Words by Kathryn Monsewicz
No Paramount Picture with a crown of stars to start my day. I’m not Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress stepping out of a yellow taxi cab, sipping on an espresso and nibbling away at a Danish pastry, gazing at fine jewelry through big-eyed sunglasses. I’m not at the curiously empty corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan.
I begin my day somewhere else. As someone else.
And it all begins with breakfast. Because that’s what I always do.
First I select a coffee cup from my array of “special” cups I’ve collected over the years since I began drinking coffee (thank you, “Gilmore Girls”). I have my choices. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or maybe Irises, perhaps the one shaped like a snowman, or maybe the yellow one from my late grandfather. I choose. Then I place a coffee pod in the Keurig and start the brew.
Next, a bowl. It has to be a green bowl, the one with the wavy lip. Because it’s what I always do.
Half a cup of plain oats with two-thirds a cup of water. Stir and microwave for one minute as I choose a knife and tiny spoon from the cutlery drawer. I take an apple from the fridge. I pluck the little bottle of McCormick cinnamon from the spice cupboard. I slice the apple into fours, carving out the seeds and the stem. The microwave beeps, “one, two, three, four.” Yes, I wait for the four beeps. All four. Then I cut the apple into chunks, setting three slices aside. I sprinkle… no, I pour the cinnamon into my oats, fold in the apple pieces, and microwave the bowl for another 21 seconds. Because that is what I always do.
I put a tablespoon exactly of creamer in my coffee. I stick the three slices of apple in my oatmeal — each slice separated by an inch of space. It’s what I always do.
I mosey on over to the living room, my sock feet sliding over the hardwood floor.
And I sit cross-legged on the floor behind the cherry wood coffee table, watching the early morning news with my father still asleep on the couch behind me. I turn the volume up to 18 because it’s right between too soft (16) and too loud (20). It’s what I always do.
The Today Show is about to begin, 7 a.m. on the dot every weekday, blaring their trumpets in the opening (Trumpets? Clarinets? Banjos? I don’t know what instrument they use). Headlines roll out — politics this, amazing medical miracle that and celebrity deaths those. I’m having breakfast with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. Because that’s what I always do.
I pick and play at my breakfast, sip and swallow my coffee. I eat the oatmeal in little sections, by chunks of apple and, in intervals, nibble on the three slices I topped the oatmeal with. It’s what I do. It’s what I always do.
Breakfast is important.
Your pediatrician said it when you were seven. Your health and fitness Pinterest board says it. Cheerios have been the champion of it since you were almost a year old.
But to me, breakfast isn’t just another meal, or just a time of day. Breakfast is a starting point and it’s the same starting point for every race, for every siege in life’s battles, and for every story that has yet to be written. Breakfast is stability for me. Stability before the change of day.
In case you didn’t already know, the sun rises in the same place every morning. The east. Where is the east? Why, it is in the same place. Every morning.
Humans are creatures of habit. Why? Is it because repetition is the mother of learning, as my eighth grade honors government teacher would say (Mr. Dempsey would be so proud that I remember that)? Or is it because we’ve evolved into a survival mode that requires us to lean toward non life threatening habits?
These are all good answers. But they aren’t my answers. Having a routine, a uniform practice that is the same thing everyday, Monday through Sunday, something stable that you can always rely on — this is my starting point. My starting point is where I can say goodbye to yesterday’s mistakes, and begin again with a clean slate, or rather a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee.
I know I’m going to change throughout the day. I don’t know how or why, but I know I cannot control anything after 7:15 a.m. because that’s when breakfast ends. I take my last bite of oatmeal that is usually void of all the apple chunks I picked out. I sip the last of my coffee, always wishing I had more so that breakfast could last even longer.
And soon I am to be someone else. But tomorrow, I know, I will be who I always am at seven o’clock in the morning.