Monday, January 18, 2016

Oatmeal, bloatmeal

It’s impressive, how much a breakfast food can take you back if only you let yourself fall victim to the memories.
I ate a lot of oatmeal as a child.  Mostly it was the single serving pack that my mom would boil water for, or I’d zap in the microwave myself the older I got.  She would usually buy me the variety pack, which was a lesson in patience for this only child who had no one to fight with when it came to deciding who got the maple and brown sugar and who was left with the “original” kind which, to this day, I would rather throw out than eat. 
So I’d pace myself, gagging down the flavorless oats until I worked my way through the kind with the dried up raisins and then the apple cinnamon until I hit the sweet, mapley bliss that came with a big chunk of sugar right in the middle of it.
There was a time in the history of single serving oatmeal that each little packet came with a trivia question, and remains one of the memories stored in the creases of my brain.  I would hunch over my bowl of oats and learn about dinosaurs and US geography and start my day.  The simple happiness of childhood.
As a young adult, I spent more than my fair share of time sleeping on the ground in the middle of the wilderness with everything my companions and I might need stuffed inside a backpack.  We purified our water from a river, we cooked on a stove no bigger than a grapefruit.  Needing calories and not having the strength to carry much more, oatmeal was our breakfast of choice.  Older and wiser, I bought the non-variety pack so that each person could enjoy the good stuff without suffering through Original.  In the early mountain air, steam rising from my plastic bowl into my nose took me back to those days at my kitchen table right in the middle of the magnificent wilderness, a place that I love more than words can say.
And now, I’m at the stage in my life where my children are up early and demanding food.  My first two were not fans, but my youngest daughter has her mother’s love for oatmeal.  So after the older kids have gone off to school, I find myself listening to the crinkle of the paper and stirring milk in just like my mom did for me.  The steam rises off the chunk of brown sugar and I’m suddenly six years old or deep in the woods. 
It’s enough to make this non-morning person smile.
“Mmm,” she says.  “I love oatmeal.” 
I can only wonder if someday she will think back to these days.  I hope she too, falls victim to the memory.

Originally written/published 11/9/14


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