The Breakfast Date — a Love Story Told in the Time It Takes to Make Toast

Set the timer on your toaster. This story will be short, but warm and with a fantastic ending.

Let it be known that I'm not a morning person. Getting up has been the consistent rival to falling asleep, sharing practically equal billing on most days. I'm the complete opposite of my husband, Eric, who can fall asleep anywhere and gets up at 5 a.m. on the dot, wherever we are in the world. He's not exactly walking on sunshine when he's up that early, but it's still most likely going to be another hour or two until he's joined by the half-version of me that is somehow navigating my body through my morning routine.

We've been doing different versions of breakfast together for the last 14 years. Whether meeting at a diner, cooking at home, or sitting in the car scarfing down bagels (leftover snacks and a stale Diet Coke if we're on a road trip), we've always managed to start most days together like this. Needless to say, it's something that has proven to be more memorable than date night.

Though the morning could definitely be the worst time of day to weigh on one's expectations, if anything, it can offer clarity. Anyone can see the "best you" when you've had time to prep yourself all day. Polished, witty, awake, and gorgeous. Morning dates? That's the real you, and they can be fantastically helpful in knowing how this whole love thing is going to pan out. The day is new, and your appearance hasn't been fully powered yet, let alone your brain charged up. It's the time when you'll learn the most about each other's quirks. I don't drink coffee, but will need a giant glass of water in the morning, and Eric likes digging Smuckers jelly out of the packet with a butter knife and eating it on the spot. He needs carbs in the morning to thrive, and I need to find whatever it is that will make me a functional human being (which is usually more sleep).

It's also the time when Eric's genuine sweet side is at its most vulnerable. No matter how cranky I might be, this guy will ask if I want a hot breakfast sandwich and wrap it in foil to take with me on the train. If he's frazzled, I'll try to get a laugh or cheering hoot out of him by flipping eggs in the pan with a flick of the wrist. We're gentle with each other, and it spills over into the rest of our days, much like the egg yolk I usually break in the pan.

Traditions can also be built out of the morning breakfast date. Snow day pancake breakfasts have followed us to every apartment we have ever shared. Every Friday after Thanksgiving, at my most exhausted from the night before, we buy boxes of cereal and eat them all day long while watching our favorite holiday movies in our pajamas. And many years later, here we still are. Some rules still apply, and some have been updated (no phones!). Breakfast dates, embraced both in the formal and informal, the express version and extended version, the minimalist and grandeur — we've been on board for them all. Sure, it's usually such a fleeting and quick part of our day, but somehow it has become the part we look forward to most.

My parents have quietly sipped morning coffee across the table from each other for over 40 years now. One of my all-time favorite sounds is waking up to hear them share a laugh in between sips. And while I don't drink coffee, the sounds that Eric and I make in our beloved breakfast routine have become my new favorite song.

In the case your toast was done a bit before this, hopefully I gave just enough time for your butter to melt, too.