When I say these are ridiculously easy homemade chocolate chip muffins, I’m not joking. They can be whipped up late at night, just after the dinner dishes are done, before tucking into bed. That’s how I came about making them yesterday, hence the photo above lacking in any fanciness or food styling.
I began taking the girls to watch sunrise over the Atlantic at Race Point Beach in Provincetown a few years ago. My first attempt seeing a sunrise was in Normandie. I remember it was an April morning, my last trip to Paris before C and I broke up, though neither of us knew it would be our last time together, at least as a couple. Actually, when I think back, I guess we both knew deep down it was never destined to be, much as we tried, but that is a story for another day.
When I told him I’d always wanted to see a sunrise, and read Normandy was a good spot to watch one, he agreed to make the journey with me. We took a quick overnight trip to Deauville, settled in for a dinner of roast chicken with his mother at his flat there, then made our way to a hotel right across from the beach. I remember the morning air being wickedly cold, and him alternating between holding me tightly and doing jumping jacks to stay warm.
It turns out Deauville, beautiful as it is, the location we were in wasn’t ideal for watching a true sunrise. The first rays of sun are blocked by Le Havre, a better location to watch sunrise along that coast. While patiently waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon, I turned around to see the most incredible moonset. The goal might’ve been to see a sunrise, but seeing my first ever moonset was a welcome consolation prize.
We went back to the hotel, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, and drove over to Honfleur. It was still quite early, for France at least, so we wandered along the water—Honfleur is where the Seine meets the English Channel. I remember laying in a wet, dewy patch of grass in a nearby park, and it was at that moment, I reluctantly felt the beginning of the end.
We went back to Micheline’s house for lunch, a salad of delicate lettuce hearts and fried chicken gizzards. Oh, how he loved watching me struggle through that meal with my vegetarian tendencies. The idea of being vegetarian would’ve struck his mother as odd, so I gladly ate anything she prepared, especially since she’s one of the most amazing home cooks I’ve ever met. A kind, simple, hard working woman, worn by life’s challenges, yet still equipped with a smile I always felt oozed love and warmth.
The memories of my years with C feel much the same as those of my time with Michael, dream-like. Did we really have a snowball fight on the Pont des Art at midnight? Did I imagine the hike through the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and our stop for fresh baked pita in a clay oven fired by burnt palm leaves?
Did I really leave him on the curb of Court Street to catch a taxi to the airport when he broke up with me (the first time) after dinner at Frankies 457? And did I really drive teary-eyed, white knuckled to the Newark Airport to try and catch him before he boarded his flight?
I regret none of it, not even the shattered pieces of an already fragile heart that still wonders why I wasn’t worth taking the risk to love fully for all that I am, and brought with me. I learned that one of the qualities I loved most about him, his spontaneity, wasn’t really about love on his part. Spontaneity ill-managed is really a way of not committing. Giving into our urges can do more harm than good. It’s a fine line between living in the moment, and only living for the moment—that’s been the most valuable grain of wisdom I’ve learned during my seven years of grieving a deep loss.
Leaping at a moment’s notice is easy. Being patient is hard, especially when you want something deeply. Taking chances, being spontaneous is important, but doing so for the right reasons is even more important. Internal safety nets exist for a reason, not to deter us, but to catch us, sometimes save us from ourselves, until we one day realize our decision to fly is an effort to run towards something meaningful, instead of away from some deep-seated fear.
I’m thankful we didn’t experience my first sunrise together, for now the memory of witnessing that moment a new day dawns belongs to me, and me alone. I can claim as it a victory, resilience in the face of grief—belief that a new beginning is possible even when it feels just the opposite.
When I woke Isabella this morning, darkness still blanketing the sky, she said, “just to be clear, I’m only in this for the muffins.” Deep down, I know she’ll look back on these pre-dawn Cape Cod memories, and realize the muffins were merely an amazing bonus.
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