When you’re a kid, pretty much all your problems can be solved with a big glass of chocolate milk. Scraped your knees? Chocolate milk in your favorite cup to the rescue. Teased at school? Make it a double and add some Oreos, please.
Food is the quintessential salve. But as soon as you squeak past elementary school age, the idea that food will make it all better doesn’t quite cut it. You start seeking more sophisticated ways to satisfy your wounded ego. Didn’t get asked to the dance? Gift card to iTunes to the rescue. Lost your boyfriend? Off to the mall with you! My daughter Molly hasn’t made it that far yet, but I expect a quantum leap to monetary cures any day.
Until then, the refrigerator and everything in it is her terrain, especially after school.
One day I was standing innocently at the kitchen sink downing the last of the chocolate milk from the carton when Molly snuck in behind me and startled me with a shriek only girls know the code for.
“You’re drinking MY chocolate milk?” Steadying myself after spilling down my front, I wiped my chin with the attitude of a highschooler caught chugging beer. I was ready to argue.
“You don’t have to be young to like chocolate milk.” That should definitely be in a chocolate milk advertisement.
For some reason, Molly thinks that all the good tasting food in the house is hers. It is all bought and cooked exclusively for her enjoyment, leaving us hapless adults with the healthy stuff like plain yogurt, Mini-Wheats and fruit. And even though I work everyday from home, my daughter assumes that I eat nothing during the day. All the “decent” stuff (e.g: sugary, chocolaty or macaroni and cheesy) should still be there when she returns from school at 3pm to inventory the refrigerator.
“Where are the pickles? They’re supposed to be on the second shelf! There’s nothing to eat!” It is a fact that I haven’t eaten an entire pickle since 1998, the year she was weaned and grew four teeth to gnaw with.
Later in the laundry room as I worked on the chocolate stain on my T-shirt, my heart sank and I felt what every woman dreads. Am I becoming my mother? With an innocent chug of chocolate milk I have not regressed to blissful childhood, I have progressed to old age.
My mother, at age 85, drinks two gallons of chocolate milk a week, walks around in food-stained clothing bought from Good-Will, and usually has the remnants of home-made granola dangling from her chin. She’s the healthiest 85 year old I know, spending two days a week at yoga, sometimes playing tennis, and travelling the world, probably with the money she saved on clothes. And it appears I am hot on her trail. It’s not a bad life to be sure, and I aspire to be as healthy as she is in 30 years, but in better clothes.
My mother would certainly never put up with a daughter who questions her on the whereabouts of the good leftovers. She didn’t have to because she prefers vegetables. But all of us kids knew she had stashes of chocolate in her room that she didn’t share with anyone. That mysteriously showed up in the corners of her mouth after “reading” in her room. She had Fannie May, the good stuff. Not to be wasted on small children’s crude palates.
I throw the laundry in and went to start dinner. Surveying the fridge I pull out every vegetable that still had some rigidity to it and made a stir-fry. These left-overs I know for a fact will still be there tomorrow when I heat up some lunch. Then later, I’ll have a couple Mint Meltaways from my own secret stash. Some of the habits we inherit from our mothers are not all bad.