Children change so quickly, don’t they? It’s an amazing thing to watch. And, of course, it’s so much easier to discern these charming progress points when they aren’t your immediate progeny. Kind of like watching a new house going up as you drive by occasionally: Oh, Look! The chimney is up! Gosh, that was fast! While the poor owners are staring at each brick being added, wondering if moving day will ever come.
As she approaches her fourth birthday, our Sis has had a big year. She learned to sing “Where is Thumbkin?,” complete with hand motions, and developed an interest in kitchen activity and cooking. She carries on a fairly complex conversation with enthusiasm and is gaining on her life’s aim to keep up with her older brother. She grew more than an inch.
But there’s one thing about Sis that remains a steady fixture in our lives, rooted as deeply as her unwavering insistence that it matters not if you wear your shoes on the wrong feet.
Sis is an Eating Machine. A Ravenous Ravager of (almost) all things eminently edible. She is the top-rated Hoover of plate cleaners. In our family, there are no other contenders.
This rather striking quality tends to surprise those who aren’t around her regularly. They first notice the crystal blue eyes, long blonde curls, or precocious exuberance. But join her at table, and it’s hard to stop the eyes from popping. You may feel like a balletomane who sneaks into the dressing room to discover the prima ballerina stuffing her face with Twinkies.
But let me get at that Twinkies thing immediately, before I get in trouble here. The really remarkable thing about many of her menu preferences is their healthy nature. She never asks for junk food at my house. When this volume trend began to escalate a year or so ago, the first shocker was cooked carrots. I mean, who knew? When I was her age, I wouldn’t eat them on a bribe. Last time I served carrots with pot roast on a cold winter day, Sis ate her portion, her brother’s, a small heap of seconds from the pot, and was still pining when her father bridged the shortage by forking over his, too.
Fruit is another favorite, and oranges currently rank quite high. On her last visit, Sis risked life and limb to get close to a bowl of the alluring, bright orbs, clambering up from a stool, to a chair, to a box on the chair, before I could leap to secure her on perch. Alas, she still couldn’t reach, so was forced to ask, politely but pointedly, if she could please have one with expedited delivery. I cut it in half, and by the time I reached to peel the second half, the first sections had vanished.
The next morning, we moved on to surprising success with the larger citrus cousin, grapefruit. Watching me spooning out the pink sections, Sis requested a taste test. I cut her a very small portion and hesitated before handing it over. This is much more tart than an orange, I warned. Try this small piece first. It’s OK if you don’t like it. (Note to self: wasted breath.) “I love that!” Sis exclaimed, adding her personal anthem: “Could I have some more?”
What creates such an appetite, I have pondered occasionally, in between efforts to stock the larder before the children arrive and scrambling to proffer seconds and thirds during meals. An extended growth spurt, I suppose. One does wonder if takes extra calories to fund a campaign of regular screaming—whether in exuberance, or just a forceful bid to be heard, one never knows. (This is yet another phase we seem to be stuck in.) Sis is blessed with good health and no weight concerns, thank goodness, and her parents work hard to select and offer quality food to the children. They certainly converted me to the notion that children will learn from example and context when it comes to healthy food.
Meanwhile, my favorite evidence of the Hoover plate-cleaning action occurred at Christmas dinner just a few weeks back. We have a family tradition of serving homemade applesauce with the holiday meal. Our family product is a thick, somewhat tart variety that we make with the best apples when they ripen every June, then we hoard it in the freezer for special occasions.
What fun to see the children excited to get their portion, which I served in tiny, delicate, gold-rimmed bowls passed down from my great-grandmother. No doubt the original owner of the bowls turned in her grave if she noticed Sis about a minute later with her bowl upended near her face, so she could lick it clean. Hey! I remonstrated weakly, stifling an empathetic guffaw. Use your spoon, please!
“But the spoon won’t get it all, and it’s so good,” she replied, pausing just long enough to answer. What’s a grandmother to do? I wish I had a picture of that little episode. It would be fun to taunt her with when she is older, when it comes time, if we are lucky, to teach her to make the applesauce herself.