The kind of week that you’re pretty sure is going to be remembered in specifics for at least a month, and the kind of times that you know you’ll remember forever, are finally over. Over, in the calendar sense only though, and their essence still lingers in the air like a morning fart after an evening of dark beer and barbecued meat.
There are only a few kinds of poverty that seek to definitively sap your soul. Surviving them will never leave you unscathed, and the scars left behind will instinctively flare up within seconds of noticing that the bank account has dipped below a certain level while after thumbing through a stack of bills.
I’m scarred now. And it hurts.
The soothing balm of a promise of cash was short-lived, and in it’s place is a bitterness and numbness that seems to transcend the use of monetary devices of this common culture into a Utopian ideal. As a self-defence mechanism, my mind seems to drift off into a world of make-believe, where we don’t need money to be happy and good times are still readily available regardless of our lack of funds.
My underlying demeanour may betray it, but my mood is a good one this morning as I dance back and forth from the countertop to the stove, a toddling bucket of curls clinging to my only stationary leg. I whistle a nameless tune and eventually put lyrics to Beethoven’s Fifth that tell the story of the naughtiness contained in my small child. She humours me with an emphatic, “Gah GAH!” and then smiles up at me while a piece of egg-soaked bread flops limply into the frying pan. Breakfasts are my specialty.
Breakfast is also her least favourite meal, or at least the hardest to get her to eat.
I do what I can with the cheap white bread and our expansive spice rack, and even without butter (we’ve run out days ago) the French Toast turns out pretty good. I’ve made some of it sweet, with sugar and some syrup, and some of it savoury, sprinkled with a dash of nutmeg and some tomato sauce, to cater to the two drastically different palates in our household. I’m curious which the baby will prefer, as it took no fewer than 110 donuts and 13 eggnog banana milkshakes to keep her mother sated during the pregnancy, I assumed she’d have a sweet tooth.
Her mother may insist that the child has inherited her savoury tooth as she points out that her sweet preferences disappeared the instant the baby was born, but I find the child to be quite open to things such as chocolate and ice cream when offered. Of course, if one followed her small body about her day they would find her real love is bits of fluff off of the floor, typically found in corners or under furniture. She’ll quite happily chew a ball of dryer lint/random fuzz for as long as she can until you chase her down. Her resistance holds out until her mouth is forced open and is then redoubled in an effort to not only keep possession of the fluff but to bite my finger as a lesson not to try again. She’s quite resourceful.
My dance of the frying pan is given intermittent freedom while the toddlecurl discovers that I’ve accidentally left the pantry door open. As I check out the burning smell that turns out to be the spiced-half of the bread reacting badly to the margarine I’m frying it in (ah butter, how I long for thee) I can hear assorted bottles being shoved aside and something plastic clattering across the slate floor. I would worry that the perceived violence of the syrup bottle’s trip across the kitchen would indicate anger from the child, but she allays this with a squeal of delight and a loudly exhorted, “DaDAH… gah GAH! BAHBAH!” I take this to mean that she is telling me how pleased she is of her actions towards the syrup bottle.
I respond with something dry and sarcastic, and she repeats the same sentence as if to chastise me for not taking her seriously. I reply again with sarcasm, but feign apology as well, to which she plods the length of our 8-foot kitchen and yellingly smashes her face into my jeans. As I finish conducting my orchestra of slathering, spicing, flipping and syruping, I realise that I would have preferred her causing mischief in the pantry for a bit longer as I would have been able to finalise breakfast preparations unhindered by the squealing naughtiness gripping both of my legs and talking to the hole above my right knee of my jeans.
Breakfast is served. My wife, never really being much of a morning eater, dutifully trudges her way through a piece of French Toast before handing it over to me so that I can swap out the sweet half of the baby’s portion for the savoury and gauge scientifically the results. As I stir the oatmeal banana mush that I’ve prepared as a standby in the event of total French Toast Failure, I notice that the mass of lovely curls, that had mushed peas in them only last night, now have syrup in them as well. She appears to enjoy playing with her breakfast more than eating it. I divide a few pieces of the savoury French Toast and leave them on her tray rather surreptitiously for fear that she’ll rebel against things that I actually want her to eat, and throw them onto the floor for pure indignance. Some days, this one can be a real shit.
My attention turns from my own breakfast and the further stirring of the oatmeal concoction in time to see my child happily taking huge bites from a wad of bread in either fist. With balled-up syrup-covered fists on the ends of her spread arms, she looks as if she is challenging the World to provide something tastier to her, for what she’s holding would sure be hard to beat. She’s already eaten most of her mother’s uneaten breakfast. Just to muck with her a bit, I throw some eggs right in the middle of her tray. I’d fried up the leftover egg batter in the used cooking bits left in the pan, giving it a horribly grey colour that I prefer to think of as “seasoned to taste”.
As her thumbs become paintbrushes and the slightly runny and oddly coloured eggs become the paint, the canvas that is the tray of her high chair transforms into a masterpiece, complete with a collage of texture and flavour. “Less is More” she seems to believe, as she very purposely removes some of the leftover sweet toast with her fingers and then places it under her tray on the seat by her legs. I’m surprised to see such a deliberate act of removal when she is busy with wanton creation, but she’s always been a bit meticulous, and I will undoubtedly find at least half of her breakfast under her butt when I eventually lift her out of her chair.
With her creative juices flowing freely and her eating slowed significantly, I finally employ the use of the oatmeal mush. I get a few spoonfuls in before she concedes that her artwork may have to wait until after mealtime and decides to eat a bit more. As is her way though, her concessions are ever on her own terms, and she purses her lips and slaps at the spoon on it’s third trip in. I back it out and try again, only to be met with a shaking head and flailing arms. It’s becoming fairly evident to me that she may not be interested in my mushed backup plan.
Now I concede. She watches me put the spoon back into the small bowl before flinging her arms out across her painted tray, grabbing a handful of egg and toast, and shoving it gluttonously into her face. Her actions of hearty independence appear to be telling me that she may not enjoy the eggs and French Toast so much as dislike the mush and/or the idea of me feeding it to her. She almost giggles as she grabs a piece of egg-smeared crust and begins munching on it with fervour.
As I lean across the table and put my head in my hand, I realise how much fun she is. Not just to interact with, as I have been, but also just to watch, as I am now. So much of who she is going to be, is here already, and so much of who she is, is just wonderful. It boggles my mind to think that I have such an impact on this small person’s life, and therefore the rest of the World.
It is then that I realise that I haven’t been thinking about the rest of the World for at least an hour and a half, a new record for this stressful week I’m fairly sure, and I am once again humbled by the power that my child has over me.
Go away for a while World, I’m feeding my child.