In life, you get a handful of good mornings.
A fair number of mine were down at the shore house, when my cousins, sister, and I would be woken up early by my father, each of us reluctant to betray sleep, but only for a moment—because then our minds made the connection.
It was a French toast sticks day. My father would pack all of us into the car and drive us to the nearest McDonald’s, where we would order them—with extra syrup requested—and then head to the beach. In my memory, there was always one wooden picnic table near the entrance of the beach, where my dad would carefully give each of us a box of the rectangular breakfast treats, a napkin, and a packet of syrup, warning us to be careful to keep our sticky hands out of the sand.
It is those kind of mornings—quiet and sunny, with food involved—that I live for. They provide the unusual species of memory that convinces you that something happened countless times, although your logical mind knows that it happened only infrequently. Those mornings were a tradition, but also a treat.
During my freshman year, I was having one of many bad mornings. The usual issues—too much work, however important it may be, and too many people, however well-intentioned they may be. Just too much in the way between myself and the morning I wanted to be having.
So I did something that I don’t do—I dropped it.
I grabbed my backpack and started for the door.
“Where’re you going?” my roommate asked. He was doing what I didn’t want to be doing—homework for his 11 a.m. class strewn across his bed, phone vibrating with a group of people incessantly texting to determine where they would have lunch that day, only to decide that they would have lunch in the same place they always did, at the same exact time.
I looked at him. “Honestly no idea,” I said. “But I’ll be back in a few hours.”
I was on the T in what felt like a matter of seconds, and sitting on a bench in the Public Garden in mere minutes, and I felt sufficiently far enough away from BC to relax. I watched a woman painting the Swan Boats—an integral slice of Boston imagery that I have never been able to get myself excited about, for some reason.
I pulled out a book—the first time I had been reading for fun in weeks and watched the progress of two men and one woman walking toward people on the benches around the Garden and talking with them briefly before moving on each time. It looked like they were selling something, and I dreaded their progress in my direction.
Finally, a shadow was over my page.
They gave me their pitch—they were part of a Christian group, and I prepared myself for the usual discomfort that such conversations created. They asked me about my faith—I told them, probably not entirely what they wanted hear, but I had satisfied their interest. In my mind, I was anxious for them to keep moving, to bother the next ambiguously faithful person who had no idea why he was sitting on a bench late on a Wednesday morning. But they had one more question.
“What are you reading?” the woman asked.
I held the cover up to them, a wordless response that I hoped would convey that I was no longer in the mood to converse.
She raised her eyebrows, nodded. “Interesting,” she said. “Beautiful.”
I still sometimes disappear without telling anyone where I will be—it is my traditional treat. I never get what I’m looking for, but I am sometimes close to chasing down a French toast stick morning.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic