Tuesday, September 15, 2009


As my mother's health failed and, month by month, she came closer and closer to death, she started telling stories of her youth; wonderful stories that I knew I would want to remember. I gave her a maple lap desk and a journal so she could record the memories she wanted to preserve. She loved the idea of it, but in practice, her concentration was used up just coughing and breathing. She had none left for writing.

I usually blog sitting in my favorite chair in the living room, that same maple lap desk balanced across the chair's overstuffed arms (much like my own), and my netbook atop the thin blond wood. At long last, the desk (which has been languishing behind my grandmother's chifferobe for fourteen years) fulfills its purpose. For me, there's always been tomorrow, and I don't want to wait, like my mother did, until the tomorrows are too doubtful to spend wandering in the past. That's why I want to spend a certain portion of my blog time recording from my past. And not just events that negatively shaped my relationship with food.

It can be construed to be a good thing, therefore, that food figures in many (if not most) significant events of my past. Yes, I ate when I was sad, depressed, upset, angry, feeling deprived, feeling rejected, feeling – blah. But I also ate when I was happy, having fun, with friends, celebrating – whatever. Food has been my constant companion throughout my life, at once my closest confidant, my best friend and my most devious and destructive enemy. Of course most of my memories revolve around it.

I've written before about how all the "good" food in our house was my father's food. It was verboten, unless you had his permission to eat it. My mother and I had a different larder and a separate schedule for meal times. We ate with my father on Saturday evening (steak and baked potatoes) and on Sunday evening (fried chicken and mashed potatoes). Weekdays, my father worked late, so my mother and I ate dinner without him. He frequently arrived home as we were finishing up. It didn't matter what we were eating (and it was usually some sort of Weight Watchers-sanctioned dried out baked chicken or smelly fish), he'd always have something snide to say. "There they are, at their favorite activity," was a frequent greeting. Is it any wonder that my mother and I became conspirators in sneaking treats?

After piano lessons on Wednesdays, we got ice cream cones at Baskin-Robbins. John White Burgers and Goldbrick Sundaes at Southtown Famous-Barr was a special dinner treat. Another of our haunts was the Crestwood Plaza Stix, Baer & Fuller, where we'd pretend to be "good" by ordering the Chef's Salad, which was so huge, you could have worn the bowl over a motorcycle helmet, and then get desert. Gianni's was good for Italian fare.

My mother was eating disordered, as were her parents before her, and she passed (or certainly helped to pass) the disorder to me, like a deadly disease. But not a wasting disease. No, this addiction affliction is more a swelling disease, a ballooning disease. And, unfortunately, I'm still attached to the hose.

So, is what's going on with me and food nature or nurture? I am powerless over food; it rules me as surely as Pavlov's bell made his puppy dog drool! From my perspective, my eating disorder might as well be genetic.

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