Dedicated to my long-time friend, AH
8 a.m.: My three-year-old daughter is watching her first cartoon episode of the day. My nine-year-old son yells something to me as he runs out of the house to catch the school bus. “Yes, OK, fine!” I yell back to him, even though I didn’t understand a word he said. The door slams. The cartoon characters begin to sing a song about the seasons. I shut the door between the kitchen and the playroom so that I don’t have to hear the television, and I call you. You answer on the first ring, with your mouth full of food. “Hi,” I say. “Hi,” you say again, after swallowing. “I’m going to be good today, “ I say. “Right now I’m eating a dry piece of whole-wheat toast. No butter. No jam. No cream cheese. No cream in my coffee —just skim milk.” I look down at my mug of coffee. It looks extremely unappealing with skim milk. I put a spoonful of low-fat coffee ice cream into my mug to give the illusion of cream and tell you what I’ve done. “Oooh,” you say. “I’m going to do that, too.” We sip our coffee-ice-cream-flavored coffee in silence. It’s better than skim milk, but it’s still pretty bad. I open the door between the kitchen and the playroom, change the channel, and shut the door. The second cartoon episode begins. “I have to go!,” you say. “The baby is trying to eat the spider plant!”
9 a.m.: “Pretend I’m a ghost and you’re a potato,” my daughter commands as she holds the two items in question an inch from my eyes. After I uncross my eyes, we play the game of ghost and potato until 10 a.m., when the ghost eats the potato. We drive to the post office to mail a package. My daughter informs a fat man that he is fat and tells the mother of a screaming baby that her baby is screaming. These two observations are greeted with less than happiness from the two adults thus addressed. “Hush, ssshhh, hold my hand, be a good girl, let’s go,” I whisper to my daughter; “sorry, sorry, sorry,” I mouth to the two adults as we hurry out the door. We drive through a fast-food restaurant on the way home because my daughter notices the sign and starts screaming for food.
Noon: My phone rings. “Hi,” you say. “Hi, I was just about to call you. I’m standing up eating a piece of fried chicken. Wait, let me throw the skin in the garbage so I’m not tempted to pick at it….OK, good. Oh, I’m so hungry! One piece of dry toast for breakfast wasn’t enough…now I’m eating peanut butter from the jar. Do you think I’m hungry because I’ve cut down a little on caffeine?” “No,” you say. “I haven’t cut down on caffeine, and I’m still hungry all the time.” You then relate to me that you ate most of the baby’s oatmeal and your three-year-old son’s leftover fries before tearing into a bag of chocolate chip cookies. “Should I eat a piece of leftover cold pizza or some chocolate chips.” “Both,” I say. We discuss the merits of pizza compared with chocolate and decide that both are needed when you are the parents of young children who do not like to sleep. “Come wipe me!,” my daughter calls from the bathroom, ending my second phone conversation of the day.
1 p.m.: “You’re Snow White and I’m the Wicked Queen,” my daughter commands. I lie down on her bed and fight to stay awake. I think about cooking an elegant meal for other adults. I used to like to cook. I haven’t cooked an elegant meal for many, many years. What menu might I choose? My reverie on pasta and cheese and homemade bread is interrupted when an apple is shoved into my mouth. Dutifully I take a bite of the apple, which is then removed and thrown on the floor. My child has previously informed me that Snow White can take only one bite from each apple. For a few weeks I made applesauce, but no one liked it but me.
2 p.m.: There are eleven apples on the floor — a nice combination of Cortland, Empire, Jazz, and Pink Lady. Each one shows one imprint of my teeth. I collect them, think about making more applesauce or perhaps an apple crumble, and reject all cooking ideas as being unnecessarily strenuous. I throw the apples in the kitchen garbage. We switch to playing Pinocchio and the Good Fairy. “Little puppet made of pie,” my daughter intones over me. I don’t correct her, because I prefer her version to the Disney version; it allows me to visualize a large slice of lemon meringue pie. Also, Michael Eisner never answered a polite letter I wrote to him in which I requested his help in finding a copy of “Peter Pan.”
3 p.m.: I am tired of lying down and not being able to sleep. My daughter and I go downstairs, and I put on the third cartoon of the day. I dial your number. “Hi,” I say. “Hi,” you say. “I’m thinking pork chops and oven-roasted potatoes for dinner. How does that sound?” “Good,” I say. “I’m thinking fried egg sandwiches. Something simple. The kids asked me to make ‘bavina’ — their in-house mispronunciation of lasagna — but that seems overly complicated.” My son bursts into the house, drops his backpack on the floor, yells “goingtoplaygamecornerfriend,” grabs a bag of potato chips, and runs outside. My daughter emits an SOS for an afternoon snack. I give her a few vanilla wafers and a cup of watered-down orange juice. I eat a few vanilla wafers myself, and then I eat some more. I finish the box.
4 p.m.: I read my daughter a book. My daughter reads me a book. I fold the laundry. She unfolds the laundry. I refold the laundry. My son comes home. My husband comes home and lies down on the sofa while the kids jump on him, thus giving me time to prepare dinner.
6 p.m.: We eat dinner. My son tells a long, complicated story about someone or something getting lost somewhere. My daughter hides her broccoli in her pink Barbie convertible, where I will find it months later, ossified to a crisp. My husband thanks me for not making applesauce again.
7 p.m.: “Everyone out of the kitchen!” I say. They go upstairs to play what they call “the fighting game.” I do not care to know what it entails, but I can hear muffled bumps and crashes. The phone rings. “Hi,” I say. “Hi,” you say. “Dinner was awful. No one would eat the pork chops or the potatoes. We ended up having cereal and ice cream. Then I ate this horrible apple turnover that was stale, but I ate the entire thing anyway. What’s wrong with me?” “Our meal wasn’t too great, either,” I say. We add up the fat content of our respective meals and decide we can each indulge in some chocolate. We then each eat several brownies in our respective houses, separated by a mile. “Maybe I should get on the treadmill for a bit….” I say. “Hmmm….” you say. I consider and then reject the idea of exercise. “What are you doing tomorrow?” I ask. “Not much,” you say. “I might try making this low-fat dessert with frozen yogurt and cinnamon.” “Sounds promising,” I say. “I like cinnamon.” I am silent for a minute while I debate initiating a romantic interlude with my husband later, after the children go to bed, but then I remember that we always fall asleep while we are putting the children to bed. Then I cheer up. Who needs sex, or even phone sex, when I can have phone food multiple times a day with you, my friend and comrade in child-rearing trials and tribulations? “That dessert does sound good,” I repeat. “Save me a piece, and maybe we’ll have a play date one of these days. Good night for now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Ann Calandro is a medical editor and a mixed media collage artist whose artwork has been exhibited in juried shows and published in print and online. Several of her poems and short stories have been published in literary journals and anthologies.