Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The most tragic event of my life

And I'm saying that with only a trace of sarcasm.

I was in 3rd or 4th grade at the time. This was when we lived on the Sammamish plateau, a dreary, rainy place. I came home from school on that fateful afternoon, hungry for comfort - it had been a bad day. My mom put a pot of water on to boil and took out a box of pasta. Nothing soothes like a hot bowl of noodles in the chilly November. I pulled up a stool to the bar counter and rested my head on folded arms. "Sweetie," my mom called after the pasta was done. I picked my head up and watched as she carried the pot over to the sink and drained the farfalle into a waiting colander, "would you like anything on your pasta?" And this is where I choked up.

You need to understand something. I haven't always been the butter queen that I am today. Yes, butter tasted good - but it was too good to be right. Eating butter was a bad thing. A very bad thing that should be accompanied by remorse and guilt and apologies. My mom loved butter then, and still does. Salt too. Every starch she ate - pasta, rice, potatoes - was dabbed with golden butter and sprinkled with salt. But we drank 0% skim milk and lowfat this and nonfat that, and butter was the epitome of weakness. Frowned upon. Only weaklings with no self control ate butter or added salt. It was unhealthy and fattening and an embarrassment to be seen eating it.

But oh how I craved a bowl of buttered noodles that afternoon. In the past I would frequently sneak a bite of my mother's pasta or rice, and it was always so yummy, sinfully good. I never let my parents catch me. I was a good daughter, and I didn't want to let them down. I wanted that buttered pasta so badly it hurt, but I couldn't say it. Even if I had the guts to answer her, it would be a quiet, shameful request. So I told myself to be strong, and answered, "No". "Are you sure? No butter or salt? How about some cheese?" This was too much. I started to cry. She was being so sweet and caring and I couldn't handle it. And she probably wouldn't even get mad at me if I did say yes. My stomach twisted up as I let out a huge sob and said "No, I'm okay". She handed me a bowl of hot but dry pasta, then began dressing hers. Two pats of butter. Several shakes of the salt. She stirred it with her fork and sat up next to me, rubbing my back. We ate in silence as the tears flowed, running into my bowl and seasoning the noodles.

And the worst part was that there was no going back. This would remain the only time in my childhood that she pushed me to ask for butter. If only I had said "yes". It would have opened the door to a new, better childhood paved with butter, rather than dry, bland noodles. If I had said "yes" I would be free to ask for butter again and again. But this one incident planted me firmly on non-hedonistic territory and there was no turning back.

Or at least for another five years.

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