The Last Thing I Loved: Sunday Mornings
Maddie Cain shares the three-part Sunday routine with her family.
I was awoken many times by a sensory overload: a spontaneous combustion of intrusive sun rays pierced through the cracked windows, only inches from my face, and streamed into my swollen eyes. There was a salty, fatty scent — a taste, even from this distance — of bacon frying in an oily pan. I could hear the grease sizzling and the bubbles popping, jumping up and bursting onto my mother’s arms. I heard someone scavenging through the silver wear drawer, bundling four forks, four knives, and a few spoons for jam.
I lay for a while and took it all in; I cursed and cherished the fact that my loft hideout had a large opening carved into the short wall. My father purposefully built a skylight to provide an open-air quality to our large, colonial-bay home that he constructed from scratch in the middle of a double-corner lot.
This portal to our downstairs was often a burden in my eyes. It was impossible to sleep in the loft if there was activity in the kitchen or family room, which was directly below the loft. But on Sunday mornings like this, I was secretly thankful for this large obstruction. This hole made it possible for me to be present in my family’s kitchen as they prepared Sunday breakfast without ever getting out of bed.
Eventually, my mother would howl my name to signal that she’d just dropped my eggs into the scalding bacon fat left over in the frying pan. That meant I had just enough time to rise, use the bathroom, and deftly slide down the staircase — my feet barely skimming the edge of each of the 13 steps — to be handed my plate of two overeasy dippy eggs, two pieces of well-done bacon, and some sort of bread. Sometimes, it was an everything bagel from our favorite New York bagel shop in Annapolis. Sometimes, it was a biscuit from a refrigerated roll. Sometimes, it was just plain-old, wheat toast. I would then grab a glass off the island, which would contain ice and two fingers of water, and fill up the rest of the glass with orange juice at the table.
My father would use the side of his fork and knife to criss-cross cut his eggs and mix the whites and yolks together. He would then stab through the pieces and finish his plate far before everyone else. As he ate, he would look around the table and make sure everyone was enjoying their meals as much as he was. As I look back, I think he valued these mornings the most.
My brother would build some sort of monstrosity out of the elements on his plate. That abomination of food would then be slathered in ketchup, butter, and any other condiment on the table. He would proceed to eat with his face only a few inches from his plate. He would, of course, speak with his mouth full. My disgust only fueled his amusement as he would look me dead in the eye and open his mouth, revealing the gnarled mush. It was like we were on a sitcom.
My mother would be the last to sit at the table because she would cook her eggs last. Isn’t it funny how you never realize a metaphor is happening as it is happening? She would stack her eggs onto her bread, followed by a layer of bacon, and, finally, crown her perfect sandwich with the remaining slice of bagel, biscuit, or toast. As she cut her creation down the center, she’d use the yolk oozing out into a pool as dip. She would audibly mmmmm as she took the first bites of her aesthetically appealing sandwich to remind us that this quality of meal was truly a treat and could only be produced on a Sunday morning.
I don’t recall how I would eat my food. Possibly because I was too infatuated with how the others interacted with their meals. But those sensations, like the leftover oil on my fingers, evoke overwhelming feelings of nostalgia. I ache for a time that will never be again; I wish I’d realized the importance of Sunday mornings.
I do not remember the last time I thought of these senses, those Sundays, or my family being together. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I sat down for breakfast with my now-divided family, nor the last time a meal was cooked for me that wasn’t at a restaurant. The days of living with family are over for me, until I make my own. I will not have Sunday breakfasts until I am the one cooking bacon in a pan, dropping in eggs, grabbing charred toast out of the oven, and sitting down last at the table.
My mother was always the last to finish her food. I would usually stay with her at the table, even though I had finished and most likely had homework to do. I loved watching her be at ease — just sitting and eating and relishing in the entirety of the production. Sundays were like a three-act play in my house:
Act 1: Preparation and Ingestion.
Act 2: Homework and Chores: We Go Our Separate Ways.
Act 3: Good Nights.
I don’t wish to go back in time and relive these moments, even though they were beautiful. I would prefer to watch this weekly occurrence from the bar that overlooked the breakfast nook. There, I had a view of the kitchen, too, so I could watch Act 1 from start to finish. I could catch the Prelude of my father making the first pot of coffee and the Epilogue of my mother putting the last dish in the drying rack.
And I would applaud until my hands hurt.