Editor’s note: This week, Jean Gillette shares one of her favorite past columns.
I can remember the days when I could make one small, baked chicken last a week. I can remember the days when one pizza and a salad would feed me and my husband. I can even remember when I could take my two children out to dinner and make a meal of their leftovers. Now all I have to remember is to make a daily trip to the supermarket. I have a 12-year-old boy, and he has friends.
I believe I would come out ahead adopting a horde of locusts. At least they’ll settle for grass. The invasion of this rather less disgusting swarm of voracious, growing boys still has me gasping. I start the week with a groaning basket from Costco, everything in super-mega-economy size. This is followed by a trip to the local market, where I planned at least three days worth of menus plus snacks. My supermarket trips have changed from following a simple list to scouring the world for anything that can be microwaved in under three minutes, served on a paper plate and eaten with the fingers.
I can barely find refrigerator and shelf space to store it all. For perhaps an hour, I am able to float along in a delusion of pleasure, believing that my larders are stocked for a fortnight. Then is heard that terrifying cry, ringing down from above. “Mom! We’re huuuungry!” Small animals and children scurry for cover. His sister races to hide a few, paltry Oreo cookies. The thunder of feet shakes the staircase and the games begin.
Pantry doors bang open. Boxes, bags and plastic wrap are rent asunder. Frost forms on noses as they hang in the freezer, scanning, searching, deciding. Muffins are tossed from hand to hand, and slam dunked into mouths. Any plunder found worthy is greeted with a shout of approval. With 12-year-old boys, life is a team sport. An apple, bag of chips or meatball will do just fine for the game ball and the playing field is wherever two or more are gathered. They get all their points on enthusiasm.
The microwave beeps and they are gone, back upstairs to their lair to digest and discuss. In their wake, only chaos and crumbs. Now I must deal with a sink, a dishwasher, a coffee table, an attic floor and the trash bins filled to capacity. But is my son’s stomach full? Don’t be silly. By now it must be 40 minutes since he and his chums ate. They are starved. Ravenous. Faint from hunger.
Nothing will revive them except take-out Chinese food and a bottle of soda the size of their head. We just barely make it in time, as my son wolfs down half of the to-go container before we even hit the checkout line.
What did I do this summer? I cooked. No, actually, I cooked very little but I did push so many microwave buttons I have calluses. And then I cleaned up. Then I turned around and did it again. Sometimes I got a little assistance from the eaters, but generally, by the time I got to the KP, the boys were off to the beach, the park or the pool, working up another appetite.
I think we may have unwittingly bred the master race. These boys are growing so fast, they burn calories just standing, sitting or laying down.
Bottomless pits. Hollow legs. Garbage Disposal Junior. Dang, they’re cute.