THIS will be the first Father's Day in a long time that I won't be treated to breakfast in bed. My two children, who have now left the nest, devised this Father's Day ritual 15 years ago when they were about eight or nine years old. Of course, they would make, and later purchase, cards and gifts to go with their breakfast on a tray, but it was the meal that was the heart of their gift to me. They practiced making breakfast on various weekends before the third Sunday in June. Debbie, the firstborn, would direct all preparations, just as with her playmates she organized and led the parades that our neighborhood was spontaneously required to view. Unfortunately, as a dance student, Debbie knew parades much better than cooking, having spent little time with my wife in the kitchen. No matter, she winged it whenever in doubt, and no menu was beyond her grasp.
Son Tommy's specialty was eating. He also earned a black belt in stumbling. Combining the parade management skills of Debbie with the sleight of feet of Tommy meant that the sounds of the feast could be heard an hour in advance of chow time. And as native Washingtonians, the kids learned to whisper at 16th and K Streets.
My wife and I always appeared surprised as the duo marched into our bedroom. Always the same ritual: The kids sat on the bottom of our bed until I consumed every bit of food. Debbie's specialty was rubbery eggs, the subject of extended conversation between my wife and me as to her secret. James Beard would have gotten thin doing his push-backs with Debbie's plate of vulcanized eggs, but I was forced to eat them in ever-increasing quantities.
Tommy, on the other hand, learned to make toast from Ivan the Terrible's recipe. His theory was that if toast wasn't hard enough to be stomped on with Siberian boots, it wasn't fit to eat.
The kids beamed as they watched me eat. When they were little, they would sometimes end the ceremony by snuggling in bed with us and participating in a ``my favorite story'' talk-in. Or they'd bring in a game that we would play amid the plates and cups.
It will be quiet this Father's Day, but I will think about those days with the kids. And chances are that before the day comes to an end, I'll have a hankering for some rubbery eggs and burnt toast.
Thomas V. DiBacco is a historian at the American University.