15 May 2009

Green fuzz and ants

There were five kids in my family. I have two brothers and two sisters. My dad worked full time. My mom worked full time. My parents had the “economy” of their marriage figured out perfectly, meaning that they had life/family chores divided. Mom did all the cooking, sewing and most child-rearing. Dad handled finances and could fix or build anything.

I understand why my mother wasn’t in the mood to cook when she came home from work to us, her brood of hungry raucous children. I am totally empathic to her plight. I was a working single mom of two and I’m not ashamed to admit that often, I felt completely overwhelmed when I got home from work and had to feed just a couple of hungry children.

My mom is the best seamstress I’ve ever seen. She can knit, crochet, quilt, pitch a tent, coax an ornery burp from any baby and has made the most beautiful wedding dresses for young brides I’ve ever seen. She’s awesome. She is gifted and wonderful. I’m not judging my mom. But let’s just say that cooking was not always the thing that she was passionate about.

My mom was one of those saintly women who volunteers for the Girl Scouts. She was heavily involved in Girl Scout camp every summer and led a Girl Scout troop. One summer, our troop was camping. We had brought just enough food for each night. There was no extra food. So when I opened the pot by the campfire to stir our dinner (a mixture of macaroni, ground beef and tomato sauce), I was freaked out. Bits of the hamburger were wiggling, moving. I looked more closely.

“Mom!!!” I wailed, aghast. Gross! She came over and looked down at the pot. She locked eyes with me.

“Hush,” she said in an intense whisper, with a hard look. “Hush!” (No one in my family ever said the words “shut up.”)

“But there’s…”

“I said hush!”

She took the wooden spoon from my hand and stirred the pot. Then she put the lid back on and walked away toward the group of girls doing a crafting project.

I looked at her back walking away. I looked at the pot. I knew we were going to eat those ants for dinner. That night, around the campfire, all my friends kept asking me why I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t say a word.

Many times when Mom got home from a long day working in the office at Montgomery Ward, you could see the fatigue in her face. She’d walk in the kitchen, open the refrigerator door and then start pulling things out. On some weeknights the things that were pulled out of the refrigerator were leftovers. Bowls and plates with food from last night. Or last week. Or sometime we couldn’t remember.

If the leftover food had a little moldy spot, there were no worries. Simply scrape off the green fuzzy spots and it’s as good as new. At least that’s what Mom said. Throw it in a pan on the stove and warm it up. It’s dinner. Eat that or make yourself a peanut butter sandwich.

I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. Or I’d wait until everyone else in the family had finished and then I would throw my food in the trash bin. I was very careful to do it artfully, so as not to have my sin discovered. The correct technique is simple and effective: reach into the bin and lift the top layers of trash up, scrape your food off into the bin and then simply replace the trash that was on the top. Ta-da. No one was the wiser. And I could do this all very quietly.

When I was 16 I had access to my Dad’s old car and I had my driver’s license. Almost every night I ate all by myself at the Taco Time fast-food restaurant. I told Mom I had to do that because I had to eat before theatre rehearsal. It was kind of true, too.

And I still won’t eat leftovers.

I do not want green fuzz and ants.

Don’t stir them in. Don’t scrape them out.
Don’t make me eat them. I will pout.
I do not want them after school. I do not want them in a pool.
I do not want them with some salt. I will not eat them; you must halt.
I do not want green fuzz and ants.
I will not eat them, no. No chance!


  1. I'm beginning to think we may have lived the same life! That, and here's another story for you: As a kid living in very much an upper-middle class home, but perhaps a little over extended. Some mornings we preferred to eat "cereal". To my brother and I, it was a bit of a luxury. But there was a way you had to go about it. Pour your cereal into the bowl - add milk, and wait. Wait for the boll weevils to float to the top and scoop them off with your spoon. I got so used to it, I don't really know what it's like to have crunchy, crispy cereal! And about leftovers: Mom would holler at us, "come eat this stuff or I'll have to throw it out!" Now how freakin' appetizing is that? Sleighed my Dad til the day he died!

  2. Oh my, you are cracking me up!

  3. Oh my, you are cracking me up!