It wouldn’t be the same without traffic. It wouldn’t be the same without trains.
Dining out with my 3 ½-year-old is also imminently easier, by comparison, than if we were joined by his baby sister.
Don’t get me wrong, we both love Emily.
But, Jakey and I have certain routines. We sometimes have our fun just the two of us.
When we get to Pine State Biscuits, he mills around in the lobby of the business complex because the rest of the place has been under construction for what seems like years, most of his life. Sometimes there are workers on ladders and other times just scaffold and various hydraulic lifts that are themselves both remarkable and oft remarked upon by my son.
I get the Reggie and coffee. He likes the blueberry pancake.
After that, I fill my coffee mug and he finds a table. Then we begin watching in earnest. He looks at delivery trucks and buses passing out on Division and 11th. From our seat this morning he could see the crossing guards come down and each orange line Max light rail and each cargo train roll through. Motorcycles rumbled past and a jacked up black pickup of the style he refers to as a “monster truck” idled outside the window for ten minutes when a slow-moving line of boxcars came to a complete stop on the tracks before backing up and parking in the intersection.
The pickup truck driver’s body language twinkled with frustration. His hand thumped rhythmically on the side of his truck as he craned his neck to see what could possibly be the hold up. He was hating life. He obviously didn’t come this way as often as we did. Those crossing guards drop every few minutes on a busy morning. A one-way street corked like an upside down bottle, catching all those frustrated drivers at the bottom.
Trapped by a train.
Finally, he climbed down from his unreasonably high urban perch and asked the woman in the station wagon behind him if she would back out into Division so that he could do the same and extricate his truck. I can only imagine how the conversation flowed. But, he climbed back up into his rig and she backed up and he backed up and that got him moving again. In that high, high cab on those big, big tires, eastbound on Division to the monster truck rally I imagine he must have been late for.
Jakey mostly watches vehicles over my shoulder and I mostly watch people. Sure, we talk, too, but small talk is not really where he is right now. It’s more pointing out amazing machinery and asking questions. We talk about what things are and where they might be going and I get a lot of, “Did you see that?!”
I get it. UPS trucks and dump trucks and fire engines are cool.
I love the morning bustle at Pine State. The staff are friendly. They’re surprisingly effective at slinging biscuit sandwiches and keeping the coffee pots refilled. They are a true cross section of S.E. Portland all clad in black. Some tatted, some bearded, some pierced. Some all of the above. Breakfast for two and free coffee refills for $12. It hits the spot.
We saw that cargo train a couple times due to its backing and blocking operation. Plus, two or three Max lines. A big morning.
For my part, I enjoyed getting a seat inside on a surprisingly calm morning at the restaurant. I enjoyed not feeling the need to stare daggers at anyone who decided to sit and read their morning paper alone in the corner booth big enough for six with the little sign stating, “Reserved for parties of four or more.” Like that one time Heather and I were there with both small kids and the tables were packed. Except for that one big table with the single occupant, his paper spread out, saving space for friends who arrived much later. That guy was a jerk.
Going out to breakfast with Jakey this morning was so much easier than a year ago. It’s hard to imagine what he might be like this time next year, even next winter. He’ll have a lot more life under his belt by then.
Can this be our hangout, our routine, as he gets older? Will I bring him here in high school on a warm summer morning like this? Maybe he’ll drive us. Maybe cars won’t have drivers by then. Will I still like biscuit sandwiches and gravy?
These things are hard to know.
Not all of them. I suspect I will still like gravy.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up—understandably—in surviving the now that it is hard to appreciate how far we’ve come or what it’s all about.
Tonight when I said goodnight to Jakey, I told him, “I had a really fun time going to breakfast at Pine State with you this morning. Thanks.”
He said, “Me too… Thanks.”
He did his level best to focus and maintain eye contact, even though it was his mom’s night to read and he loves stories and he was on the cusp of that reality as soon as I shut the door.
I’ll take it.
I’ll take him snuggling up on the bench seat next to me to look out toward the train tracks and the Max line, hoping to see a train. I’ll take his questioning that sometimes borders on incessant because I love his curiosity. It’s the last thing I want to quash.
We have some more breakfast dates in us this summer. And after that a nice fall. A few years from now kindergarten and too soon growing up and these young days of parenting will remain only as distant memory.
That sounds dramatic. Just the same, I talk to parents each year on the day they drop their kids off at college. I see the tears and hugs and head shaking at how it went so fast. And in little more than a blink those same parents are hugging their college grad almost four years later and they’re often hugging me. Now they are really shaking their heads because it was just the other day they dropped them off for orientation and not long before that they were tiny children.
So I see it. And even if I didn’t see it, they tell me about it. Tears brimming at the corner of their eyes, voices a little throaty as they replay that accelerated timeline life has been on since the kids were born.
Suddenly I understand why a parent would want to lift his child out of bed and give him one more hug at night. Just to make sure.
For now, though, most cars don’t drive themselves, those crossing guards will keep dropping across 11th just down the street from Pine State, and I most certainly still like gravy and biscuit sandwiches.
That means our breakfast dates will endure and we’ll make new memories. Tomorrow is nearer than next week and next year and graduation and wondering where the time went.
The time is now. The moments are many.
And the moments are everything.