My kids have eaten three times in the two hours since we got home from eating dinner out. First they wanted chocolate soymilk, then candy, then our ritual “last snack” of crackers or cereal, which we serve every night before bed, except that tonight they wanted pepperoni, too.
We can’t seem to convince them that they do not need to eat every hour. The weather isn’t helping. Temperatures where we live have been in the 20s all week and we only had two full days of school because of snow. Everyone I asked how they spent their snow days recounted eating too much as a result of boredom. Certainly, there are worse problems than cabin fever and empty calories.
As the mother of a boy, I’m beginning to think that my metabolism is inversely proportional to Oliver’s. The more he needs to eat, the less I do. Not that this inconvenient truth stops me from consuming unnecessary calories, but it seems to be the way of things.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote that there are years that ask questions and years that answer. The last year was one that answered for me. I lost my brother, and my grandmother, and I started a new job in a new field. It was as a psychic told me it would be when I met with her in June to write about her for a newspaper story: 2014 was a year of answers, and I didn’t like all of them.
You don’t get to argue with destiny and you can’t negotiate, although human beings always try. Bargaining is one way we try to cope. Many of us do it from the time we are kids. We make these secret little cosmic pacts, telling ourselves that if we suffer a certain unpleasant experience, then something worse can be avoided. It’s one of those things that may just work on occasion if you believe it will.
About 10 years ago I remember making a little bargain with the universe. I told it I would trade something bad happening to me if something good could happen for my some family members who had been down on their luck. Then I had a postpartum hemorrhage and I thought maybe that was the bad thing. Maybe the spell was broken. But of course, bad things happen to everyone, not because you’re repaying a karmic debt, but because you’re human.
My kids are still innocent enough to enjoy a scary story. They like to watch “Goosebumps.” This morning, Oliver pointed out a black glass magnet on our refrigerator with gold stars on it. He said he liked its wicked look.
“What do you mean?” Dan questioned him.
Oliver shrugged. “I like evil.”
I’m currently reading “The Crucible” with the English classes I teach, and I’m acutely aware that if this were Salem in the 1600’s, I wouldn’t laugh at stuff like that. But when it’s coming from a boy whose father still reads him a story every night before bed and whose only concept of evil is based on Disney characters, I can’t be too concerned.
Only slightly more unsettling are some of the visits we’ve had from door-to-door salesmen this year. One came last summer on the one night of the year I was alone in the house. It was 9:30 p.m. and I had just settled down at the computer for some exhilarating alone time when the doorbell rang. This young guy started telling me about how I should really invest in a new security system because a robber might want to come by and cut the phone lines and do a bunch of other bad stuff. I told him as politely as possible that he had totally ruined my alone time and I wanted him to leave.
The other night, the doorbell rang at 7:30 p.m. and Dan answered. Some guy was trying to get us to buy lawn treatments. There was snow on the ground! Dan and I were baffled. He was furious at being disturbed, but I just thought, what lawn care salesman rings your bell after dark in the middle of February when your yard is covered in snow?
I think “The Crucible” had slipped into my subconscious because that night as I was falling asleep, I started to dream that a man with a red beard and green eyes wearing a green button-down shirt came to our door. He was trying to hand me some sort of flyer and as I reached out to get it, I got this cold chill. It was creepy enough that I woke myself up a bit to shake it off. It was kind of like “Death of a Salesman” meets “The Omen.”
Anyway, on a more cheerful note, I had the worst dentist appointment ever yesterday. I was trying out a new, highly recommended dentist, hoping she could straighten out this crown for which I paid a bunch of money two years ago. The thing has been driving me nuts ever since. I was ushered into the dentist’s chair by a 22-year-old dental assistant with creamy Noxzema skin and flaxen hair pulled back in undulating waves. This girl positioned my mouth with various appliances and apparatus and spent the next two hours taking X-rays and close-up photos of my crooked teeth.
She and the dentist used bizarre sci-fi equipment to diagnose my bite and then the dentist sawed off some of my crown, saying it might help. She told me I had five tiny cavities, something no dentist has ever said to me before, and that I might have sleep apnea, which could be solved with orthodontic treatment, unless, of course, I wanted to continue to risk dying in my sleep.
I left without scheduling the fillings.
And so, with another weekend snowstorm in the forecast, I settle in with my family, grateful for some quiet time. I even tried to sit down the other day. Normally, when Oliver and Annabelle watch TV, I run around and do chores and bring them food. So I tried to sit down and watch TV with them. First Annabelle wanted some warm chocolate soymilk, which I made. Then Oliver tapped me on the arm.
“Pop tart?” he said.
I ignored him.
Then he whispered in my ear, “peanut butter toast.”