I’ve had a complicated relationship with my mother, as many children do. There were alot of problems, but the biggest one was that we’re too much alike. A surefire way to generate conflict is to put two smartasses together under the same roof, for years at a time, and under extraordinary amounts of stress.
I didn’t really understand just how much stress my mother was under when I was a kid. My mother had three sons and a divorce before the age of thirty, and she had to raise us with very little help from other people. And by “raise,” let’s be clear about what that euphemism really means- she had to keep us alive. My mother had to provide food and shelter for all of us, essentially by herself.
How much food does it take to feed four people? I got a lesson in that this morning as I was making breakfast. I don’t usually eat breakfast during the week (to be honest, I’d rather have the extra sleep than food in the morning), but on the weekends when my son comes over, I like to cook for him. Since my brother and my roommate were awake too, I offered to make them the Saturday morning special: pancakes. The order came out to six pancakes, six pieces of bacon, and four glasses of orange juice. That’s:
-Three cups of pancake mix
-2.25 cups of milk
-Three tablespoons of vegetable oil
-Six pieces of bacon
-An indeterminate amount of butter (probably about a cup)
-A lot of orange juice
My son is here for the entire weekend, and my brother and roommate live here, so double that for breakfast tomorrow too. That means in one weekend, for two meals, we’ve gone through half a carton of eggs, more than 1/4 of a gallon of milk, half of the orange juice, half of the bacon, and put a decent dent in the vegetable oil.
But wait, there’s more!
Monday, February 18th, is a federal holiday. Guess who doesn’t have school or work? And guess who has to eat? So in fact, TRIPLE that order. Now we’re out of pancake mix, out of bacon, out of orange juice, down to our last three eggs, and running low on milk (thankfully you can buy vegetable oil in bulk pretty easily).
Again, that’s just for three meals, to feed four people. Two people had two pancakes, and two people had one. One of the people who had one pancake ate the bacon instead of getting a second pancake. This is not people who are being greedy and stuffing themselves. This is just breakfast. And the milk, butter, eggs and oil need to be available for dinner too (lunch is when everyone fends for themselves).
If I didn’t have the money or the food for breakfast, I could tell my brother and roommate to make do for themselves; after all, they’re adults. And if things got really dicey and I ran out of food, I could send Gabriel back to his mother’s house and she’ll feed him. Or I could borrow money from my roommates. I have a ton of options.
None of those were available for my mother. She had to feed us at least twice a day, every day, for years (seriously, thank goodness for subsidized school lunch. Even the full-priced lunch was only $2.00- can you imagine getting a full meal for that price anywhere else?). My mother worked hard to make sure that we ate, but also to hide the fact of how close we came to not eating on so many days. I didn’t appreciate the amount of strain she was under because I didn’t know. But now I do, and the rest of my childhood is starting to fall into place as I learn how fucking hard it is to make it with one son and a college degree, much less with three sons and a high school diploma.
Thank you mom, even though I was definitely right in some of our arguments.