I almost never have cereal in the morning.
One of my kids left over a bowl of cereal, with the milk already poured. I decided to eat it instead of letting it go to waste. As I did, self critical thoughts criss crossed my mind.
“If I had a better sense of self, I would not be eating a bowl that Yaakov didn’t want.”
(Perhaps I also felt guilty for mistakenly pouring him Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, which he doesn’t like, instead of regular Cheerios.)
“No. You simply don’t want an unused bowl to go to waste.”
(It’s at times like this that the “Baal Tashchis” rule can be very helpful. It can assuage a parent’s guilt. Especially when the cereal is partially soggy.)
As I proceeded to eat, my mind was pulled back to the memories of my Grandma Esther. Grandma’s family owned the Hillel kosher dairy in prewar London, and my beloved Grandma was very particular about how milk should be served. Milk is not supposed to be cold, she explained lovingly. Milk is supposed to be kept at room temperature so it doesn’t chill coffee or tea when you pour it in. In the morning there was always a small, metal pitcher of milk that was left out of the refrigerator so that it could be room temperature. When I ate the cereal this morning, the milk was already room temperature, and I was back in Grandma Esther’s house in Far Rockaway, eating cereal with room temperature milk.
I missed Grandma, I missed the child I was, and cherished the memories, wishing they weren’t just that.
I poured myself a few more Cheerios and replenished the milk in the bowl straight from the carton. The bold, cold milk brought me back to reality. I am a father, with children older than I was when I sat in the kitchen on Roosevelt Street in Far Rockaway, having my cereal with room temperature milk. Part of me is still there. Part of there is still me – regardless of how cold the milk is.