The breakfast started early; they were serving people by 6:00 am. So every year my mother would get up at around 4:00 am so that she could arrive by 5:00 am at the Masonic hall where the breakfast was held. The hall was a suite of second floor rooms, including a kitchen, located above a department store on Main Street. Mom didn’t drive at that time, however, so everyone had to be up–my father to drive her to the hall and me to go along for the ride because they didn’t want to leave me home alone.
It made for a strange morning. I usually liked to keep out of my father’s way in the morning because he tended to be grumpy. On Good Friday, however, we were bleary-eyed companions. We’d drop Mom at the hall and return home. The old man would sit at the kitchen table and drink cup after cup of instant coffee until just before 7:00, the time he liked to go to the breakfast. Dad and I often didn’t have a lot to talk about, and I was always grateful when the morning paper was delivered early enough for him to read before we went to the breakfast.
The breakfast itself, however, was good. The menu included pancakes (rare at our house) and waffles (unknown at our house) in addition to the eggs and oatmeal that were inescapable at our house.
They also had grapefruit, and this presented three problems. The first was generational because it neatly illustrated my growing suspicion that grownups were impossible to deal with. The serving line was the grapefruit gauntlet.
The woman standing behind the little plates with the half grapefruits would ask if I wanted some. If I answered no, she would invariably say, “Well, I bet you’d like it if you tried it.” If I answered yes, she would say, “Are you sure? Most kids don’t like grapefruit.”
The second problem arose only if I was actually able to secure the grapefruit. I’ve learned in subsequent years that the civilized way to serve grapefruit is to take a knife to it first and separate the little sections so that the thing can be eaten easily with a spoon. But the ladies of the Eastern Star didn’t do things that way. They would simply cut the grapefruit in half and plop in on a plate. I didn’t know about taking a knife to it because no one told me to do that and I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out on my own. So I’d start stabbing at the grapefruit with my spoon. The juice would squirt out unpredictably, sometimes at me and sometimes at the people around me. Either way, I would attract unflattering comments.
Problem number three arose only if I was able to get some of the grapefruit or its juice on the spoon. The stuff tasted awful to me. I mean, it’s fruit, right? Fruit is supposed to be sweet, right? Not grapefruit, at least not this grapefruit. It was as sour as vinegar. No wonder we never had it at home.
I wonder now why no one suggested that I put some sugar on it. I also wonder why I never asked what the connection was between breakfast and Good Friday or what was “good,” for that matter, about Good Friday.
Kids ask a lot of questions, but I guess no kid ever asks them all.