Free Breakfast by Terri Kirby Erickson

The Springhill Suites free breakfast area
was filling up fast when a man carrying his
disabled young son lowered him into his
chair, the same way an expert pilot’s airplane
kisses the runway when it lands. And all the
while, the man whispered into his boy’s ear,
perhaps telling him about the waffle maker
that was such a hit with the children gathered
around it, or sharing the family’s plans for the
day as they traveled to wherever they were
going. Whatever was said, the boy’s face was
alight with some anticipated happiness. And
the father, soon joined by the mother, seemed
intent on providing it. So beautiful they all
were, it was hard to concentrate on our eggs
and buttered toast, to look away when his
parents placed their hands on the little boy’s
shoulders and smiled at one another, as if
they were the luckiest people in the room.

Free Breakfast

I suspect you may have been to one of those free breakfast areas at a hotel where you go and help yourself to the food, find yourself a seat among the other guests, noticing them or not. Right from the beginning in this poem, one small group stands out. Erickson describes how a father carries his disabled young son, lowers him into his chair, the same way an expert pilot’s airplane / kisses the runway when it lands. I had to stop to catch my breath right there.

And all the while, she tells us, the father whispers to his son perhaps telling him about the waffle maker, or talking about where the family was going that day, what they might do together. Whatever the words, the boy’s face was / alight with some anticipated happiness, a happiness clearly shared by both his parents, reflected beams of light to all who witnessed.

So beautiful they all were, so engrossing was this tableau, the speaker could scarcely focus on the breakfast food. You can feel the sense of not wanting to stare yet being captivated by the sight of these parents touching their son’s shoulders and smiling at one another, as if / they were the luckiest people in the room. No room for pity for these parents or the child’s disability, only love radiating from each of them, indeed the luckiest people in the room, shared with all those present.

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