Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An odd memory

I never liked milk.

I like it now, but only whole milk, and only if I am eating something like chocolate cake or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

As a child I despised milk. Loathed it. Gagged on it.

When they first tried to wean me to a bottle, I rejected milk. I am not claiming to actually remember this. What I do remember is the solution that turned into a tradition.

They gave me warm orange juice in a bottle every night before bed. It calmed me down. I remember taking my bottle to the green sofa in the livingroom and lying on my back on the end pillow, drinking my warm orange juice. I remember the feel of the upholstery and the texture of the rubber nipple, and how I was fussy about how big the hole was.

They had to strain out the pulp before they put the juice in the bottle. After warming the juice in a pan on the stove, they poured it through a little tea strainer into my bottle. Then, since my parents were loathe to waste anything, the pulp was scraped out of the strainer with a spoon, and I was fed a spoonful of pulp before I was given my bottle of juice.

I think I did this until I was quite a bit past my third birthday. It was my bedtime routine: bathtime, bottle, brush teeth, prayers and hymns, tucking in.

One evening my father's parents were in the house and Grandma Rainbow saw me head into the livingroom, to the sofa, with my bottle.

I was a little bit of a precocious three year old. I could carry on quite a conversation. I was not, however, invited to join the conversation that ensued that evening. Grandma Rainbow did not know why a big, smart, precocious three-year-old should still be taking a bottle before bed every night.

Grandma Rainbow was proper and loving and kind. She was about a perfect Grandmother. My mom was tired. She gave me a bottle because it settled me down and mellowed me out, and she did not have to fight as hard to get me to bed. But Grandma Rainbow, in a very uncharacteristic burst of unsolicited advice, was blowing away both my nice, ordered world and my mother's.

There was a hushed but passionate conversation behind the sliding door between the kitchen and the diningroom.

The next evening when I went into the kitchen for my bottle of warm orange juice, there was my dad with the blender. "I'm going to make you a malt!" he said. He blended up a milkshake with ice-cream, milk and Nestle's Quik and poured it into a tall, insulated glass. With a flourish and a straw, he presented it to me at the kitchen table.

Happily, I drank it. Then I said, "Can I have my warm bottle of orange juice now?"

"You don't need a bottle of orange juice. You just had a nice malt."

My heart sank. I think I argued a bit, but I totally lost. I left the kitchen, full of cold milkshake and wishing for warm juice in my belly. But, I slept just fine.

After that, I had a milkshake every single night of my life, before bed. It was called my bedtime snack.

When my mom visited us, when our children were little, she questioned our failure to provide our children with a bedtime snack. I told her that since Shawn works until 7 or 7:30 p.m. and we eat at 8 or 8:30, and don't get supper cleared away until 9:00 p.m., we just don't have time for a bedtime snack.

I did like those milkshakes, though.

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