At Home in New Hampshire
Dish towel on my shoulder, spatula in hand, I walk to the base of the steps. “Breeeakfast!,” I yell, bouncing a vocal bank shot off the stairwell and hallway doors.
I wait. I perk up my ears to sense a bed spring creak or the bump of a foot on the floor. I hear nothing. Take two: a deep breath—my ribs expand, my jaw opens—and, as though singing over an orchestra, projecting all the way to the cheap seats in the rafters, I call: “Breeeeeeeeeeeeakfast!!!” The ring wakes a banjo on the wall. “IIIIIIIIIIII want breakfast!,” it hums, in C modal tuning.
This is my Tuesday aria. In a work week bent to fit days as a professional baker as well as additional work as a writer and cookbook author, it’s one of two mornings I’m not at the oven or shaping baguettes. On Tuesday, to the accompaniment of the steam kettle and sputtering pancakes, I holler wake-up songs.
Families with children, pets and busy lives recognize the operatic potential of the morning routine. As characters descend and enter the kitchen, they play the jester, dramatic heroine or she-warrioress, depending on the day. Sleepy greetings beget ensembles, and action erupts on musical themes: “Do you have track todayyyyyyyyyy?” “I haven’t seeeeeeeeeeeeen your pants.” “Pass the syyyyyyyyyyyrup!!!!!????” Scenas and arias, full cadenzas and high-note finales—all options as tea is poured, pancakes are plated and clocks tick toward car- pool deadlines. Our children are ten, thirteen and fifteen years old. With long school days, after-school commitments and college around the corner, our time as a family unit seems scarce. I remember the random advice: “Enjoy it, it goes by so quickly!” My response in the early years, while pushing a stroller on two hours of sleep, was something like, “God, I hope so.” As is the case with many lessons, here I am, *almost* ready to pass along the advice.
But, amid the rushing around, sword fights, triumphal marches and lamentations, we do find moments to pause. And when we do, food is our gathering place. Some mornings I make French toast, or grits with milk, and maple syrup. With a few extra minutes, I can quickly assemble pancakes or “power waffles”—a whole-grain waffle with grated apples and smushed bananas. Holiday mornings allow time for biscuits, or scones, with bacon and eggs.
As the kids have grown, I do feel some sadness over the lessening of purpose in our roles. My wife and I have lost our jobs as director, costumer, vocal coach and fight choreographer. But, I also realize that perhaps we’re moving on to the long-running part that will define our careers. We are the audience. We watch. We clap and cheer. We holler “Brava!” or “Encore!” We cry at the sad parts; we celebrate with the good. And we make pancakes, and wait for the next act to start.