From the time we were babies, Mother alternated between rewarding us and punishing us with food. One of my earliest memories is visiting at my grandparents’ home and discovering a box of chocolates. I can still remember the dark brown paper cups that enfolded the delicious pieces of candy. The lovely pleats in the brown paper seemed magical to me. As soon as Mother found me eying one of these scrumptious treats, she bellowed
You can’t have candy!
Now, perhaps I was too young to partake in chocolate; however, as most parents learn quickly, screaming and yelling about something being forbidden only serves to make a child want the “forbidden fruit” (or in my case forbidden chocolate) want it more.
When we were young children, Mother would reward us with sweet treats for good behavior. Of course, the very best was when we were sick. No matter what was wrong with us, she would provide 7-Up and chocolate ice cream. She wasn’t going to stay around home to tend the ill, but she was willing to provide some sugary treats. Being sick and missing school was no problem when you could spend the day pouring glasses of 7-Up and dishing up bowls of yummy chocolate ice cream. Since Mother was gone for the day, there were no limits on the amount one could consume–unless, oh dread of dreads, you finished both the 7-Up and the ice cream before 10AM! Then you were doomed to go through the rest of the day with nothing since only the two items had been procured from the store prior to Mother’s departure. To this day, the smell of 7-Up reminds me of being sick.
Lindy and I learned the worst malady to have in terms of Mother was a stomachache. While Seven-Up was her go-to for most illnesses (including stomach problems), she also believed in the concept of “resting your stomach.” When she proclaimed
I think you should rest your stomach.
a chill went through my body. I knew that she would provide no food until she determined that you could have something she called “Milk-Toast.” Milk-Toast as she prepared it was absolutely horrible and the only reason you would consent to eat it was that you were starved from resting your stomach all day. I don’t know how others made Milk-Toast, but she heated a cup or so of milk to a lukewarm temperature. Then she placed a piece of toast in a bowl and poured lukewarm milk over it. She made sure it was totally soggy–how? I really don’t know–perhaps it sat around for ten minutes before being served.
At any rate, Milk-Toast was a soggy, tasteless, and disgusting creation. Mother always assumed you couldn’t eat it because you were so sick, but the reality was that you couldn’t eat it because it was so bad.
When she was in a good mood (which you already know was not that often, at least when she was sober), she would go to the store and purchase several sugary snacks. You already know that she loved something called Bismarck Puffs which were a lovely yeasty doughnut with lots of greasy white filling inside. She would yell as she came in the house
I bought Bismarck Puffs!
which was our clue to come running and begin grabbing if we wanted at least one of the package of twelve. She also enjoyed something called Cream Horns and occasionally she would purchase potato chips and her favorite French Onion dip. Why no chocolate you may ask? Well, the answer was a simple one—Mother didn’t like chocolate. And if she didn’t like something, nobody else got to find out whether or not they liked it. A strange rule, but one to which my sister and I became accustomed.
As a consequence of her providing treats in such an intermittent pattern, Lindy and I both developed a seriously out-of-control relationship with food and in particular chocolate. We loved candy and even today our holidays are made up of what Lindy calls her “relish tray” which is a giant collection of every candy under the sun. I can’t wait for next Thanksgiving!