I’m awake and I enter the kitchen, which is lit by a small table lamp. My father is wearing a red plaid bathrobe, seated at the table with his legs crossed, the top leg bobbing up and down, sticking out, white skinned and sparse-haired. He has a cup of coffee within reach, the newspaper is unfolded across his lap and part of the table, and one hand holds a bowl of cereal. He has a Tupperware container on the table into which he has shaken together equal parts of Total and plain Cheerios. This, topped with milk and banana slices, is his breakfast of choice. I have never liked milk and cereal, so I drop an English muffin into the toaster. I put my arms around him and we smile, hug and kiss. “Hi hone-y,” he says, pronouncing it so it rhymes with pony.
I sit and ask for the funnies. He is reading the World and Local news at the moment and hands me the other section of the newspaper. I look at or attempt to read Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Li’l Abner, Pogo and the Katzenjammer Kids. The Katzenjammer Kids always looks horrific to me but I can’t help myself, I have to look. There is something unnameably scary about them. They are always plotting an evil prank, and someone is angry and someone is giggling, but it is not nice giggling, there is something unconscionable about it. I feel that if I had done the prank I would already be confessing and apologizing about it. These children who have no remorse are frightening to me.
My dad gets up and makes me a soft-boiled egg. He serves it to me in the same red ceramic bowl. It’s a small, squarish bowl, white on the inside. Whenever I see the bowl, I associate it with the taste of soft-boiled egg, the way my father makes them for me, with butter and salt and pepper. It is an odd kind of comfort food. I don’t eat eggs made that way any more. My father generally doesn't cook, but he sometimes makes me an egg, especially if we are going to Mass. We wake up early to get it over with sooner. My brother and I frequently go to six o’clock Mass with him on Sunday mornings. The church service is extremely boring to me but I always feel sympathy for poor Jesus hanging there, undressed except for a loin cloth. In all kinds of weather, the cruel crown of thorns is pushed down on his poor head, his ribs are sticking out, and the same blood is trickling from the five wounds. Every week. I want to take him down from there. How long can he hang there, tearing at the feet and hands? The perpetual suffering of that image is mind-boggling.
After Mass we go to a little store where my dad buys the Sunday paper and tootsie rolls for my brother and me. I can smell the newsprint. I can smell and taste the chocolaty, chewy tootsie roll that is always gone too fast. I want another one but we’re in the car driving home. I smell the cigar in the ashtray. I play with the door locks and am scolded for playing with them. The sun on the upholstery has a certain Sunday morning smell. I’m in the backseat and my brother rides up front with my father. They don’t talk much. My father turns on the AM radio, which crackles and plays music I hate, such as Bert Kaempfert and his orchestra - muzak before it was called muzak. It is instrumental quacking of the most saccharine order -- like Lawrence Welk with more brass. I shudder even before I know there is such a thing as taste in music. I am five or six years old but I know I don’t like it. I want to hear Conway Twitty. Give me “The Flame” by Conway Twitty or “Dream Lover” by Bobby Darrin. Something wild, something dramatic. Looking back, I see that I didn’t know what taste in music was then either.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.