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Long before Bruce Willis had one, my Daddy had one.

This morning I sat at the kitchen table in a state of remarkable calm considering that it is a school morning. School mornings are artificial in a way, considering that we must, at the crack of dawn, try to think up everything that could possibly happen over the next eight or nine hours and be ready for that. Not just, what shall we eat now, but also what will we have with us to eat later; and for “eat” fill in any verb, and there’s a college day.

“Do I need my Bio book?” Probably better, in case you have an hour downtime you can get started on that chapter.

Seriously, who wants to think that far ahead?

Am I going to want coffee later? (Hmm. I’m going to say yes.) Bring my refillable Dunkin’ cup? (Needs to be washed.) Do I have two singles for the cafe? (Their debit-card reader is broken for the two-hundred and sixy-fifth time this year.) The heck, I’ll figure it out later.

This is why God invented vending machines: for the early-morning indecisives. If only He had been better about making sure we had quarters.

You know who never had any trouble with this stuff? My parents. My father, for example. Mornings were never scattered or frantic for my father. That might have had something to do with the fact that I think he wore the same Cold-War-Engineer outfit to work every day for thirty-six years: White shirt, polyester tie, gray, black or grayish-black suit, and the Pocket Protector, complete with two pens (red and blue), a mechanical pencil (Staedtler) and a wooden pencil (sharp); security badge clipped to the flap of the Pocket Protector. Wallet. Watch. Keys in a keyfold — that clever leather tri-fold contraption with the dozen nifty spring clips to hold each one key (this was before the automobile “chip key” whose girth ruined this noble male accessory). Coins. And all of this had come, swiftly and surely, from the handy surfaces, pouches and projections of The Kangaroo on the Dresser.

Years later my brother, our spouses and I sat in a movie theater and my brother and I, at least, completely lost the thread (?) of the plot of Pulp Fiction (that’s even funny to write, let alone contemplate) because we just sat there gaping at each other and going, “That’s Daddy’s Kangaroo!” I think maybe John Travolta was in that movie too. And Uma Thurman’s feet. But I only remember the Kangaroo.

My mother had her own calm morning ritual, and until I started housing college students I hadn’t understood it, or even fully remembered it, until one day I did it. The kitchen table, in the morning, always had a little row of objects. These were objects that my sister or brother or I had mentioned, in passing, probably out of the corner of a full mouth, some time in the last full moon, that we would need to take to school on such and such a day. Next to said objects were also food and quite probably a five or ten dollar bill.

“But I don’t need money today,” one of us would say. She would simply look at us as if to say, and until thirteen seconds ago you didn’t remember that you needed [object] and now you are convinced that I just saved your life.

“Besides,” she would say, placing a folding umbrella next to our books, “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

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