I knew it would be a slow Monday. The last few have been slow, trudging along the way I do most Monday mornings because my body needed more sleep than I got to recover from a long end to another week.
I woke up mumbling, grumbling that my wife was leaving. Her foot heels clicked and capped over our floor. I heard her rummaging through the fridge, finding food for her lunch. I heard my boy move in his crib.
Her departure each morning sends a switch to my son. Whenever one of us leaves, and he’s in his bed awake, we must say goodbye. If we don’t, it’s a sign of bad things to come for the person left behind. So the switch gets turned and Dawn greets him. From time to time, she’ll change him or give him that sippy cup. If she doesn’t have time, I’m limping or crawling or fumbling out of bed to do whatever. Then Dawn leaves.
Sometimes the boy turns the switch off and returns to sleep without a sound. Sometimes—read, on Mondays—he doesn’t. He knows it’s my day off. He’s knows once I’m awake, grasping for darkness and wrapping my fingers around the air hoping that sleep will return, that I cannot return to sleep. We don’t share the same switch. He’ll happily find an hour plus nap when late morning comes and I give him back to the bed. But me, well, I’ll sit up, unable to meet sleep, unable to sink back into that weird dream about being on some new Blue Line stop that I’ve never seen before. No, I’ll stay awake and be mad at him because he’ll fall right to sleep. He’ll grab that fuzzy blue or green blanket and breathe deeply until the sleep fairy comes and takes him away.
Before his nap, before he became my little enemy on Monday, we cooked breakfast. First, we put up the clean dishes from the washer. Second, I washed the stray dishes that were perching over the sink and along the countertop. I have a rule: I don’t cook in a dirty kitchen. Dirty is defined generally as a kitchen with crumbs anywhere; a kitchen with dishes in the sink; or a kitchen where any of the counters have things on top of them which will prevent me from doing my business. Third, I cut up cherries for the boy and placed them on his high seat. He watched me, waiting for me to put him up with the cherries. I had time. We had 2-3 more minutes until I knew he would complain about it being as late as 8:30 and his having not yet ate. This kid has been telling time by his belly for months.
I started the grits, remembering that recipe that Grammie Joseph used for shrimp and grits. I didn’t have the energy for those grits, so I improvised, thanking God for a microwave and for water and for milk and for cheese. The grits cooled while Bryce stood there, silent, questioning me in his eyes about those cherries and about that milk. I turned the fire under the skillet for the turkey. Incidentally, when you don’t eat pork, can you say ‘bacon’ if you would only be eating turkey bacon in the first place? Just a question.
The bacon crisped on the stove. I placed the kid in the chair. As always, he put too much in his mouth for me to think him safe. I lectured him on how we eat one small slice of cherry at a time, maybe two. Certainly not five. He cheeks bulged with his eyes. He was happy. I knew he was because he was quiet. He’s happy when he’s quiet and when he’s squealing.
I scrambled two eggs after the bacon finished. He started calling. He was done with his cherries which meant, impatient as he is, I was late with whatever was next. I put the grits before him. He started saying “hot” as I blew them. Then he joined me blowing the grits. They were already cool enough, but this blowing thing, this “hot” thing is a tradition between us.
I started spooning him grits. I moved back and forth from the high baby seat to the stove. “Hot” blow spoon spoon walk away. “Hot” blow spoon spoon walk away. He didn’t like this but he got over it. I brought him eggs, siding them with the rest of his grits. I pulled my bowl of grits and my saucer of bacon and eggs. He looked at my plate and then pointed to his. He thought I was moving too slowly. I felt him say, “Hey, daddy, wake up. Get it moving.” We ate. Him first mostly. When he was finished, he asked for milk. He had water. I told him to drink that.
He pointed to the sippy cup on the counter. “Wait,” I told him. “Did I rush you through your breakfast?” He looked at me, his face turning to the side. I wondered what he was thinking. It wasn’t even nine o’clock and he was already laughing at me in his little head. I got up to give him his milk after I finished. He drank and I watched.