FEATURE — Eighteen years ago, I had the best breakfast of my life.
I know, it’s kind of strange to remember a singular meal so long ago. But all these years later I vividly remember those crispy hash browns, scrambled eggs and that homemade scone with honey slathered all over it.
And I salivate.
This particular meal happened to be the morning after I got engaged to my husband. That might have something to do with it being so memorable – that and the fact that the engagement was such a long time coming after dating for nearly three years that our families had nearly given up on us.
It might also have something to do with the fact that we’d been camping when he popped the question. We’d exhausted our food supply the night before with modest tin foil dinners, and breakfast was long overdue after packing up and Jeeping out of the mountains mid-morning.
And then there is the camping consideration: That first civilized post-camp meal is almost as sweet as that first post-camp shower. Or air conditioning.
Even though I’d thought often and fondly of that long-ago breakfast and was in close enough proximity to repeat it at several points in the intervening years, I hadn’t. We hadn’t.
It remained a beautiful and ever-distancing memory. Until last weekend.
Last weekend, on a whim and longing for a good meal away from home, my husband and I darkened the door of Chick’s Café once again.
We found a seat in a booth we soon realized was directly across from the one we’d breakfasted at when we were newly engaged. While we awaited our hash browns, eggs and scone, we wondered aloud what it would be like if the couple from that morning 18 years ago sat across from us now.
What would we think of them? What would they think of us?
“Well, that’s easy,” my husband said. “I’d think, ‘Well damn, I’m a hippie!’”
We laughed. But mostly because it’s true – the man who sat across me now wears a beard and his hair long enough to show some curls. The man from 18 years ago had hair cropped short and was clean shaven.
Back then he’d been the president of the college Republicans. Now, friends are starting to refer to him as “Moses” on account of his glorious and gray-streaked beard.
Of course, more than physical appearance has changed between then and now. For both of us. I’ve got the gray streaks, too – although thankfully no beard.
But now we’ve had 18 more years of life together. We’ve had children, mortgaged homes, juggled careers, balanced budgets and traveled the world.
We’ve navigated grief and loss and expectation.
We’ve said goodbye to two parents – one who died well and one who, thanks to Alzheimer’s, did not – and to a nephew who died violently on the cusp of… well, everything. We’ve birthed three boys and raised a dog.
We’ve laughed and cried and fought and cleaved.
“What would you say to yourself about all of this?” my husband asked, both of us looking again toward our ghosts across the crowded café.
I sat quietly, between bites of honey-covered scone, not quite sure of my answer.
After shared silence, he shook his head.
“I don’t think I’d say anything,” he concluded. “There is a lot ahead for them, but since I wouldn’t change who I am or who we are today, they’ll have to figure it all out just like we did.”
We paid our bill and left the café, grayer and wiser but still happy together and in love. And now full of a new memory of the best breakfast we’ve ever had.
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