The Morning Ritual
The news is terrible but life is beautiful
Photo by Leo Hoho
The morning sun streams into the bedroom through the slats of the window blinds. I’ve been awake since the early hours when I heard the thwack of the newspapers against the front door. I make my morning coffee — precisely as I like it — strong, with hot milk, and bring it back to bed with the papers. As early as it is, Jonathan is long gone. He likes to start his day at the crack of dawn at the gym before going to the office.
After years of rushing kids to school and running to work, I have the luxury of time to myself and my slow morning ritual: sitting with my coffee, organizing myself for the day, scanning the newspapers, checking The New York Times online, and reading Heather Cox Richardson’s daily missive that lands in my email inbox around 3 a.m.
I am a news junkie, but Cox Richardson is one addiction I would not give up. In the darkest and most dysfunctional days of the Trump administration, when the news was wilder and crazier than the most intense Hollywood TV drama, Heather Cox Richardson, an American History professor, posted a synopsis of the day’s news on social media. Readers swamped her with comments, so she wrote another post the next day. Three years later, she continues to chronicle events in the United States, positioning the daily news within the long sweep of history. I always learn something.
My morning ritual unfolds in a home I love. Its rooms are much more than the place where I live. They are much more than the beautiful things I have comfortably arranged. The rooms are my sanctuary — relaxing, restoring, and reviving.
My house tells a good story. It tells a story of a daughter of a man who came to Canada with only five dollars in his pocket. I am astounded I have so many possessions. So much more than plenty. I rarely lose sight of my father’s story as I drink my coffee in this quiet enclave of Edwardian townhouses in downtown Montreal.
Everything in this house tells a story. We sit at a dining table that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It sits on top of a Persian rug from his grandfather’s office. It’s well-worn or distressed, not by some machine as is now the fashion, but by over one hundred years of use. I open a dresser drawer that belonged to my husband’s father when he was a child. I look up at the elaborate floral pattern of a heavy pewter plate hanging on the wall, one of the only possessions my mother brought from Holland when she came to Canada. It was a farewell gift from her girlfriends at the Phillips Electric factory. I see the other item she brought each time I open my kitchen drawer. It’s a silver baby spoon with a windmill pattern, and the little sails on the windmill spin. Although it’s tarnished, it reminds me she was hopeful about having a family when she came to this country.
There is an oil painting of a landscape hanging in my kitchen that my mother gave me when I was in my twenties. It’s unsigned, and who knows how she acquired it? She loved it but believed I needed it more. Years later, she came to visit and paid me a compliment. “You have a beautiful house,” she said. Then she announced that she wanted the painting back. Maybe she thought she needed it more than I did. I’ll never know. I ignored the request because I had come to love it too.
This house tells the story of a long marriage. The rooms are filled with books and art that we have collected together. Photographs of children and summer vacations. All the signs and layers of a lifetime.
This house tells the story of who I am. Its colours, furnishings, objects, and textiles are my autobiography. The unfinished projects that I have in mind tell me who I am becoming. There is always something in need of repair and renewal, but that’s like me. We’re a work in progress. I start my day taking it all in. The news I read is terrible, but life is beautiful at the same time.
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If you are curious about Heather Cox Richardson, you can find her here.