September 14, 2012 by whirlyjoy
Last week Aida tasted a bit of the salmon I had made for my own dinner. I knew she wanted to try it because she stood over the baking dish it was in and signed “chicken”.
I wrote her a little card:
She signed it silently to herself as she read, then asked for “more fish”.
So that night we got a new food and a new word. Sweet cause for celebration, right?
My sister and I were both very picky eaters as children. Eenie famously complained of an itchy tongue when confronted with foods she didn’t want to eat, and Nana sought medical assistance when I was four years old to get me to branch out from hot dogs and fried chicken. “Just offer her what’s on the table for everyone else, and eventually she’ll get hungry and decide to eat it,” said the doctor.
He was wrong. I starved myself for days, until I couldn’t even keep down the hot dog they eventually gave in and fed to me. My respect for Aida’s powerful stubbornness is rooted in this story of another little girl who was willing to go all out to protect herself from an unpredictable and unwelcome world, up to and including vomiting it up if necessary.
Still, it was kind of exhilarating to picture all three of us eating a meal together that wasn’t poultry. Aida watched the salmon go into the oven. “Chicken?” she signed. Mimi wrote her a new note explaining the fish idea. Icky Greenboots became overly excited about the possibilities opened up by us all eating the same meal at the same time. “We could teach Aida to set the table!” she said. Right. Just as soon as she learns to use her napkin instead of her sleeve. (Actually, she often does use her napkin to wipe off her plate when she’s done eating. And then swipes her mouth with her sleeve.)
Besides, we never set the table, we’re strictly a get-your-own-gear kind of family. So what is it about the siren call of the family dinner that still pulls me in sometimes? For one fleeting moment that evening I even thought about making Mimi put her Kindle away! I sat down, unfolded my napkin into my lap, picked up my fork and knife… and realized I hadn’t poured my glass of wine.
This shattered the momentary fantasy. I sighed. “Mimi, can you please guard my plate so your sister doesn’t take my salmon while I get my drink?” I asked. Mimi didn’t reply or look up from her reading. She just snaked her hand out to glide my plate behind the protective barrier of her Kindle, and asked me to get her the ketchup while I was up.