A long time ago there was such a thing as a breakfast tray. It was carried up to visiting ladies who expected to have their breakfast in bed (the gentlemen went down to the dining room). I wonder if this archaic custom, dependent on people willing to cook, carry up the meal, fetch the tray later and wash the dishes, was one reason marriages seemed—only seemed!—to last in what we are urged to call the “good old days”—certainly old, but far from good. At least you could count on an hour to yourself….
A dim and conflicted memory of the special set of dishes that adorned those breakfast trays, dishes never used for any other meal, compelled me to ask my oldest son to see if he could find a set for my Christmas present.
It took some searching. As he told me, most of the sets he found were not complete; certain elements had been broken.
The one he found for me is complete, with the little jam pot and its top, the mouse-sized cream pitcher, the plate with its button top cover for keeping hot buttered toast warm.
To cheer up my day after Christmas, I decided to put my set to good use. Having carefully arranged each piece on a tray with a white cloth, added coffee, cream, muffins and raspberry jam, I carried the tray to my bed.
As I was setting it down, my black dog, Pip, became agitated, running to the big French window and growling softly.
It took me a while to notice, but when I did and looked out the window, I saw three mule deer, delicate yearlings, drawn to my patio by a downed bird seed ball.
Something about the grazing deer and my breakfast in bed made me want to start the New Year with a few words about self-indulgence.
Really it shouldn’t be called that. The term dooms it in our puritanical culture.
Lets call it, instead, soul retrieval. Or body retrieval, if that’s more to your taste.
Most women I know work like galley slaves in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They are either taking care of their own children or volunteering to take care of those children of the world, the homeless.
It’s hard to find inspiration for soul retrieval, or body retrieval, in most of what we read. I had to search to find the two books I keep on my bedside table, for those dark early morning hours that often find me blue.
First, SARK’s Eat Mangoes Naked: Finding Pleasure Everywhere is just what its title claims. Its humor is raucous, the humor of a woman who has lived a lot and really isn’t looking for approval, and its simple yet revolutionary suggestions—revolutionary because they depend on a self-acceptance that for many of us is hard to come by—keep me smiling. I may not try all of them, but because they are there, they become permissible…
Next to SARK’s book is Jennifer Loudon’s The Women’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life. Her suggestions are simple and practical; you can look in the index for specific chapters that can help with topics like Loneliness and Depression. Although these conditions seem to induce apathy, if you can raise your hand to open the book, you will find relief.
And what a treat it is not to have to read about romantic problems. Maybe at long last we’ve heard enough of them.
So if you can’t eat breakfast in bed off a tray, or maybe don’t even want to, or see three deer browsing on bird seed outside your window, you can arm yourself against the mid-winter blues with the suggestions of two wise women.