By DAVID GREEN
Departure time was rapidly approaching. School would soon begin for the day. I offered to give Maddie a hand with her lunch-packing chore.
“Peanut butter on celery?” I asked.
That sounded good to her, so as she disappeared into the bathroom, I searched for celery in the refrigerator. I broke off a stalk, trimmed off the top and bottom and washed it. The opening into the interior trough was so tight that I couldn’t even insert a finger to rub it down. I knew a tough job was ahead.
I crammed in some peanut butter to the best of my ability, tore off a piece of wax paper for wrapping, and showed her the result before packaging.
“It’s going to be a mess,” I said. “I couldn’t get the peanut butter inside very well.”
That didn’t bother her. There was a much more obvious problem.
“There are no raisins,” she said.
I didn’t exactly forget. I knew we were out of raisins because I put the last of them on my oatmeal earlier.
So it was “ants on a log” without the ants. I wanted her to eat a log. How cruel of me.
I started to talk her into eating just a log, but I knew it would become my lunch instead.
I made a search in the refrigerator for a renegade bag of raisins and found one. The ants were soon tightly packed along the length of the log and now she was out the door.
I don’t have many memories of school-year breakfasts from when the kids were growing up. I think most mornings involved cold cereal, but if we were out of that or milk, I would resort to making oatmeal or poached eggs on toast.
I actually have fond memories of making poached eggs, only in the challenge of creating the perfectly cooked egg that would provide the proper amount of yolk spread across the bread without having the albumin too runny.
I think Ben would attest to some excellent poaching over the years.
My worst breakfast memory still hangs there in my head like a sliver stuck in the brain. It was an oatmeal morning and Ben dumped brown sugar into his bowl right out of the bag without using a spoon.
I suppose he was just copying me. That’s how I often did it, but with a good degree of control. A small avalanche occurred for him and he ended up with a sizable pile of sugar on his oatmeal. My verbal response was a little harsh and I’ve felt badly about it ever since.
My oddest breakfast memory is from the first morning of the short visit from a Japanese visitor. I think Colleen made oatmeal, which, for him, must have been like eating a bowl of dog food. The ultra polite boy couldn’t quite control what his face was saying.
I think he ended up with tea and miso soup. Ben says that when he visited Japan through the exchange program, he was served salad for breakfast every day.
When Colleen heard the ants on a log story, she pointed out that my breakfast and lunch packing days with children will be coming to an end. Next May, 19 years of breakfasts will be finished when Maddie graduates.
Colleen, the Midnight Muser, missed out on most of those mornings, but certainly not all of them.
“I made a crapload of breakfasts,” she said in a not-too-appetizing fashion. “Pancakes, French toast, oatmeal.”
It’s true, there were mornings when she arose early just for the purpose of creating a real breakfast for the kids before they ran off for class. I wouldn’t be able to count those mornings on the fingers of two hands, but maybe if I took off my shoes and socks and used my toes.
If I remember correctly, her pancakes were the source of Ben’s famous remark, “Do you always have to burn them?”
It just doesn’t sound right for me to tell that story. She’s recounted it herself in the past across the way on page two of the Observer, and it was funny. For me to say it only sounds cruel.
That brings to mind what Keith Whitehouse said in the library recently. Something like, “Reading your columns, I’m surprised you two have had such a long marriage together.”
We joke a lot. Maybe that’s part of the long marriage. I love her cooking. Besides, I know it’s my job to eat the burned stuff.- Oct. 11, 2006