I envied my grandparents as they slowly made me breakfast.
They knew what to do without thinking, opening the thick, rounded doors of their refrigerators like a banker opens a safe. A slow turn of a stove dial brought forth flames that roared and danced until another, measured twist brought the flames down to an even, opedient blue ring.
How wonderful to have mastered such things!
My grandparents moved with a unpreturbed grace. The soles of their shoes didn’t slap the floor as mine did when I clomped about the kitchen. Each foot went up and down gently on black and white tile.
I don’t remember any eggs breaking when grandmoter lowered it into boiling water. Sometimes I could stand on a step stool and watch them tumble happily.
Instead of serving the eggs in cups, my grandmother cracked the shell, scooped out the gooey interior into a bowl, added salt, pepper and a pat of butter, then mashed it into a delicious, pale yellow mess that was perfect with rye toast. She served this to me with orange juice that my grandfather called Tropicanoh.
My grandparents lived in houses so scent with cooked food that the aromas never went away, even when the windows were thrown open to “let in the air,” or, later, when they moved to Florida, my grandfather turned down the thermostat dial to “make the air condition.”
I don’t remember anyone measuring ingredients. When I grew old enough to cook for myself and I asked for the recipe, I was told “just a bit. Not too much.”
I could not stop myself from gobbling my grandmother’s Cream of Wheat. It tasted so much better than what my mother made at home. I discovered later that my grandmother spiked hers with butter and sugar.
These old, slow moving people revered patience, peace and small pleasures. When I wanted to rush downstairs to the swimming pool, where the scrawny old men sat on lounge chairs and talked about their surgeries, my grandfather paused to feel the Flordia breeze on his face.
As I hurried down the Coney Island boardwalk toward the noisy rides and the possibility of brown, lusciously greasy French-fried potatoes from Nathan’s Famous, I would look back and see my grand parents gazing across the beach at the water. What was the big deal about being able to look at a beach and water, I wanted to know.
Instead of riding the merry-go-round, they watched me clamber up an outside horse, lean over and snatch a tarnished brass ring. I know I kept the ring as precious treasure that, somehow, I lost. But I have clung to what my grandparents’ said to me when I was frustrated, angry or crying from a scraped knee: with patience, peace and gentle persistence, all things we could want from life arrive at the right time.
I am now a grandparent and my experience tells me that too many things never arrive and those few that do are easily ignored, or squandered. I move slowly because the medication I must take frequently makes me dizzy. My body is stiff in ways that yoga won’t soften. I try not to recall the times when I could run fourteen miles in a day, or bike 50 miles, or teach back-to-back karate or doing that yoga pretzel pose so serenely, without feeling anything but accomplishment.
Number One Son has a grandchild that I have seen more often on a video screen than in person. Number Two Son works hard and likes to buy used cars, fix them and sell them. I’m not sure where his love for automobiles comes from, but I know the importance in reaching for, and grabbing that brass ring, whatever its shape or size, while you can.
I don’t need to ride the merry-go-round now to be happy for Number One Son’s new job and Number Two Son’s newest old car. You can be sure that when it’s time to make breakfast, I’ll add a little bit of butter or sugar to make a simple pleasure just a little bit more pleasureable.
And when I trudge my daily mile-and-a-quarter, or zoom to the supermarket on my bicycle, or hear my joints creak and crack as I squirm my way into a yoga pose, I’ll notice the fragrance of a spring breeze coming through my window, confident that, it’s not how many of the things you wanted that came to you, but what’s already here, that makes slow time so much fun.