Wheaties are just one of those constants of life. And a few weeks back, I saw boxes of Wheaties lining the grocery store shelf. And though I’m not a huge fan, I could not resist bringing one of those orange cardboard boxes home. My impulse buy was probably linked to my need to hold onto something from my past that has resisted changing with the times.
So here I sit enjoying a bowl of Wheaties. The breakfast of champions. I can’t tell you which champion adorns the front of the box. But I can report that the stuff inside the box tastes just like I remember. It’s good. But the best part of this breakfast is that each bite stirs up memories of earlier days when everyone I loved was still here to love.
Instead of sitting at my mustard colored writing desk, I could be sitting at my Granny’s shiny and colorful oilcloth covered table. My old window is open just as Granny’s use to be, catching the morning’s cool breeze. Granny’s kitchen is as unpretention as she is. For instance, Granny always stores her box of Wheaties on top of her refrigerator. And Granny’s milk tastes funny. At least this is what I tell Granny. And she says something about it being fresh from the cow. I have no idea what she means. Old people say the craziest things. Doesn’t all milk come fresh from cows?
But now I wonder…did Granddad keep milk cows? It’s possible. Granddad got bored easily, trading one job for another across the years we shared life together. Granddad was always tinkering with something, always thinking of his next business enterprise. He was versatile — one time operating heavy road-building machinery to some other year raising chickens…. then onto lambs. I remember Granddad once owning a used car business; then in his final years he grew the best tasting produce — corn and watermelons and tomatoes and okra and I don’t know what else — but all of it was sold from the back of his truck, which he parked a block away from Shawnee’s Main Street.
Maybe somewhere in all those parade of jobs Granddad had milk cows too. But against all this changing source of income, Granny always kept their Wheaties on top of the refrigerator. I wonder now if Wheaties might have represented a thread of stability in Granny’s life, just as they do for me right now.
I thought my elders ancient when I was young. But of course, I now know that in the early sixties, Granny and Grandad were not so old. They were just 50-something, my age today. Likewise, my parents were in their late 20’s and early 30’s, the same age as my two daughters today.
These days Daddy is an old 79, to borrow a phrase of my sister’s. And with Daddy slipping away from time, I am reminded that soon I will be the elder. And even now in the eyes of my own grandchildren, I realize I may already be.
All of these thoughts have me hungering for more than a bowl of Wheaties. I long to hold in my hand, some old yellowed snapshots of my parents and my grandparents, especially ones that include my brother and sister and I. And last Sunday was no different. With no plans to do so, I was drawn to rummage through my trunk filled with forty years of musty keepsakes. The time was well spent as I dredged up a few old photos of my parents that I took in 1969 with my first Kodak Instamatic camera. The images are not sharp and clear. In fact, the photos are fuzzier than my memories. But even so, it was good to see my parents so young and vital again.
It was these forty year old photos of my young parents, who were champions of their children’s lives — rather than the champion currently featured on the front of the orange Wheaties box — that kept company with my bowl of Wheaties on my makeshift breakfast table this morning. And as good and constant as the Wheaties were, they are no god. And as good and fleeting as my elders were, they too were no god. Nothing in the world can substitute for the Reality of God. And it is good to count on God remaining the same, especially when life is pulling a rug out from under your feet.