Before Breakfast


Finally John Steinbeck’s Breakfast inspired me to write the following:

Alone by Sue Hollister Barr

On January 1st of 1988 I suddenly found myself utterly alone with two young children to support. The cold fury of endless blizzards swirling around me perfectly echoed the cold horror swirling around inside me. One night, just when I thought I couldn’t stand another moment, let alone another complication, two new complications hit.

On foot, I was hurrying home from work to rescue my children from the irresponsible teen who was the only childcare I could afford. The snow’s frigidly surreal silence reflected how unbearably alone I felt.

I slipped on the ice. Just as I realized, sick with despair, that my balance was too far gone and there was nothing I could do to stop myself from falling, a hand shot out and caught my elbow with an iron grip. I hadn’t known anyone was behind me; my worries over broken bones and no health insurance were gone. But once home, in the midst of discovering that the irresponsible teen had run off and left my children alone, I found that my wallet was also gone.

I checked and re-checked everywhere. Had it fallen out of my pocket in the midst of the aborted fall or had he who had aborted my fall also picked my pocket? Tears smarting, I finally had to give up my search and picked up the phone to start all the dreary calls to cancel credit cards and everything all else.

No dial tone.

The phone lines… The blizzard… Visions of people running up thousands of dollars of debt on the credit cards I had no way to cancel…

I started to cry in earnest, my screams of despair joining those of the two crying children I held.

“I’m so sorry!”

A man’s voice! The phone wasn’t broken; I must have picked it up before the first ring. He went on to apologize for not calling me earlier but said he’d had trouble finding my phone number in my wallet. He knew where I lived. Would I mind terribly if he just handed me the wallet he’d found in the snow through his car window at the end of my block because he was terribly late going somewhere or other?

I’m not sure to this day whether he understood why I then broke out with laughter. But I understood in that moment, and have never forgotten, that none of us is truly alone.

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