Once upon a dream“I just want a little bowl of cereal for breakfast,” an old woman says as she sits down at her breakfast table.  She forgets, though, to let you know what goes with her cereal.

Next to her little bowl of cereal sits a yellow tote bag.  In the bag are her medications:  heart pills, liver pills, eye drops, water pills, acidophilus, stool softeners, muscle relaxers, spiralina, pancreatin as well as blood pills, gas pills, hormone pills, vitamins, and supplements.  Next to the yellow bag, moving counterclockwise, is a tray shaped like a fish.  It holds soy sauce, ’cause she can’t use salt, goat’s milk ’cause she can’t eat regular dairy, and a tub of diet margarine since she can’t eat butter but needs something on her cereal.

Don’t just plop the cereal bowl down on her good wooden table. First, put down a place mat, then a tray, then a plate under the bowl.  What might happen if crumbs fall off the plate into the cracks of the place mat?  If toast crumbs get away, who knows what might get lost next?

Directly in front of the bowl and a little to the right, almost touching the knife, is a glass of cold water that comes from the filtered water pitcher in the refrigerator.  The water is too cold for swallowing pills, so put in a splash of hot water from the tea kettle whistling on the stove.

Slightly to the left of the glass of cold water is a mug of freshly boiled water.  Lying beside the mug is a tea bag. Don’t put the bag in the water in the kitchen.  Bring it to the table first, or the tea will get too strong.

You don’t want this dear old woman to get the jitters.

Right behind the glass and cup, directly in front of the mat with the tray, the plate and the bowl is a plastic Tupperware box.  Inside the box are 6 jars.  These are the ground up seeds and nuts that make cereal nourishing and make it taste better when you can’t have dairy and sugar.

Behind the box with the jars of seeds and nuts is a nice tall jar filled to the brim with plump dates.  A long pair of scissors lies on the table with the sharp blades pointed toward the fruit.

Coming on around, still going counter clockwise, is a little stand to hold the morning newspaper or a book, depending on whether it is a day for light or serious literature.  Next to the reading material are two extra pairs of glasses and a magnifying glass pointing toward the napkin that has only been used twice, so why throw it away?

Hidden behind the stand that holds the reading material is a bowl of brown sugar and a jar of honey in case she can’t stop herself from having something sweet.  And in the background, from the public radio station, the low wail of “Your Cheating Heart, You Made Me Cry,” as the hour slides into the morning headline news.

What courage and sadness lurk in this small woman with her breakfast and book and broken heart?   Is she all of us who ever wanted something: a bowl of cereal, a lasting love, a well-lived life where wants, transformed into longing, become fuel propelling us on?