I woke this morning knowing that I was going to make rice pudding for breakfast. Despite the simplicity of its preparation, I have only made rice pudding three times in my life, so the strength of my conviction that we were having rice pudding for breakfast is somewhat of a mystery.
I know that rice pudding is traditionally a dessert but it is definitively labelled in my mind as a breakfast item. I know that my mom made rice pudding when I was a kid, and I can only assume she served it for breakfast, thereby creating the association. But I can’t trust my memory. My memories of childhood are so poor that I think I must have been in a coma for half my life and no one is telling me. I wish I were joking, but the reality is that most people I know can relate their childhood experiences in vivid detail while I sit there smiling politely, wondering what’s wrong with me.
My apparent childhood blackouts aside, I can say that rice pudding is a comfort food for me. I didn’t wake feeling any particular desire to be comforted, but when I sat down with my family to eat the pudding, a smile burst forth on my lips, and a warmth circulated through me.
When the kids were finished eating their pudding, both boys came to me separately to thank me for making them a delicious breakfast. Zachary, my 3-year-old, actually made a point of finding me upstairs where I was employed in the glamorous task of cleaning out the bathroom sink drain. He gave me a hug, thanked me for breakfast, and then on his way down the stairs he commented to his mother that the rice pudding “was sooo yummy.” Clearly, the rice pudding was a hit.
Sometimes my kids are so sweet I can only assume they have an agenda. And sometimes they do. But then there are the occasions where their sweetness is genuine. For all the times their antics make me think I’m going to lose my mind; for all the times I am driving to a symphony of sibling rivalry and I toy with the idea of stopping the car and dumping the kids by the side of the road; for all the seventeen thousand times I’ve had to tell one of them to stop picking his nose or to wash his hands or to flush the toilet or to sit up straight at the table or… or… or… Those rice pudding moments make absolutely everything right again.
Today, I am thankful for… well, rice pudding, I guess. I’m thankful for these talismans of tradition, the vehicles into which we pour our comforts and memories and transmit them to our children to be carried forth into future generations. For some, they are lockets, or vases, or figurines. For me, it is rice pudding.
I picture my boys, older. Maybe they haven’t achieved something they worked hard for, maybe they’ve lost someone special to them, maybe work is stressful. Then maybe they start cooking some rice on the stove and the soft bubbling of the thickening liquid calms them. They add their milk or cream, then vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, reducing everything to a creamy consistency and filling their homes with a sweet aroma.
And if their memories of their childhood are better than mine, maybe they’ll remember the stillness of that one Sunday morning when the sun peeked through the window and they ate a breakfast that warmed their bellies, while they sat with people they loved and in whose presence they felt safe and happy. And maybe they’ll have little ones who will give them big hugs afterwards and thank them for yummy breakfasts.
Then maybe, for a little while, the world will be right again.