Breakfast at the Parthenon

In case you were thinking that perhaps I had been to Athens to have breakfast tacos on the steps of the Parthenon, the answer is, “no.” I have never been to Greece and am not likely to go there any time soon.

These past 10 days have been rather distracting and disjointed with Mary Lazarus being ill and all…it was hard to muse about joy or consider what aspect of seeing my computer die might somehow end up with joy as something at the top of the list! But, Mary Lazarus survived and I got the digital aspects of my life back together, so I found a bit of time to reflect on joy again.

It began with the simple thought of breakfast. When I was young, Saturday and Sunday breakfasts were a big deal. On Sundays we always had something sweet – donuts or coffee cake or muffins. My parents made coffee in a percolator and it smelled divine. We came home from church, they made the coffee and heated up the donuts or whatever and we sat down to read the paper and eat our pastry. Saturday breakfasts were also memorable – our big breakfast before chores or errands. It was usually eggs, bacon and biscuits or sometimes (more often when I was very young) it was just pancakes. My parents could both make some of the yummiest pancakes ever.

When I left college I moved to Denver. I had no family there, so sometimes I just created my own Big Breakfast. It was usually scrambled eggs, rough wheat toast, grits and bacon. I was a tea drinker exclusively at that time, so hot tea was a must.

A few months after arriving, I began dating a guy whose mission in life was to explore every greasy spoon diner that downtown Denver had to offer. We lived only blocks apart and Colfax Avenue was just a few blocks from our respective apartments. We both loved to walk in the neighborhood so that we could explore all the little spots along the way. Our neighborhood was called Capitol Hill and it had many historic homes built in what is referred to as the 4-square style.

Of all the places we explored, though, the Parthenon was Steven’s very favorite. It was small. There was a big stove in the front and it had a huge griddle where the cook could make eggs, fry ham, bacon or hamburgers – or all of them, and it permeated the entire diner with its smells. There was a counter with five or six stools and several tightly packed four-tops with Fifties-style chairs of vinyl and chrome.

Breakfast was almost always the same thing when I ordered – eggs, bacon and toast accompanied by a generous side of Calvin and Hobbes or the Rocky Mountain News. The two of us usually ate for less than ten dollars and neither of us ever got sick on anything we selected. We usually stayed for a couple of hours, drinking coffee (him) or tea (me) and reading the paper. Then we would wander out and walk the street and look into storefronts.

I ask myself often why breakfast has taken on such a place of significance in my life. I really can’t say. I know that in making breakfast, there is a since of satisfaction in the wholeness of the experience. It is a particular ritual for me – timing it “just so,” savoring the butter on the wheat toast, contrasting the tang of the bacon with the pebbly feel of grits…each bite, each aspect is just perfection. It is my favorite meal and my favorite meal to invite someone to share with me.

I have had friends to breakfast on snowy days or sunny days, on days when it was really cold outside or days when the sun blistered from 7 am on. Usually, the breakfast is every bit as basic as what I have described here.

Now that I live in the suburbs, there are seldom walks or exploratory wanderings down old streets with storefronts that house shoe repair businesses, comic book sellers, or those forerunners of convenience stores that primarily carry newspapers and cigarettes. I miss that aspect of my Saturday and Sunday morning greasy-spoon breakfasts.

This recollection, this wonderful remembrance of a younger time in my life brings back a large number of pleasant memories that seem joyful in their simplicity. And, they seem joyful in their lack of complication. The three years I dated Steven were some of the most wonderful times I spent, despite the huge limitations of that relationship. Being an urban explorer in a newly adopted town (it never felt like a city to me somehow) created a pallet of memories tinged with joy.

I think sometimes that much of my joy seems to live in memory. That it is easiest for me to pull from this old treasure trove of recollections and see some bit of remembered joy.

That is partly true. Still, it is equally true that breakfast has never ceased to be important, special, and meaningful to me.  I enjoy it in silence or in conversation, before an outing or just as ritual in and unto itself. There is a sense of stolen time that comes with breakfast.

And so, I make breakfast – which I now have with coffee – and think of my ritual as a means of blessing a busy life with joy. It is the time I spend in gratitude for the quiet moments, the small moments that fill gaps of my daily life with well-being and joy.

On some Sundays, I add Etta James to my ritual and play, Sunday Kind of Love:

I don’t want a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, Friday or Saturday

Oh nothing but Sunday oh yea

I want a Sunday. Sunday

I want a Sunday kind of love

Oh yea

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday kind of love

I invite you to consider what things give your life quiet joy and a sense of context.

In all things, I wish you peace.

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3 comments on “Breakfast at the Parthenon

  1. Ah, breakfast. And breakfast with my cousin is a more special occasion. Each time she visits she brings me my favorite coffee . . . coffee with chicory. The smell, the flavor, coffee is the essence of a real breakfast.

    Yes, joy and happiness are found at my house at breakfast too. The ritual of preparing a meal, of sharing a meal, of savoring a meal. The stillness of enjoying the taste, of beginning a day.

  2. Martha Angel says:

    a tumble of memories from my own diner breakfasts and neighborhood walks in Richmond VA; lovely memories, thank you!

  3. Ron Welch says:

    Actually I posted my comments on the post announcing the resurrection of Mary Lazarus. My email queue is too full.

    I love breakfast, especially with the newspaper. But it can’t off-hand remember breakfast in the context of Joy. I suppose I had too many of those 3:00 a.m. Truck Stop breakfasts eaten while pulling an all-nighter during finals.

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