March 21, 2010

Spoon-fed love

"Aliette leaves her wheelchair in the foyer and begins to walk, even though the pain seems unbearable when she is tired. She loves the food she loathed before, for the flesh it gives her. She eats marbled steaks, half-inch layers of butter on her bread. She walks to the stores on Madison, leaning against a wall when she needs to, and returns, victorious, with bags. On one of her outings, she meets her father coming home for lunch. As she calls to him, and runs clumsily the last five steps, his eyes fill. His fleshy face grows pink, and the lines under his mouth deepen.
'Oh,' he says, nearly weeping and holding out his arms. 'My little girl is back.'"
--"L. DeBard and Aliette," Lauren Groff
What food would you choose to eat if you had to fatten up while recovering from polio? Doughnuts would rank higher much than marbled steaks on my list. Probably not as nutritious, though. Doughnuts: They're what's for dinner.

Last night, I did not have doughnuts for dinner (sad), but I did eat in Chinatown. At one point, I overheard a dad nudging his rather sour-faced 8-year-oldish son into line at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. "Jason..you have to try. It's supposed to be the BEST." The idea that parents want to give their children "the best" tugs a little at my heart. This kid was stupid for complaining about getting ice cream, in my opinion. Free ice cream? What's there to think about? Yet I was one of those kids, when it came to other stuff. So, most likely, were you.

Children. They complain, whine, and pout while their parents labor on their behalf. And then they have the nerve to grudgingly open their mouths to taste the ice cream their parents bought for them. Lately, I find myself constantly marveling at the difficulties of child rearing and the countless ways in which children are oblivious to their parents' efforts. When we grow up we may gradually realize the selflessness of parenthood, but that's just the tip of the iceberg until we go through the process ourselves. The immensity of what it means to be a parent washes over me each time I catch the Jasons of the world in action.

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