The Breakfast Soundtrack

AlbumCovers-BeachBoys-EndlessSummer(1974)FullAlbumCover

I’m an introverted only child, born to an sweet, oddball mother and a studious, slightly wacky father. For my entire life until I went away to college in 1999, we operated as a pretty tight family unit with lots of unwritten, albeit strongly adhered-to, rules. One of those rules was Sunday morning breakfast.

Mum is a late riser – 10:30am at the very earliest. Daddy, on the other hand, is habitually early to rise. Like 6am early; it’s sick. I was never that great at waking up, even as a kid, but on Sundays, he’d always get me out of bed around 9am. Then we’d go downstairs and start cooking.

Breakfast started a little differently in our household. When I was very little, say 5 or so, my primary duty for Sunday breakfast prep was to pick a record for us to listen to while Daddy cooked. Almost every Sunday, I picked the same record to start the morning: The Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer”. I loved the album cover art so much, and can remember tracing the lines around their faces and hair with my chubby little fingers.

As eggs were being beaten and bacon fried, I’d take my place in the living room, doing a weird speed-walking/dance routine thing around the border of our fake Persian rug. I loved walking in circles (and turning in circles, and thinking in circles…whoops), and would literally do the same thing for the entire time Daddy was cooking – 45 minutes or more. Today I’d probably be diagnosed with some disorder, but I was zoning to the music, enjoying staying between the lines in the decorative rug border, and loving the smell of bacon and French toast that filled our house.

Once he had finished cooking, Daddy would ask me to change the record. Our special in-joke was that the “finale” of breakfast prep was always heralded by the same song. Daddy would turn the speakers so that they were pointing towards the master bedroom, where my sainted mother still slept peacefully. Then he’d turn the volume all the way up, and let me place the needle at around minute 11 of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (with Cannons). Horrible? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.

Just after Tchaikovsky had had his say, if Mum was being stubborn and staying in bed in protest (yes, I’m definitely this woman’s child), I’d get to take her breakfast up to her on a tray. Even if she was a little perturbed, she’d always be so sweet and sleepy, and happy to see both me and her breakfast. I’d crawl in bed with her and watch her eat her French toast, and hopefully get a snuggle in before it was time to go do other Sunday things, like maybe go to the movies, or to the flea market.

Eventually, our Sunday breakfasts became a little looser, and sadly less musical. When I got older, I’d help Daddy make breakfast and we’d normally watch TV while things were cooking. The record player moved into my bedroom around the time I turned 13, where it enjoyed Donovan, The Beatles, Chicago and Aretha Franklin on heavy rotation. The Beach Boys didn’t make it out to play that often, but I never forgot them.

In 2009, I ran the Chicago Marathon – 26.2 miles of streetscape winding through a decent handful of Chicago’s neighborhoods. “Endless Summer” got me through a few months of training, and a huge portion of that day’s run. I wouldn’t call it a favorite album, by any means, but it’s the perfect cadence for a plodder such as myself. More importantly, it’s perfect for zoning out as you run in a circle, dreaming of your next encounter with a huge plate of home-cooked breakfast.

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