by Janine Phillips
(Los Angeles, CA)
Mom & the kids
When my sisters, brother and I gather at my parents’ home to hang out and visit with one another, we congregate in the living room and frequently laugh as someone usually has something funny to share.
At times we reminisce about childhood memories. In the course of going down memory lane, it is not unusual to hear, “Watcher of the Food”, mentioned in the midst of all the chatter.
This is typically followed by a grunt or two, and culminates with the sense that all eyes are on me. At that moment, I feel a tiny cringe as I brace myself for yet another story in this all too familiar series.
Why the uneasiness you may ask? To put it simply, I am the “Watcher of the Food.”
Let me explain. There were five children in our household.
Certain items were fixtures in our much traveled kitchen: milk, bread, eggs, cereal, peanut butter, and lunch meat to name a few.
To keep us from raiding and emptying out the refrigerator at all hours of the day and night, there were a few rules concerning the fridge.
After all, my mom had to be saved from making more than her standard 3-trips-a-week to the supermarket.
So, I appointed myself "warden" of the kitchen.
Here’s why: I felt that everyone should have an equal share. If we had relished in our two scoops of ice cream, did anyone have the right to sneak an extra spoonful?
If we had eaten three cookies apiece, was it fair to have one person enjoy a fourth? I did not think so.
To ensure that everyone followed the rules, I made myself a committee of one. We would all leave the kitchen together after dessert was finished.
Because I always suspected that someone would attempt to partake in additional treats, I would quietly leave the room that everyone else was in, and position myself behind the den door that adjoined to the kitchen.
I’d close the door until there was just enough space for a bird’s eye view. Patiently, I waited for the next person to enter the kitchen from the dining room entrance.
I was able to see the culprit come into the kitchen, grab a chair from the table, slide it across the floor, stand in it, open the cupboard door, and reach in for the cookie. That was my cue.
I burst through the door, extended my arm with my index finger pointed, and yelled out, “Caught you, right in the act!”
This was usually followed by a look of disbelief or anger, along with a cookie dropping to the floor by a shivering hand.
I would hear something to the effect of, “You get on my nerves!” as the person stormed out of the room.
With complete satisfaction, I felt my job was done.
In the living room, as everyone has had an opportunity to provide personal experiences on this topic, I cannot say that I am proud of my youthful actions.
At the same time, I can barely contain the laughter that the narratives bring. And while I was busy monitoring everyone else, had I ever grabbed an extra cookie or two?
If my memory serves me correctly, it may have happened once or twice.