Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Breakfast, Best Friends and Broken Coffee Mugs: A Lesson in Letting Go

If I miss one definite thing about life in Portland, it would be breakfast. It may sound odd, but it truly is a way of life there. Breakfast is when people socialize, it ends up being the most important meal of the day and the most successful restaurants are probably the breakfast spots. When I didn't live on the same side of town as my closest friends, the best way to spend time with them was to meet for breakfast. There was one particular restaurant that we loved more than the others, Jam. And there was one particular friend I'd meet the most, Amanda. She is my longest friend, my most selfless friend, and was the only one I considered to stand next to me on my wedding day. When I think of breakfast in Portland, I think of her the most.

My last full day in Portland of course had to be started with breakfast at Jam and Amanda ended up being the only friend that was able to come with Vinnie and me. We had the same waitress we almost always have when we ate there and she overheard me refer to it as my "last supper." When refilling our coffees, she asked, "Is one of you moving? I thought I overheard you say that." I told her yes, I was moving to Ireland with my new husband the next day and chose Jam for my final breakfast out. I told her it had been my favorite place over the years and I was sad to be leaving. She came back with one of the coffee mugs they sell as merchandise and told me she wanted me to have it, so I wouldn't forget my favorite place and all the memories I made there. I saw Vinnie look disapprovingly at another thing we'd have to fit in our already too-full luggage but it didn't matter. It was one of the most thoughtful things I took with me; a gift from someone I hardly ever talked with except to say good morning and "I'll have coffee with cream" and questions here or there on the specials. It meant so much to me, to know that maybe it wouldn't just be my friends that would notice my absence in this city. I left behind some clothes to make room for that coffee mug in my suitcase. I don't think about those clothes.

Everyday since I've arrived in Ireland, I've had my morning cup of coffee from that mug. It's a bit larger than an average mug, all white with orange flowers and green leaves, and black lettering that says, "Jam on Hawthorne, Cafe and Art house, Portland Oregon." I've been making these amazing hot, milky coffees with cinnamon sprinkled on top, and every time I sit down at the breakfast table to drink that coffee while checking emails and Facebook, I think of sitting across from Amanda. I picture us eating Tommy's Joint - scrambled eggs with fake meat chorizo, salsa and sour cream, wrapped in a sun-dried tomato tortilla. Or maybe I've chosen my favorite - scrambled eggs with avocado and cream cheese, with a side of hash browns and spelt toast served, of course, with Jam's absolutely delicious and homemade, well, jam! (my favorite being their pear chai jam, seriously to die for). We're smothering everything in Aardvark hot sauce and getting as many refills as possible on Stumptown coffee and talking about every little thing that has happened in the days it's been since we last sat down for breakfast. We're both complaining about our waitress jobs, bad customers and bad tips. I miss my Irish boyfriend all the way in Ireland, hers is working the overnight shift and never home at the same time as she is. We're frustrated with roommates or the lack of funds to visit our families in Michigan as often as we'd like. Her car has overheating issues again, my bike got another flat tire. But the sun is out and the weather is gorgeous and we've got plans for the weekend so what is there really to complain about? It's all just normality now, we're far from home, but it's our new home, and we're still together and still best friends.  With each sip of coffee from that Jam mug, I'm brought back to another wonderful breakfast with her. And I don't feel so absolutely far away anymore.

Last night, after a long, freezing day of sitting at an outdoor crafts market with my husband, attempting to sell his T-shirts but not being very successful at it, I was putting our dirty dinner dishes in the sink and ever so lightly tapped that Jam coffee mug and watched it, ever so slowly, teeter back and forth until it fell on it's side, rolled off the counter top, and dropped like the slowest drip of rain down the windowpane before smashing into bits and pieces as it hit the linoleum. I stood there, without moving an inch, except to rush my hands to cover my open mouth. Vinnie's look said it all, he knew what that mug meant to me. He also is fully aware of my attachment to things and their memories, seeing how difficult it was for me to pack my life away to move to Ireland, to choose between one thing and the next, one memory and another. The tears began to flow, much faster than that mug fell. Yes, I am an adult, and I know full well that things aren't memories, that broken mugs aren't the end of my existence in Portland, and that the splattered leftover coffee on my floor is definitely not the hundreds of breakfasts I shared with Amanda. But it was the knowing, the realizing, the pull back to reality that I am far enough away where I can't just get another one, I can't just call Amanda and say, "Hey! I broke that mug! Let's meet at Jam tomorrow so I can get another one, and I'll tell you all about how things are going here so far, and also how I'm such an absolute klutz!" No, I can't do that now. Because I've permanently moved to Ireland. And Amanda is down the street, past the prom, past the beach and the rocks, all the way across the Atlantic and then still beyond the whole of the United States and right before it's far west coast, in Portland. Miles and miles and miles away. The tiny pieces of that coffee mug is the reminder that I am not, and was not, having breakfast with her every morning; they are the uncertainty of not knowing when we will sit down across from each other again, over tofu scrambles and Pacific Northwest brewed coffee.

Maybe soon I'll realize that I don't need that mug to miss her, or think of her. I don't need the old green vase by my bedside or the aprons hanging in my kitchen to miss my Grandma. I don't need the "I love you" rock to miss my brother, or the wedding photo album to miss my sister and I don't need to hear the "i carry your heart song" my other sister wrote for me to walk down the aisle to, to think of her. I definitely don't need the collage of photos to miss all my other friends, or the gorgeous framed print of my parents sitting at the end of my bed to think of them every morning when I wake or every night when I get to lay next to the love of my life. Because I have to remember that is why I am here. I am not here because I left everyone else. I am here because I am with my husband. It was a decision I made freely, one I do not regret. And I know everyone knows that is why I came here, I know they realize that I did not leave them behind.

I just hope they know...I carry your heart, I carry you all in my heart. 

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