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Adam Chandler • Brooklyn, NY
Like many, my childhood Saturday morning routine consisted of a giddy, almost manic awakening at the insane hour of 8 AM. In anticipation of the cartoons that I was unjustly deprived of during the school week, I would ecstatically sprint downstairs, sometimes burritoing myself in an over-sized comforter and actually tossing myself down the carpeted steps because I’d surmised that it got me there quicker. Then I’d dive headlong onto the couch, managing in mid-air to press both the power button and the proper channel on the television remote. Then I’d land, fully delivered, into the bliss of Saturday’s most holy routine.
Shortly after 9, my mother would descend the steps, surveying the potential damage I would often leave in my clamorous wake, to find me breathing and engrossed by my television stories, many of which I’d seen countless times before. She’d ask me what I want for breakfast, but she already knew. I am convinced she just wanted to see me spasm from the total stillness and Wahabi-like devotion to my routine, and lift one chubby finger in the air. The finger meant Number One, the usual.
Number One was classically simple: a bagel, defrosted from the freezer, sliced, toasted, buttered, topped with plain Boar’s Head ham (honey-glazed ham was a sophistication I abhorred) and a slice of Kraft American cheese. The final product was then microwaved for exactly 27 seconds. Often times, if a commercial were showing while my breakfast was being constructed, I would saunter into the kitchen and, like a foreman overseeing a time-sensitive project, I’d micromanage the process if I felt my mother had become too engrossed with selfish tasks like making coffee for herself.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Number One held binary attributes of divinity because it was also the jersey number of Warren Moon, the star quarterback for the Houston Oilers and the very hero of my childhood.
There was also a Number Two, which was ordered so rarely that I don’t remember whether it was just a bagel with cream cheese or butter. The aptly-named Number Two was a shitty last resort for when the house had run out of ham (and I’d probably thrown a tantrum that would have made the South Park character Cartman blush).
As is life’s wont, I eventually began to sleep later as I transitioned out of the Saturday Morning Cartoon era of my early life. Warren Moon was traded to Minnesota and the Oilers moved, inexplicably, to Tennessee. Following my parents’ divorce, both my mother and I eventually established dietary regimens that did not include treyf, although I was fickle about it and eventually returned to my swine-loving roots toward the end of college. When I went home to visit, I stayed in a kosher home.
I now live in New York, home to both the world’s best bagels and bagel sandwiches. In my years here, I have tried, without success, to adequately reconstruct the breakfast staple of my youth using the same ingredients my mother once used. I have even tried substituting fresh bagels for frozen ones, local ham for Boar’s Head, and gourmet cheese for Kraft. But I have never made a Number One that satisfies the way it did when I was eight. I suppose the one irreplaceable ingredient in life is a mother’s love.