There is a wonderful man in Texas named Bill who sends me email from time to time about the things he remembers about raising his kids who are a bit older now, one of whom is studying to be a rocket scientist. I always wait to read them until Jon gets home, and then I usually read it aloud in a deep, low, gravelly voice with a twinge of a Southern accent, since he’s in Texas. That may not be the reality of how he sounds at all, but that’s how I imagine it, and it brings me so much joy.
One day he sent me this email:
OK, one story and I’ll be done for the night…
…The Lima Bean.
Sarah would never eat lima beans. She would eat all the other mixed vegetables, but not lima beans. We bought great, icy chunks of frozen mixed vegetables (yes, I know we were bad parents to do so, but for at least a month we tried, god we tried, to fix FRESH veggies every day for our Pride and Joy, but, you know, some days you just got home late, or the zucchini was zuyucchi, or Sarah was So Hungry she was gnawing on the car seat straps and you Just Didn’t Have Time to fix Fresh-effing Vegetables!)
That aside, Sarah was quite happy eating nuked veggies…except for lima beans which she would leave in a neat little pile or a neat little line on her high chair tray. Neat piles. Neat lines. No limas. Forget It.
So, one famous day that has become Family Lore, I was preparing (now, I’m a gourmet cook and it PAINS me greatly to write that I was “preparing”, like I was doing a roux or a wine reduction or choux pastry, what I was doing was “thawing”, nuking, zapping in the MW) some corn for Sarah. Suddenly, an evil thought popped into my head: Lima beans. I pried a single, whole, nicely green lima bean from the freezer and mixed it with her corn. Now, at this stage of Sarah’s life we were spooning the “food” (note the double quotes when referring to frozen whatzits as food) into her gaping yaw. Very sneakily I hid the lima bean amongst the corn on a spoon, Here comes the airplane! and down the hatch.
Sarah chewed and chewed and chewed and…rolled something around her tongue…and…spat…out…the…single…lima…bean.
Not a tooth mark on it. Patooie! splat. I thought, like a dog, she’d just swallow the whole thing and I’d Win.
And now, at age 21, she’s an Aeronautical Engineer. Go figure.
This email reminded me of the time when I was three-years-old and my father decided to use his youngest and most precious infant in a scientific experiment, one that would determine the reaction of a small child to the taste of pickle juice when that small child thought she would be drinking apple juice. Just before we sat down to dinner he replaced my cup of apple juice with the liquid of a Vlasic Dill Pickle jar, and then he waited and waited for me to take a swig. I don’t think he even had a bite of his own dinner he was so eager for me to knock back that pickle juice. And then it happened, I inevitably became thirsty enough that I reached for a drink, and one sip into the pickle juice and I gagged and spit up a host demon. My father thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen, my pickle juice pain, and I remember thinking MY FATHER DOESN’T LOVE ME AND HAS JUST FED ME POISON.
For years I promised myself that I would never subject my children to pain or humiliation just for the pleasure of watching them squirm: never would my child experience pickle juice pain. But as I’ve demonstrated with the dog and the spaghetti nose and Halloween princess costume, Leta has SO MUCH PICKLE JUICE PAIN coming her way.