Ever since I’ve known my husband, he’s talked about his grandma’s milk toast. It’s an egg poached in milk, served in a bowl over toast with the poaching milk poured over it.

I had never heard of it when I met him, but it was his grand memory of childhood comfort. When he and his brother were little, they stayed overnight with their grandparents. Grandma made the boys milk toast for breakfast. They said they liked it—and from then on, whenever Grandma made breakfast for them, she made milk toast. (I think she might’ve overdone it, because that was the only breakfast she made for them, even when they stayed overnight with her when they were adult members of the National Guard stationed in her town.)

It was a revered food, spoken of in hushed tones, full of childhood memories of comfort and love. My husband has talked about it for years—yet he has never suggested that I make it for him, nor has he ever made it for me.

Milk toast was a part of him that was completely separate from his life with me.

Until tonight.

The opening heart

Throughout most of our marriage, Big Guy and I both craved real intimacy, true acceptance of each other’s hearts. I always thought it was normal for a husband and wife to keep parts of themselves separate. I’ve never intentionally kept secrets from my husband, but there are areas of my life where it has never occurred to me to invite him in. As our intimacy has grown, I find that I invite my husband in to more and more parts of who I am.

My husband has always been open with me. However, over the past couple months, I have learned more about my husband than I had in the twenty years before. In the middle of a conversation about a mundane topic or tucked away in the evening prayers we’ve recently begun, he has revealed things about himself that I had never suspected before. They aren’t deep dark horrible secrets, but they are things that he struggles against within himself. They have surprised me.

I have worked so hard on tearing down the walls around my own heart; now I am witnessing my husband knocking down the walls I didn’t even know he had. (Honestly, I’m not even sure he knew those walls were there.) Layer by layer, he is inviting me in to parts of his heart where I’ve never been.

My husband has been revealing himself to me, piece by piece, just as I have been doing the same to him.

“I know you won’t”

He called from the car on his way home from work to tell me he had a massive headache and that he didn’t even know if he could eat anything. He walked through the door, sat down, and looked at me with his puppy dog “please take care of me” eyes. I asked if he would like some poached eggs.

“I know what I’d really like, but I know you won’t do it.”

For years, my hardened heart would respond to any request from Big Guy with a “no” and then all the reasons I couldn’t do it. This is my natural process of convincing myself to do something I don’t feel like doing. It’s how I clear the junk out of my head in order to get to the point where I can say “yes.”

Some of my sexual refusal was less “no” and more “I’m working up to the point where I can say `yes.’” Before I could finish getting through my process, Big Guy would give up or get angry. And the request–sexual or otherwise–would never get fulfilled.

Just as he did with the sexual requests, he began to ask for things tentatively. “I know you won’t do it, but . . . ” he said before asking me to pick something up at the store or drop off his dry-cleaning. As I heard his words tonight, I remembered all the times I’d said “no” to him, sometimes not even meaning “no” but not knowing how not to say it.

“I know what I’d really like, but I know you won’t do it.”

I stood calmly, although the memories from his words tore me up inside. “You want milk toast, don’t you?” He nodded, comforted by the fact that I knew him well enough to know what he wanted. My husband who had never asked me for his childhood comfort food, his deepest comfort, wanted me to make him milk toast.

So that’s exactly what I did. I’d never made it before. (Truthfully, I’d never even seen it before.)

I looked up various recipes to find the one that was closest to the descriptions I’d heard. I scalded the milk. I added the egg. I toasted the bread. I put a lot of pepper in the milk. I assembled it all in a bowl and took it to my husband. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous about giving him food I’ve prepared.

Deep comfort

This dish, tonight, mattered more than anything I’ve ever made before. It wasn’t just for his meal. It was for the part of his heart that had never been for me before. He’d invited me in, and I wanted to be worthy of the honor.

He looked into the bowl. His face relaxed. “It looks right,” he said. I was still nervous, because he hadn’t tasted it yet. I know, I know. One woman’s milk-egg-toast combo isn’t likely to taste much different from another woman’s. Still, I held my breath. He took a bite. His eyelids closed in bliss.

“It’s perfect. It’s just what I wanted.”

The moment overwhelmed me—the inviting in, the being needed to comfort my husband, the getting it right.

Milk toast is no longer just a part of his childhood and his memories of comfort and love from his grandmother. Now it’s our thing, too. My husband invited me in, and I provided deep comfort.

I was overcome with the emotion and the intimacy of the moment, so naturally I cried. Over milk toast.

 Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shared at Let’s Get Real Party #32 at Calm.Healthy.Sexy.

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12 Thoughts on “Crying Over Milk Toast

  1. trixie1466 on March 27, 2014 at 6:56 pm said:

    This has to be one of the sweetest stories I’ve read yet. Thank you for sharing this moment. What a treasure!

    Makes me wonder if my hubby has a milk toast.

  2. This is a lovely story, Chris. Thank you for sharing it. This really stood out to me – “There are areas of my life where it has never occurred to me to invite him in.” This has been an issue for me, in my marriage and my life. Many times and about many issues, it never occurred to me to bring things up that were on my mind. I wasn’t hiding them; I just didn’t know I was supposed to talk about them. Thankfully, I have improved in this area, but it has been painful at times.

    • This is an area where I haven’t yet figured out how to be intentional about it. I am so good at ignoring things I don’t want to deal with myself, and inviting my husband into these areas means that I can’t do that. It is painful.

  3. Such a beautiful story. And has made me wonder what my hubby’s milk toasts are… I didn’t realise it before, but I am sure he has. I hope he finds me worth to invite me in.

  4. Wow ! Simply beautiful, Chris

  5. A poignant story with a happy ending (no pun intended). For many of us our fondest memories involve comfort foods from our childhood. Well done.

  6. IntimacySeeker on March 29, 2014 at 3:59 am said:

    Thank you for sharing this tender story. I pray I will one day have the honor of knowing my hubby’s “milk toast.”

  7. I just got teary eyed. I knew what he was. asking for before you said it. True intimacy right there. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Thanks so much, Chris, for sharing this with the Let’s Get Real party.

  9. Whether of not my comment has any basis in truth doesn’t matter. What if the milk toast wasn’t exactly like his grandmother made? Maybe it needed more or less pepper, more or less milk, whole milk instead of skim, etc. Whether dead-on or only close, it was going to be “perfect.” Your love offering was “perfect.” My guess is if it had been only 70% there, he would have had the foresight to honor your effort by proclaiming it “perfect.” It wasn’t the milk toast that was perfect, it was the love and intimacy behind the request and the offering that was “perfect.” The moment of sharing was perfect. It is possible his comment was not assessing the flavor of the milk toast at all, but the relationship between the two of you in that moment. That’s what I’d like to think anyway.

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