My Daughter's Unusual Breakfast Order Changed the Way I Look at Life


I’ve shared a lot of stories about my son and how his autism has taught me some valuable lessons in life. But I’ve never shared a story about my typical daughter. She’s 20 and home from college for the holiday break. The other day, we were driving to pick up some breakfast at a local fast food restaurant, and as we were sitting in line, waiting for our food she says, “Make sure to ask them for jelly!” My response: “For what?” Her response was, “For my hash browns.” In shock, I said, “You eat jelly on your hash browns?!” She then proceeded to explain how it came about that she learned to like jelly on her hash browns…

“When Papa used to drive me to school every day, we’d always stop for breakfast, and he would get jelly for his hash browns, and that’s when I tried jelly on my hash browns and have eaten them that way ever since. I really miss Papa driving me to school every day.”

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There it was. By the look in her eyes, I could see the fond memory playing in her mind. We drove down the road and laughed as we talked about other things, but the thought of hash browns and jelly stayed with me. Or maybe it was the thought of what hash browns and jelly really meant.

Over the holidays, I attended the funeral of my boyfriend’s father. Throughout the services I could see by the looks in tear-filled eyes as different family members, I’m sure, replayed each of their own “hash brown and jelly” moments.  It was hard to watch but served as a sobering reminder to be grateful for each and every moment we’re given with our loved ones and to soak in the seemingly meaningless moments that somehow later turn into the most meaningful memories.

As smart as human beings are, we tend to over-complicate life and our search for its meaning. The conversation with my daughter and attending the funeral have caused me to stop and reflect on it. Is the meaning of it all in the “hash brown and jelly” moments? The moments we don’t really realize are moments until they’re a memory?

This has all made me look at things from a new angle. One of my sweetest memories about my son was the first time he told me, “I love you, Mom,” using his iPad. But truthfully, I’ve never thought about how he may remember the same moment. Maybe his memory is “I finally got to tell her I love her!” I remember how his face lit up when we gave him his swing set. I remember him using his iPad to tell me, “I am happy.” Perhaps his memory is, “Somehow they knew what I wanted.” I remember the first time we drove past our local Sonic restaurant and my son said “mik” (translation: milkshake). I’m not going to lie on that one, I damn near wrecked my car in shock. Maybe his memory was, “That was the day I was heard.”

It’s easy to replay our own memories but not as easy to imagine ourselves in the memories we leave for those around us. Hash brown and jelly moments aren’t planned — they just happen. They can often happen in the day-to-day hustle, when we tend to go on autopilot and aren’t always paying attention. We sometimes don’t know that they’re moments until they become a memory. So don’t forget to smile, don’t forget to hug, don’t forget to laugh  and don’t forget the jelly for the hash browns!

But most important, don’t forget to pay attention to it all.

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