A Good Breakfast
My Grandparents were firm believers in the power of “a good breakfast.” They always rose before the sun was up, waking us up with the clanging of pans in the kitchen as they prepared the usual ritual. I used to suspect that perhaps Gram banged the pans a little louder than she had to, just to make sure no one could commit the evil of sleeping in until *gasp* the sun came up.
As a kid, I was never much of a breakfast person. My stomach didn’t really “wake up” until about 10 AM, but nonetheless on visits to the farm we had to sit there at the table, dutifully waiting while Gram served up hot oatmeal, or eggs and bacon, or maybe sometimes even cereal and bananas that she cut with her spoon, instead of a separate knife, to save on dishes. There was always coffee, which Pap sipped at rapturously while he jabbed us playfully in the ribs and told us, “you don’t know what you’re missing.”
After the meal we sat back down while they read from the Bible and prayed for what seemed like an eternity for every person they knew. As a child, I found this prayer time to be the longest, most torturous saga of the entire day. I tried to remain attentive, but my eyes slowly slid open as I watched the second hand on the old clock tick along, willing it to move faster. Breakfast was the interminable meal that I dreaded each day– first sitting through food that I didn’t want to eat, and then listening to prayers that I didn’t want to hear for people I didn’t know. I was always greatly relieved when it was over. “Amen” became my new favorite word.
After breakfast, we went to work. Even though my grandparents were retired and the farm no longer had the many dairy cows which they used to raise, there was always some kind of job to be done. We painted sheds, baled hay, worked on tractors, and cleaned up the shop. Of course, we kids mainly just got in the way, but we called it helping, and Pap didn’t seem to mind. We sometimes “swept up” the shop, moving the broom furiously and most likely moving the same dirt right back to where we got it from, but again no one seemed to mind, and we were happy as larks.
As kids tend to do, we would get tired about mid morning and want to go play. Pap would always say, “That’s because you didn’t eat a good breakfast. Now you’re tired, and the day isn’t even half over. Gotta start your day with a good breakfast.”
We would escape at some point when some friend of Pap’s ground his way up the dirt lane to the house in a dusty pickup, or sometimes even on an old tractor. We would hear the crunch of gravel when someone turned onto the farm lane, and we could watch the car wind carefully up the driveway, leaving a trail of dust that would make a Cowboy posse proud. We kids always gleefully awaited this “friend interruption,” because it meant that Pap would soon be distracted, and we could escape to play.
Those sunburned, carefree days of childhood visits to my grandparents’ Pennsylvania farm are among some of my most treasured memories. We spent hours running barefoot through the seemingly endless meadows and swinging as high as we could on the creaky old wooden swings, our bare feet among the stars. We lured the horses over to the fence with a handful of oats, and then tried to sneak onto their backs for a ride. Sometimes we ended up on top of their backs, and sometimes we ended up on the ground with a bruised bottom and an even more bruised ego. We fished for crayfish in the little creek, and swam in the small pond that it had created. If we were very careful and didn’t move, we could use the “shell” of the classic green turtle sandbox as a boat. Of course, if you moved, the boat sunk and you were doomed. 😉 We climbed trees, picked apples, and dared each other to touch the electric fence of the pasture. We sat in the barn for hours, trying to lure out the barn kittens, being bewitched by the soft light filtering through the cracks in the walls and listening to the chatter of the barn swallows.
Those were glorious, carefree days.
And yet, each day, there was that annoying tradition of breakfast. I dreamed of one day bucking tradition and asking Gram if I could go outside and play while everyone ate. I knew that my request would be met with blank stares and one of my grandparents saying, “This is breakfast time. We have breakfast, together.” The longer I am away from Pennsylvania the more I miss the quiet, simple ways of those who have been born and bred there. Mealtimes are wholesome and together. If you aren’t hungry, you sit there anyway. You always wait to eat until everyone comes home, even if it would be just as easy to make up an extra plate and microwave it later. Families in Pennsylvania wait until everyone is there. They eat together, and strangers are always welcome at the table. It’s just the way it is.
Looking back, perhaps the “good breakfast” symbolized more than just the food on the table, which was sometimes fancy, like pecan cinnamon rolls if we had guests, but more often plain. Wholesome. Nourishing, but in a quiet way. Oatmeal with a spoonful of brown sugar and milk. You might make it with raisins, sometimes. Toast on thick slices of homemade bread with butter. Orange juice. Eggs and bacon, 1 strip each. Coffee always.
And the prayers. Looking back, the prayers which were so incredibly long to me, as a child, have become some of the very best memories. They are burned into the effigy of my brain like a cattle brand, as I heard them as often as I visited. “Father we love you and ask that you bless and keep our family. Lord, we pray for Karen and Henny. For Jason, Lord. We pray for Deb and Jack and Emilie and Nathan and Heather. For Tim and Sherry and Jennifer and Kirk and Trish and Mark. Keep them in your hand, Lord. Draw about them today and let them know you love them. Surround them with your peace and blessing. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
It was always the same– every family member listed, in order of age. Every day, prayed over, with ever-wrinkled, hard working hands clasped together at that simple breakfast table, dirty dishes forgotten while the real nourishment took place– coffee cup in one hand, Bible in the other.
I often think about those times, now, as an adult. I think about the ways that my faith has sustained me through many hard times, and how it will sustain me through many more hard times to come. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes, life leaves you hungry– hungry for peace, or love, or healing. Sometimes life is almost insatiably ravenous, with seemingly no hope of fulfillment or satisfaction in sight. What do you do, when your heart aches, and you long to be filled with the purpose and confident plans of your youth? How do you find joy in the life you have, rather than in the life you thought you would have? How exactly can you do that?
“You have to start your day with a good breakfast.”
Nourishment. Hope. Love. Family. Faith.
Perhaps Gram and Pap were right. A good breakfast really was the way to start the day off right, after all.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which just means that we get a few pennies if you purchase through our link. I never recommend products that I don't personally use and love. Thanks!