Any sufficiently bright and crisp morning will do it. I’m taken back to when I was a little kid, just 5 or 6 years old. A Saturday morning ritual, I’d get in the car with my dad and we’d go to Dunkin’ Donuts. He would always get a coffee and I’d always get a strawberry Nesquik. And while we differed on our taste in drink, we both loved chocolate Munchkins. With a dozen in tow, we would drive off to the park, munching along the way.
At the park, we’d hike through worn nature trails. I’d collect rocks and spy unusual things. My Dad would lead the way and we’d both search for good walking sticks. When the trail looped us back to the beginning, we’d head home, the sun still rising in the blue morning sky.
At home, my mom would be starting her own morning ritual with a cup of tea, thumbing through the newspaper at the kitchen table. My dad and I would return triumphant, proudly offering the remainder of our Munchkin bounty and breakfast would begin. My dad cooked up scrambled eggs while my sister and I read the back of cereal boxes.
This is my happy place. This is where I always go to feel at home. But the memory also serves as a bittersweet reminder of what once was.
In 2008 my parents divorced.
My house went up for sale.
In the summer of 2012 I moved out of my home.
One bright summer morning, I crawled out of bed, a stranger in a strange place. Outside the sky was cloudless and a slight breeze met the sunshine. I fumbled into the car and set a course for home.
The house hadn’t closed yet, it was still filled with boxes and half-sorted piles of junk. But the house was still functional. And it was still home.
I had the house to myself in the morning — like I always had for the past couple years. And like always, I made eggs, slid them on some toast and switched on the TV. Breakfast was brief and unceremonious. I slurped up my coffee and caught up with the news.
When the mug was empty, I plopped my dishes into the sink and killed the TV. In the sudden silence, I looked around the kitchen. Here I stood, at the epicenter of so many warm childhood memories. But this was also my home in transition. There was a life in this house that was leaving to make room for something new.
My stomach churned at the realization. I hated this. I hated that this was the last time it would be like it always was. I hated that it would never be this way again. I hated that I had no choice but to let go.
I told the house aloud that I loved it and I would miss it. I walked out, locked up and shook the door to make sure it was tight — like I aways did. I backed out of my driveway and drove off into the rest of my day.
And that was my last breakfast at home.
Any sufficiently bright and crisp morning will do it. I’m taken back to my childhood home, where breakfast with my family is a fond memory — but there’s a new act in this play — my last breakfast at home. They are part of my mental compendium, my encyclopedia memorabilia.
But today, it’s different. While I flip through the pages of my past, there’s a heaviness in my heart that’s leaving. There’s a reminder of the life that once was, and the way things were, but a realization that I’m making room for something new.
This is growing up.
And this is my nostalgia rising.