2. A provisional reality

There was a process to cooking oats for breakfast (whenever this was a viable choice) that passed from one generation to the next — passed along passively, that is, and maybe not even consciously. It was a bleary, leaning against the bench, simple sort of morning ritual, although not observed very often, that became an ‘I’m awake, I’m in control’ activity, done more or less to give the preparer an appearance that they really knew what they were doing.

The parental process (although the remembrance had it down as a dad thing) started with about two finger-widths of water in a saucepan on the stovetop, brought to boil then a good handful of rolled oats thrown in. Again, the remembrance had this as a sprinkling rather than tossing the oats on top. There could have been a pinch of salt involved. Then some largely uncommitted stirring, until the gloop resembled porridge.

Now, it was only occasionally that the saucepan made an appearance, because if it were used then it had to be washed. There was always toast, and the quick packets of microwave oatmeal were so efficient and easy — but sometimes the ritual was needed, as was the mood that sprang from the unfocused process. The stirring, for example, became not so much a personal act as an observation of an act. It was almost a reassertion of early morning dreams into the first physical actions of the day, a folding and mixing of dreaming into wakefulness acted out in that lax stirring on the stovetop.

Still, half awake and half not, it was easy for Benny to fall into the sort of rambling thought stream that pushes dreams along. The change from oats to porridge because of the bringing together of saucepan, water, heat, stirring…. the change from the collector of new coins, witness to death, to the sleepy stirrer now…. each is sort of the same thing, but made different because of other elements, other circumstances. This just-dreamer is both that kid, the same person, but so much a different person — isn’t there some urban myth, or maybe it’s true, that every cell in the body is fully replaced every seven years? It’s like that. The same but different… renovated.

So the solidity of the morning could become a little shifty over the porridge ritual — a sort of segue back to where dreams spring from. Then it became easier to turn on the witness inside. To step back and observe the wakeful doings that follow, to let that observer take the steering wheel for a while.

On some days it was easier than other times to maintain the dreamer’s view once out the front door. It was an observable fact that the weather could be an influence, and on days of cold winds or maybe drizzling rain his attention could be snapped back to the immediate — although not always. Warmer hazy days were more conducive to stay in the dreaming mind — or the observer mind; I drove, he was driven.

I know that Benny found this frequently helpful, to be able to view the day’s solidness more as a provisional reality than something to get involved in. It was a view that became an antidote in otherwise strained or just on-edge moments, and so could become actively sought out by this external and interacting citizen. It was an attitude in which he seemed yet to be convinced that what was going on around him carried any weight of actuality. Secretly, I found this encouraging.

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