Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Volume V, Issue X December 2009

Each year on Christmas Eve Day, we descend, locust-like, upon the local Dollar Store and let our kids roam freely so they can purchase gifts for each other. They are, indeed, like kids in a candy store with their pick of anything they want for the people they love the most. They buy surprisingly sensitive gifts, showing us just how aware they are of each others' likes, dislikes, and personalities. They collectively choose a gift for Eric and a gift for me, putting their cute noggins together in a private conference to decide what would be the perfect gift. HMMM. . . why did they choose this for their Dad this year?

Maybe it's because they know he's such a sucker for Marxist Literary Theory.

Most of our Christmas Traditions revolve around gluttony, so true to greedy form, we have an all-you-can eat buffet for Christmas Eve that always includes Babonne's Leek and Potato Soup, a cheese platter (French cheeses for us, cheese-sticks for them), crackers, fried shrimp, artichoke dip, a variety of sausages, and french bread. This year, the kids begged me to throw in some home-made mac n' cheese--you know, just in case we didn't have enough. . . urp. . . food. Holden graduated from the kiddie cheeses to Brie and discovered the wonder and awe and deliciousness of the "stink factor."

After the kids steadily shoveled in the grub for about fifteen minutes of silence (except for the occasional lip-smack and other sounds of dietary satisfaction), Ethan said, "I'm so full! But I just want to keep eating!" Holden nodded in agreement and said with resignation, "It's a curse, really."

During her toddler days, Eve ruled with a flower-petal fist, calmly demanding the respect and admiration of the household. Like Eve, Marie is a sort of tiny matriarch in waiting, but rather than opting for a peaceful political platform, she rules in a sort of joyous reign of toddler terror. She turns her volume to "eleven" on either end of her emotional spectrum, which has no middle, only ends. As I was soliciting sisterly service (sorry, let me wipe the spittle off of your monitor) today, Marie's shrieks made it almost impossible to maintain a conversant feel to my phone calls. "Hi, this is Sarah d'Ev. . . SHRIEK!!! MAMMA! MAMMA!. . . Sorry about the background noise. . . SHR-ee-ee-EEEK!!!" I kept offering my tempestuous little goddess treats to try and placate her fury. A bag of chips. Some carrot sticks. A glass of water. One by one my offerings were rejected and ended up as a soggy sacrificial mess on the kitchen floor. Her maniacal message was clear : she wanted me and only me with no phone in tow.

Not that she needs words to make herself understood when she's got the language of volume on her side, but Marie's vocabulary increased by two significant phrases over the holidays. She can now say, "Mine," which she used on Christmas morning to mark her territory as she surveyed the loot around her. (It actually sounds more like "M-IIIIIII-NE!!!!" and is accompanied by frantic, red-faced tugging and ear-splitting screams.) Fortunately, her second new phrase is "Thank you" (which sounds more like "Tae tee!), and is cute enough to offset the narcissism of the first phrase. Seriously, we'll give her anything she claims is hers just to hear her bestow a heart-splitting, grinning "Tae tee" on us!

One of my favorite lines from "Steel Magnolias" (DO NOT watch it if you're pregnant. You'll cry so hard you'll go into labor) is "Nobody ever cries alone in my presence." My hyperactive tear-ducts faithfully follow this mantra. Marie's mantra is similar, but changes the verb and becomes, "Nobody ever eats alone in my presence." It doesn't matter how painfully healthy the meal is either. She'll gobble down cookies to be sure. But she'll also eat zucchini, broccoli, peas and even canned green beans (Can you tell I've tried to stave her off with greens? It just doesn't work, I tell you!). She positions herself in the exact middle of my lap and then leans her fluffy little feather head in to my food as if it were telling her a secret. I try and sneak in a few bites for myself, but I end up spilling more food on the front of my shirt than usual. . . and as a Hafen Girl who is genetically programmed to have stains on the front of all of her shirts that's saying something!

So, now you're wondering why I don't just nip this in the proverbial bud, aren't you? You're thinking that I'm allowing her to manipulate me. You're right.

But I really don't think she's going to be climbing on my lap to share my food when she's eighteen.

This is a fleeting moment of tender closeness that simultaneously aggravates and tickles me. I find myself giggling at every splash of tomato sauce that graces my clothes. Her keen, curious interest in the event of eating and in me allows it to continue. And when next week or next month she finishes a meal without me, at least I'll still have the marks left on my shirt to remind me of the soft feel of her cheek next to mine and the fat, sticky fingers on my hand, helping to guide my food into her mouth. I'm going to feed her (and me) while I still can.

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