered in wall to wall orange carpets and the front picture window was ablaze with orange flowered drapes.  Until then she had been dabbling with hints of orange in the coverlets.  But the eighties brought a full-on immersion into this joyous and ebullient color.  It was in this palette that she would remain until her dying day.  She was after all, a fiery and passionate Italian woman.

My niece cuddles with the cat on the tweed couch.

Regardless of the style, color or era, the purpose of these couches was always the same.  We were a family of loungers and languishers. Loafers and lollers. Sprawlers and slouchers.  And there was no better place for such a pleasurable pastime than Ma’s couch.  Nothing more welcoming and enjoyable than stretching out under a warm homey blanket, with the television six feet away broadcasting your favorite comedy or tear jerker.  And in our family the odds were, you’d be dozing off within minutes of the opening theme song. It was just the way we were. There we would remain. Sometimes we’d snooze for a few minutes.  Other times it was a few hours.  There was just something about Ma’s couches that induced sleep.  Something so deliciously reassuring and safe that sent us all off to La La Land. It didn’t matter if they were maroon or plastic covered turquoise.  Gold slip covered or orange tweed.  They all had the same affect.
No matter how long we’d been away. No matter how far we had ventured from 204.  Regardless of our age.  Child and grand child alike.  We all gravitated towards the couch.  Called dibs when it came time for bed during visits and holidays.  Everyone wanted to camp out on Ma’s couch.

The Old Man resting on the tweed colonial.

Years ago when I set up my first writing room in our home, one of the “must-haves” was a couch.  I wanted a private place to curl up and dream, sip tea, read novels, play my guitar, chat with a friend or take a snooze.  A comfy spot that was away from the rest of the household.  I not only wanted a room of my own, but a couch as well.  A big chair just wouldn’t do.  It had to be a couch.  It wasn’t just a piece of furniture after all.

My sanctuary.  My safe haven.  My hideout.  My shelter in the storm.  Ma’s cradling arms.

On the night after Ma died I sought refuge there.  The house had been full of people all day.  Our family had gathered to grieve and share memories.  We made frozen pizzas.  By seven o’clock that evening my head was pounding and my heart was aching.  I was raw.  Empty.  My soul was naked.  So I retreated.  Stole away from the chatter and tears to my safe place.  The couch in the little room of my own.  I crawled under the wool blanket and lay in the dark.  Everything was perfectly still.  My eyes were squeezed shut in pain. I listened to my heartbeat.  It was out of sync.

I wondered where Ma was.  I prayed that she was on an orange tweed couch sleeping peacefully under a mohair blanket.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Mother’s Hands.

Long piano fingers so elegant and lovely.

I miss Ma.  Sharing cups of tea.  Or lingering conversations on a quiet summer evening.  Laughing until we cried.  Long walks through the neighborhood.  Enjoying the pleasure of each others company.  Mother and daughter stuff.  All such lovely things that I cherish and hold dear.  But of all those things, it is her hands that I pine for.  Reach out and wish that they were resting next to mine.  Hand in hand.  Beautiful.  Comforting. Tender.  Reassuring.

Her touch was my first.  My touch was one of her last.

Her fingers were long, thin and graceful.  Pulsing with veins.  Like indigo rivers across translucent terrain.  We used to call them piano fingers because they could easily span an octave of keys.  She never played an instrument.  Except the music of her heart.

Her hands were hard working.  Dependable and strong.  They understood the connection between soap, water and a scrub brush.  A dish rag and a scouring pad.  Intimately.  Thoroughly.  Hardwood, tile, linoleum and wall to wall.  Down on all fours.  Scoured and cleaned.  Washed and wiped. Polished and shined.  Gleaming with pride.

Ma loved clean laundry.  Before washing machines were automatic, she filled her wringer washer daily.  Pulled her family’s clothes, piece by piece, through the hard rubber rollers.  Filled her wicker basket then meticulously hung the day’s laundry on the line to dry. Wooden pegs and twisted wire.  Summer or winter.  Spring or autumn.  The sparkling laundry fluttered and flew and often froze.  Board stiff long johns and flannelette nighties.  Her magical hands orchestrated it all with ease.  Held it close and let it go.

Hands that could cook up a storm.

Her hands were a sight to behold in the kitchen.  She cooked and baked.  Stirred and tossed.  Kneaded and coaxed.  Folded and cut.  Meals were prepared with tenderness.  Cookies were baked with love.  Cakes were dressed and adorned for every occasion.  Table was set.  Dinner was served.  Dishes washed and carefully put away.  Countertops glistened.  The floor was swept.  The refrigerator hummed with contentment.  Such power in those hands.

A paint brush found its place to dwell.  Between her thumb and pointer finger.  Strokes and splashes across the canvas.  Dabs and feather light lines.  Details drawn.  Smudges and smears.  Oil on canvas.  Flowers and trees.  Fruit in bowls.  The Sleeping Giant.  Artistic.  Expressive. Imaginative wondrous hands.

Her hands held books and magazines.  On topics diverse and sundry.  Her hands were eager to learn. To grasp the meaning of life.  To find the truth.  To seek wisdom.  To scratch her head when none of it made sense.

Fabric was transformed in her hands.  Curtains from calico.  Tablecloths from cheerful colorful cotton. Dresses from wool or the softest silk.  Jumpers from baby wale corduroy.  Skirts that twirled and flared.  Slacks that zipped or buttoned.  Shirts were crisp or casual.  A surprise dress at the end of a school day.  A new wardrobe to start the year.  Machine sewn.  Hand stitched.  Embroidered edges.  Guide me home.

Hands that gripped life and love and held on tight.

The exquisite hands that caressed my newborn head.  Supported me while I learned to walk.  Clasped my hand on my first walk to school.  Tended to my scraped knees.  Wiped the tears from my eyes when my heart was torn and broken.  Touched my shoulder with the language of love.  Embraced.  Hugged.  Carried.   Stroked.  Hands that gripped and held on tight.  To love.  To life.

Young hands.  Mother’s hands.  Old hands.  Grandma’s hands.  May they reach down from heaven and touch this daughter’s heart tonight.

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.