Most people would say that Thursdays aren't all that special. They would say that Thursdays are just the day before Friday, another work day, and maybe the night they catch their favorite TV shows. They would say that Thursdays mean nothing. I wholeheartedly disagree.
12 years ago, I turned 15. As most teenage boys in America, I was excited to start driving. I even had my first car lined up. It was a blue 1992 Oldsmobile Achieva, and it was awful. The car was handed down from my brother, who started driving the car 3 years prior when he first got his license. Before that, it was handed down from my cousin, who drove it from a rural town (and I mean really rural, with a population just in the double-digits), racking up plenty of rough miles on farm roads. Before that, a pair of twin girls in the same area drove it as their joint first car. I was the 5th first-time driver to use this car, but still I was excited to get behind the wheel.
I turned 15 in the middle of the school year, so it took some time to figure out scheduling driver's ed. Instead of signing up with a corporate driving school, coordinating yet another ride to and from an after-school activity, and potentially losing all of my excitement about driving, we chose another route. Dad researched homeschooling the driver's ed course, and realized it wasn't all that difficult. He signed me up, and we started the course.
Our driver's ed plan was simple. We sat down to go through the textbook every Thursday evening. We started at home, but when we needed to avoid the usual distractions (lessons learned the first couple of weeks), we relocated. Every Thursday, we drove to Daybreak Coffee Roasters to work through the course. I would drink a Cafe Mocha, he had black coffee, and we shared a slice of Black Russian Cake. If neither of us felt like cake, he would splurge and drink a Cafe Royale, a breve flavored with honey.
As you've probably guessed, this is where I first honed my love of coffee. After a couple months, I started to experiment with other drinks on the menu. There was the Caramel Machiato (the Starbucks type, not the traditional version), the Nutty Irishman (latte with hazelnut and irish creme), the Nirvana (cafe mocha with caramel), and the Mudslide (espresso shake - yes, it was made with real ice cream - with chocolate and hazelnut). It wasn't until college that I learned to enjoy black coffee, but my first love was Daybreak on Thursday nights.
The more chapters we finished, the more comfortable we became with our Thursday routine. Many weeks, we would finish the chapter early and burn some time at the coffee shop. We found the chess board on their shelf of board games, and Dad and I would play a couple of matches. Once I learned the game, we found that we were pretty evenly matched. We would sometimes stay long enough to play 2-out-of-3, and it was always a 2-to-1 finish, the title always bouncing back and forth between us.
Driver's ed only lasted about 4 months, even when we only covered a chapter a week. I don't remember ever discussing what we would do with our Thursdays when it was over, but Dad and I somehow made it back to Daybreak every Thursday. When the curriculum no longer dictated our plans, we got more use out of the chess board. We would sometimes make it up to 4 or 5 matches in an evening, and we still didn't have a clear winner.
While we played, we talked through our weeks. I heard some of his work stories, and he heard all about school, band, and Katie (who I had dated for almost 2 years at the time). There was never an evening that we didn't feel like talking, and there were never grudges between us (over chess or anything else) when we were at Daybreak.
As the months went on, we sometimes brought others into our little circle. Mom would occasionally come with us, and so would Katie. Daybreak felt so much like home to me that I started to go to Daybreak on my own time. Most often I would take Katie after school, and we would relax, catch up on homework, and do that disgusting kind of lovey-dovey talking that young couples do. By junior and senior year of high school, Daybreak had become the place to be for school projects, big research papers, and cram sessions before major exams. But as many people as I met at Daybreak, Thursday was always the night that Dad came with me.
After high school, I left my hometown for college. Schedules changed, visits to the coffee shop were replaced with phone calls, and we relied more and more on my weekend visits to catch up. A few years ago, Daybreak closed the location on our side of town and rebranded the remaining location. Years went on, and dad had trouble getting out of the house for coffee. Thursday nights weren't Thursday nights anymore, and Daybreak wasn't Daybreak.
But the great thing about Thursday nights at Daybreak was that their effects continued long after Thursdays and spread far beyond the walls of Daybreak. Thursday nights at Daybreak were the catalyst that started something great. After Thursday nights at Daybreak, Dad was no longer just a parent or an authority figure. After Thursday nights at Daybreak, Dad was my friend.
Earlier this week, I was let in on something Dad told Mom over and over during the last 12 years. He told her that teaching me driver's ed was one of the best decisions he's ever made, because it started Thursday nights at Daybreak. I wholeheartedly agree.
Always moving forward,