Small cravings

I was in the throes of not so genteel thoughts about the celebrant’s dad at my daughter’s classmate’s birthday party, when I was I was roused from my reverie by  a turn in the discussion at hand. I’d previously lost interest after the debate on the merits of Greek yogurt versus plain, morphed into various dietary meal plans whose primary objective appeared to be the avoidance of mastication. As a person of African ancestors, who’d subsisted voraciously on meat on bone, the use of my teeth, although not usually for that purpose, ranks highly.

But I digress…these thinnish mothers were in hot discourse about key issues; one son’s weak pencil grip, another’s intermittent mumblings, and a daughter’s inverted letters. As their worrying reached fever pitch my eyebrows resided in my hairline. I had no clue, that I should be worrying about these things, as each of my perfect children display a mix of these deviations, though not all at once.  All of our children, themselves unaware of the criticisms being visited on their small heads, played innocently nearby.   

I attributed my lack of awareness on cultural relevance and recalled how MY so called deficiencies were approached while living in Africa. My mother no longer able to afford the exorbitant school fees at the Lebanese Community School where I’d spent a year, transferred me to a local Catholic elementary school. The administration at the new school, decided I’d merited a double promotion from 4th to 6th grade, of which I was extremely proud. When I arrived at the 6th grade I immediately began experiencing problems with math (never a strong subject for me,) compound interest calculations, in particular. 

One Friday, the teacher in deep frustration, marched me to the principal’s office to lodge a formal complaint. The principal, a woman, looked me up and down and thundered; By next Monday, if she continues to REFUSE to learn compound interest, bring her back to my office and I will cane her!

I exited the office, head reeling.

That weekend, despite my mother and father’s separation, and him not being allowed into the house, due to a stalking habit, I learned compound interest with gusto. My father, stood outside the house and tutored me through the window, in full view of the next door neighbors.


On the road again

I enjoy taking the open road. Here, in America, I take off, driving to an unknown town 2 or 3 hours away, stopping by anywhere tickling my fancy; farmer’s market;  wayside icecream shop; mid-afternoon Mardi Gras party in a bar that I stopped by simply to get a smoked hotdog and a glass of wine; an antique shop; a deserted beach.

Growing up in Africa, trips were more of a production. A trip that would take 3 hours on unfettered roads, would take an entire day due to myriad potholes, the lack of roads signs and traffic lights. These road trips felt very much like navigating a boat on choppy waters, and due to the daylong stint in the merciless hot sun, you’d arrive at your final destination with a deep tan–but only on one side of your upper body and face.

My children have caught the travelling bug too, weekends especially, they are eager for us to grab the adventure bag, get in the car and go! And isn’t that what life is…a series of adventures?

A sign of wisdom

Growing up in another culture, I learned growing older earned you respect, and you learned this really early.

In secondary school, senior girls had privileges over the junior ones despite an age difference of a scant few years–they’d punish you for the slightest trangression or send you on errands, mercilessly. And the most senior girls in the school–those in the Upper and Lower 6 classes were goddesses, with whom only the foolish or truly brave junior girls would make eye contact.In university, despite the men’s attempts to sexualize and convince us younger girls that we were better because we were “fresh meat” versus the older girls who they referred to as “old cargo” (but never to their faces and also, who unknown to us were their girlfriends), respect for maturity was accorded, still. Beyond the schools, in the city and village streets it was common to witness young adults making elaborate prostrations before elders, in greeting,  or to apologize for unintentional rudeness such as bumping into them. Elders, themselves when sharing advice,  began by first pointing upwards to their heads–their grey hair, that is.

These days, when I catch sight of my reflection in a mirror or shop window, I smile a little, thinking…thinking.

What, she asked for more..?!

The problem of childhood obesity is big and a uniquely American one.

When I was a child living abroad, food was relegated to 2 categories: sustenance or treat. Since I attended boarding school between ages 9 and 15, sustenance meant dining hall meals (no second helpings) and treat meant a couple of cookies, a glass of cocoa or orange squash from my food box (a wooden lock box designed to store non-perishable food items). Rarely we shared treats at a midnight feast on the tennis court. At break-time we purchased a meat pie, scotch egg, sausage roll, or yoghurt from the kiosk. Sustenance and treat sometimes intermingled. Visiting Sunday, a 2-hour monthly visit from our families is one example. Since home cooked meals were considered contraband, some parents found a way to sneak them in, elevating it to treat status. A casserole dish of food divvyed up among 5 or 6 girls ended up being a few spoons apiece. Fruits and water were readily available.

I don’t recall feeling hungry nor do I recall feeling full.

Based on this early conditioning, my approach to food has remained consistent over the years. And while I don’t have a prescription for the obesity problem, re-evaluating  the process of how children are introduced to food early on is something to consider.