For some reason, I chose oatmeal as the hill to die on. Living in the beautiful little alpine village of Oberammergau, Germany, in the early 1970’s, I was in the third grade and feeling grown up with the natural desire to be my own boss. My mother, being an army wife with the responsibility of feeding her hardworking man and four voracious children on a small salary, nevertheless fed us well. One of the household favorites was oatmeal and I had never had a problem with it, that I can remember. However, one innocent morning, I surprised my mother by refusing to eat it.
“Why don’t you want your oatmeal?” she asked.
“I just don’t want it.” I said.
After a moment of thought, Mom said, “Okay. You don’t have to eat it.”
Feeling that the wonderful victory was mine, I smugly requested bacon, eggs, and toast for my breakfast, instead of the newly despised oatmeal.
With a sympathetic look, Mom said, “No. You will eat oatmeal or nothing.”
I was shocked. This is not the way it is supposed to work. Well! The battle is on.
“I will have nothing, then.” And I left for the walk to school. Once there, the excitement of friends and the wonderful teaching of Mrs. Brown, one of my favorite teachers, took the thought of my grievance completely out of my head. At that time and in that place, there was no easily available food in school. All the kids, that I knew, went home for lunch and only rarely did anyone bring anything to school. Every once in a while, Mrs. Brown would do something fun involving food, like bringing the ingredients for tortillas, a press, and a hotplate and, during a lesson on Mexico, we ate fresh hot tortillas. But, this rebellious day was totally without candy from a friend or exotic food from the teacher.
On the way home for the midday meal, walking up the mountain, I was glad to imagine our usual lunch of a sandwich, soup, and warm homemade pudding. It was good and comforting to come home, pretending I was Heidi going up the Alm. It was not that difficult, because we were surrounded by alps and we lived on the side of one. I had recently gotten a little swiss chalet music box for Christmas which played the song Edelweiss from the movie, The Sound of Music. I happily headed for home, seeing, in my mind’s eye, the chocolate pudding cooling on the kitchen windowsill, and I got hungrier with every step.
When I opened the door, I was treated to a lovely smell drifting in the air and it was very satisfying to my nose. Happily anticipating the satisfaction of my stomach, I sat down to a bowl of cold congealed oatmeal. What?!
“I don’t want this!” I cried with disgust in my voice and on my face.
Mom, in her patient and quiet way, said, “Oh, you don’t have to eat it.”
I, in my impatient and thick-headed way, said, “Good! I’ll have a sandwich, soup, and pudding.”
“No. You will have oatmeal or nothing.”
Oh! This was just too much! Mom was not getting it. Fine, I would have to go to school, starving and neglected, and hope she learns her lesson. The walk back to school was not as easy or happy as the walk home had been. I headed down the road, toward school and the little horse pasture next door to the playground. I was sure that the horse would understand me and my troubles, but he was not at the fence when I got there. I had to get to class. It was a little more difficult to forget my grumbling stomach, but the afternoon passed, and it was soon time to go home.
Typically, we would come home from school, change, and go out to play until supper. Today, when we got home, a wonderful aroma was wafting appealingly from the kitchen. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t play a whole lot, that day, but sat and thought about supper while I was outside grouchily waiting for it. Finally, we were called in for supper.
We all ran in and got ready to eat. I sat down in great anticipation only to be greeted by that same cold, gray, slimy bowl of oatmeal. Mom had kept it in the refrigerator, so it was really cold. Old, cold oatmeal is not my first choice of a meal, but it was appreciated by my empty growling stomach. I didn’t even look up; I just ate it. They say that hunger is the best sauce, and, for once, they were right.
The next morning, Mom placed a fragrant bowl of hot, buttery oatmeal in front of me. I ate it with relish. I have loved oatmeal ever since, but not as much as I love my wise and gentle mother.
Copyright 2020 Virginia C. McCoy