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Peas and Saliva

At some point late in high school or early in college, I drove over to my Uncle Kevin’s house.  Just for a visit.  No occasion.  Although he now has three grown children, he only had one at the time, my cousin Patrick, who was under two.  Uncle Kevin was feeding Patrick dinner in a high chair while his now ex-wife was upstairs doing something else.  I have absolutely no recollection of what we talked about for those couple of hours…none.  In fact, I can’t even picture Uncle Kevin at the time.  I can see a vague outline of the kitchen, but of the conversation?  Nothing.  Any details?  No, except…the baby-feeding process.  Mind you, as a kid, I could barely keep from retching when my dad would mix two things on his plate.  He would smash some potatoes together with a piece of steak.  Or mix corn with the potatoes.  I’d have to avert my eyes just to make sure that I could finish my plate.

Five minutes in with Uncle Kevin that day, there were peas and creamed corn or applesauce or cooked squash (definitely something yellow) smeared all over the tray of the high chair, some dripping in globs off of the rails of the chair, and more mushed all over Patrick’s face than ever made it into his mouth.  It was disgusting.  I remember several times having to focus on my breathing…hard…in order not to barf right there.  It was traumatizing.

A few years later, when I would talk about having or not having kids myself, I would vocalize what I felt at the time, in probably pretentious-sounding high-mindedness:  “I understand why others want to have kids.  I mean, I really do.  But, when I listen to them speak passionately about why they want to or why they wanted to before they had them, although I get it, I hear the reasons and they seem to make sense at least for them, and I can see their sincerity, nothing about what they say resonates with me.  I just don’t feel it myself.”  In my head, though, accompanying that intellectualized answer I would see, at some point during any such conversation, Patrick’s face smothered in pea green, yellow squash goo, glistening with slobbered saliva, and my stomach would just churn.  Have a baby?  Hell to the no.

Thus, it will come as no surprise to anyone that years later, when the smothered face is Fisher’s or Cory’s, no eyes need averting, no stomach churns, and no breathing requires monitoring.  I eat off of the same slathered spoons.  I finish some of their portions for them, never minding whether all of the remaining portion is straight from the pot or whether some of it made its way into a mouth and then back into the bowl again.  No bigs.

Don’t get me wrong, objectively disgusting.  Gross.  Just not disgusting or gross to me anymore.

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