Friday, January 7, 2011

Breakfast of...

In one of last night's dreams I was caretaking my grandparents' house. It was just as it had been the last time I was there, 1959 or 1960. Most of the dream was spent locking and unlocking the front door as I was conveying people to and from Burbank Airport. Before the age of three, I lived in that house, and lived there with my parents when my father's active Navy duty ended, then again later, when we were between homes.

During the local evening news I was on the computer so my son relayed excerpts that I think of as signs of the apocalypse, which I worked to purge from my mind. With blessed swiftness, the vision of Congress pulling on its collective work gloves in preparation for throwing all of us under the bus swept across my mind and dissipated.

With the impenetrable linking that our brains conjure, the disparate elements of news meant to alarm, the airplane bungalow of my early childhood and its light-infused breakfast room and thoughts of what I might add to our menus that would make a cardiologist happy pooled together in one word: oatmeal.

Oatmeal was a breakfast staple. My grandfather had his with a generous pat of butter melted on top before the milk and sugar were added. My grandmother saved the cylindrical Quaker boxes and used them as hat stands in the upstairs linen cupboard. In searching for a sturdy and unfailing thread through all the uncertain times we've faced, for yesterday's news was not really news, something with the ability to sustain us, if not turn us in an about-face from fear, oatmeal seemed, as it always has, warming, grounding, setting us up to have a good day.

I find comfort in continuity. Living just outside the city limits of my home town does not cause me to feel confined or stifled. What personal, iconic landmarks remain are minutes away. Visitors will, like it or not, be driven past the elementary school, my friend Claire's house around the corner, the building where I worked as a reporter, its presses and Linotypes long ago sold for scrap, or the Norton Simon Museum, visible in Rose Parade coverage and once the site of a par-three golf course where my brother, father and I played on Saturday mornings.

The truth is that times have always been dicey, it is their nature. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, change wins. It has better lawyers and no place else it needs to be. In the spirit of familiar 12-step teachings, I find that the more I can align myself with what is, surrender, the more peaceful I remain. In blog browsing yesterday, I found these words left in a comment: grace comes from a state of uncertainty.

On the shopping list this weekend the word oatmeal will appear. Why it has been missing for so long I can't explain. It is back, not grumbling about having been ill-treated, holding no grudge, bearing no malice. Oatmeal may be, in its way, a man for all seasons, an underpinning of civilization. It is a constant of my heritage and, periodic indifference aside, has seen me through so far.

32 comments:

Kass said...

Isn't it nice they haven't changed the design or shape of their container?

I agree, it's a great comfort food. Mom used to put cream on hers. She weighed under 100 pounds most of her life and a doctor once told her, after checking her cholesterol: eat butter. Ah, wouldn't it be nice to have the continuity of a good metabolism?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - That is my dream. My brother-in-law can still wear his high school clothes, eats candy by the bag and never heard of cholesterol. As soon as they perfect the metabolism transplant, he's going to be a donor.

susan t. landry said...

"I find that the more I can align myself with what is, surrender, the more peaceful I remain."

so true, so damn difficult.

thank you; lovely posting. i remember we used to do all sorts of things with empty oatmeal cartons...play and make-believe activities...

Lisa Hoffman said...

I think that the evening news needs to say only this on the trailer running underneath the images of Crazyness and Impending Crapstorms:

"Eat Oatmeal...Eat Oatmeal...Eat Oatmeal..."

I feel better already. Thanks for the Grounding.

grrl + dog said...

Not only that, but as a food, it is

grounding, and has a soothing effect on the nerves.

All good for making us feel better all round.

Radish King said...

Pretty much right up there with beans and rice in my cupboard.
xoxo

ps. With golden raisins and brown sugar it's heaven.

Artist and Geek said...

Oats, some fruit and plain Yogurt. Yes. I said Yogurt. Think I'll have some.

Not sure if I want to start barefoot running yet though.

Vespersparrow said...

Oh, yes, a stellar breakfast--oatmeal, a pat of butter If I have it, raisins, brown sugar and a few walnuts--I sit at my granny's kitchen table in the early sun, drinking strong tea and reading--how could anything be better?

Laoch of Chicago said...

I think the Quaker Oats man needs a new outfit.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

"Nothing is better for thee, than me." 60 year old advertising that is still true today.
Erin

Melinda said...

This line:

"Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, change wins."

applause!

That is both the joy and the curse in my life. And it does seem to be about what I decide about it. It's a Practice. Over and over.

Thanks for the reminder!

T. Clear said...

"The truth is that times have always been dicey, it is their nature."

That about says it all.

When I was in Brownies -- 2nd grade -- I made my mom a "curlers carrier" using a Quaker Oats container, covered it in pink contact paper, and attached a soft rope strap. (I have to chuckle here at the notion of needing something with which to carry ones curlers!)
She used that thing for at least 30 years, probably closer to 40. I haven't thought of this in an age -- thanks for the memory prompt!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Thank you. The oatmeal cartons were nearly as good as cigar boxes for play, for storage.

The alignment process is far from easy. Just sifting through and being certain what is of THIS moment takes effort and powerful intention.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - If only...but grounding, in my opinion, is never wasted. And we all need to keep our strength up.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - That is it exactly. Not merely a symbol but good, solid nourishment. A cornerstone and all that.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - As they used to say, stick-to-your-ribs foods. We shall not be caught without it again.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - No yogurt explanation required. That IS in stock here. When caution is thrown momentarily out the window, it mixes very nicely with granola, too.

Barefoot running? No need for extremes.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - When I thought of oatmeal as a sort of common denominator, I had no idea, truly, how widely it is still enjoyed. I have not been paying attention. Special, though, at a grandparent's table.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - For once the market researchers must have said, it still works, leave it alone. But I can imagine the different outfits they tested.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - It appears to be true. Do you think they knew they had produced such an enduring product?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melinda - It is just that, a practice. At least we don't have to call it progress unless we want to. Change, just change.

Marylinn Kelly said...

T - What a fine gift, the curler carrier, better still that she USED it for so long. Another model of what endures. Thank you.

Angella Lister said...

oatmeal was the breakfast i fed to my children every morning before school, with a banana or blueberries and strawberries, maybe with yogurt on the side, and i always felt like a good mother as i put that oatmeal before them.

an underpinning of civilization? i think so.

Artist and Geek said...

:)
Granola: OATS, nuts, fruit. Mix. And "zere you go!".

Robert the Skeptic said...

Being reminded of the implications of the picture on the box of oatmeal is a Quaker, is not lost on me.

Maggie May said...

i am re-loving oatmeal this winter

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - I spoke with a friend today whoo attributes her sound health, and the long life that seems to be part of her family, to growing up with oatmeal and locally-produced honey every morning. More of an underpinning that I ever knew.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - I believe we have started our own breakfast club with the post. Zere you go.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - The symbols of our Puritan heritage remain among us. Yet the Arizona shootings yesterday tell me we are being called to account for our recent attempts to make hate appear virtuous. Fortunately, oatmeal may be found in a variety of packages, completely beyond politics or religion.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Maggie May - Based on comments, it is truly the breakfast of champions. Enjoy.

Artist and Geek said...

:)
The oatmeal breakfast club. Where do I sign up?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - The applications are being printed...