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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Childhood Mystery, Solved

When I was growing up, junky snack food was rare in our pantry. I was the oldest of four children. By the time my brother, the youngest, was born, mom and dad had gotten looser with the grocery budget and he got all kinds of good stuff, like Pringles and fancy cereal. When there was good snack food, you had to be very careful not to eat the last of it, because you would then be accused of "EATING IT ALL!"

You would open the pantry, hoping for something good, even though it was usually filled with healthy (i.e. tasteless) cereal, canned vegetables (the only kind we ate), canned soup and boxes of stuff like instant mashed potatoes and Hamburger Helper (bought on sale and saved for a special occasion.) Once in a while, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a box of Triscuits! Or a bag of Cheetos! Or something crazy like Apple Jacks! And I would want to eat it, all, but I wouldn't. Not because of some innate sense of fairness, but because I was afraid of being humiliated. So I would eat half, or slightly less than half, leaving a thoroughly respectable amount for the next lucky snacker. And if the bag wasn't open yet, I wouldn't touch it, because I wouldn't want to get in trouble for eating something that was being held in reserve for a higher purpose, like bridge club.

Whenever my mom had bridge club, there were treats, none of which were for us kids, not even a bite. There were never any leftovers, either, because drinking heavily and telling dirty jokes playing bridge makes ladies very hungry. I remember seeing the milk carton of Whoppers on the counter, reaching for them in awe and immediately hearing my mother yell, "Stop! Those are for the ladies!" Apparently, ladies eat a hell of a lot of Whoppers. And you thought they just ate little sandwiches. Now that I'm a grown up, I have Whoppers at all of my parties. And I let my kids eat them. I even let my mom eat them, because I'm not one to hold a grudge.

Sometimes, I would open the pantry, see some extravagant trans-fat-filled delicacy and eagerly reach for the box, only to find it was surprisingly light. I would look in to find four Doritos or a half of a Fig Newton. Torn, I wouldn't know what to do. If I alerted anyone to the presence of this paltry amount, I'd have to share and I'd probably be accused of eating the rest anyway. If I ate it stealthily and someone walked in, I'd hear, "UGH! WHY DID YOU EAT ALL OF THE FIG NEWTONS?!!" That would alert mom, who would give me a lecture on health and the dangers of eating an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, which I HAD NOT DONE, but never mind. As my sisters got older and more athletic, I was hesitant to incur their wrath, because they could and would beat me up. I hate pain.

Whoever it was that ate (nearly) all of the forbidden fruit knew exactly what they were doing. They never ate the last one or took the last sip, so they never had to leave a tell-tale empty container in the garbage. And if it was something that came in a bag, like chips, they would roll the top of the bag down an inch or two, leaving a large amount of empty space, and put a chip clip on top. When the next hopeful child came along, they would reach for a seemingly full bag, alerting the household to the presence of junk food with the crackling sound, only to have everyone rush in and accuse them of "EATING IT ALL!!" It was very, very scary.

So, my sister is staying with us right now. I've always begged my sisters to come stay with us if they ever had time. I envisioned a warm, fuzzy bonding time for my boys, who adore their aunts and don't get to see them enough, because they live out of town. For the most part, this visit has been lovely. Oddly, around the time she got here, I began to find boxes of crackers with only three crackers in them, cereal with less than a tablespoon left, apple sauce that could only be obtained with a rubber spatula and even a bag of these, with only three left*. When I found a chip clip, carefully clipped to the top of an empty bag, I knew. I knew that the mystery had been solved. It was her, it was always her. But I didn't say anything, because I was afraid she would beat me up. Frankly, it was enough just to know the truth.

Namasté, y'all!

* By the way, I'm totally aware that this stuff doesn't exactly qualify as junk food, but I'm mean and don't buy actual junk for my kids to eat at home. I have this theory: If I feed them really healthy at home, then I can let them eat whatever they want when we're out. Just today, for example, my husband and I took these to Sunday school, to make the kids like us to share with the students we teach.

I let my big kids have two, each. I even let Baby J have one, a whole one. Not my finest moment, but it was so cute when he toddled over to the box (which he recognized, which should tell you something about the purity of my commitment to healthy eating) and grabbed one. After shoving the small piece I had given him into his mouth, he toddled off mumbling, "Mmmmm...mmm...mmmmm," the sugary snowman getting crushed in his tiny grip. Please do not call Child Protective Services. I'm ashamed and embarrassed and I'll never let it happen again.

1 comment:

Don Mills Diva said...

I don't blame you a bit. I let my little guy eat french fries because it's so cute how he has to deliberately dunk each one in ketchup before he eats it!