Of Waffles and Belonging

Last Thursday morning, the day Miska and I celebrated fifteen years of gritty love, I sang Seth a tune while he pulled on his sneakers for school: Dad’s taking mom to breakfast to celebrate / Dad’s taking mom to breakfast to celebrate / Oh yeah, Dad’s taking mom to breakfast to celebrate (it’s best if you snap along).

Seth exhaled an agonizing groan. “Nooooo fair, Dad. You get to go to Waffle House!”

Of course, Waffle House hadn’t crossed our mind. We did consider The Pigeon Hole, a little house in the University district where, if you like, you can sit in the cobblestoned courtyard underneath a massive oak tree and order red-eye gravy laced with Shenandoah Joe’s coffee grounds. We did consider Blue Moon on Main Street where your first move upon arrival is to look up at the blackboard in the corner by the fireplace to see which gourmet thick-sliced bacon they’re offering (the Moon is where you’re likely to see a person order, all at once, an apple omelete, griddle cakes and a shot of jack daniels). The Nook downtown was an option, where you can enjoy French Toast while watching the town walk by. Of course, we could always pick the Bluegrass Grill, where you endure their kitsch garage sale mugs in order to lock your lips on the most astounding home fries. We did not think Waffle House.

Every month or two, however, we’ll pass by the House of the Waffle, and Wyatt will say, “Dad, you’ve really got to take us there again.”

“Yeah,” I say. “We’ll do that…Sometime.”

My boys like the waitresses who call you “honey” and the short order cooks with the yellow hats who yell out orders like a minor league umpire. They like the hash browns, the pancakes, the sticky syrup at the table. However, I believe they like Waffle House mainly because several years ago, in Clemson, I took them for a guy’s Saturday morning. We sat at the bar next to a guy from New England wearing his Boston College jersey and in town for the game with the Tigers. The atmosphere was crowded and rowdy. We chatted game day and drank coffee — and the boys were included in the ritual.

I also believe Wyatt and Seth like Waffle House because two years ago, when my dad was visiting, he wanted to take all the guys to breakfast. We had three generations lined up at those counter seats. The boys filled their bellies and joked with Pa and were inaugurated, amid maple syrup and OJ, to a family of men.

Every place in this world of ours, every place, can be a space of holy memory, of love, of belonging.

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