The twin tote bags are massive. My daughters could fit together inside one of them, and we’d still have room to spare. Yet my husband and I fill them each morning with all the necessities for daycare: sheets, blankets, bibs, extra clothes, sippy cups of water and milk. Each girl has a bag for her lunch. I try to send them with home-cooked meals and fresh fruit, but there are days where I cannot scrape together enough energy to slice their grapes into 16ths. Sometimes they make do with pre-packaged.
My 3-year-old invariably throws a tantrum. (Reason why my child is crying: I wouldn’t allow her to wear a Tinkerbell nightgown to school in eight degree weather). We calm her. The baby is sleeping and we have to wake her. I nurse her, change her, and dress her in record time. Her perfect, tiny nose needs a kiss. Coats, hats, gloves, and boots go on. My husband hauls the bags, and we shepherd the girls out the door and into car seats. I drive them to daycare, escort them into their respective classrooms, where their ever-cheerful teachers are waiting. I dole out breakfasts, hugs, kisses, and promises of fun with their friends. I tell them that I’ll be home soon.
Back into my car, I check the time. I have one spare minute before I absolutely have to get moving again. I exhale with relief, and enjoy my 60 free seconds. My loyal green travel mug has been patiently waiting for me all this time. I flip the lid and sip. Coffee.
I start the car, and prepare for my 18-mile schlep across the county in rush-hour traffic. I take another sip. I flash back to the time before my mornings were pirated by the needs of two little girls, a time when I could say with certainty that I applied mascara to both eyes. My coffee mug was smaller then. I wonder if other working mothers can function without it. I wonder if I am uniquely challenged by my daily life.
I wonder: Is there a blessing for coffee?
Thanks to my formative years being spent in yeshiva, I believe that the shehakol is technically my answer. The catch-all blessing covers the kinds of foods and snacks that the ancient Jews wouldn’t have recognized. But I want something stronger–a deeper, more specific show of gratitude. When it’s made well, doctored with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of half-and-half, the taste instantly soothes me. It wakes me up enough to handle whatever crisis my children or my students might encounter. I can deal with my commute through the sidestreets of eastern Queens, dodging daring pedestrians and gypsy cabs. Coffee makes my mornings possible.
I stumble through shehakol, and add a personalized amendment: Thank You for this morning, and all it entails. Thank You for the life, health, and safety of my family. Thank You for my husband. Thank You for my work.
And thank You, again, for my coffee.