Thursday, January 22, 2009
Sugar and Spice
My son Ethan and I were watching WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY last night - the old school version with Gene Wilder, not the new, awful one by Tim Burton. After observing the film's gorgeous ending where we find Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket and Grandpa flying around in the glass elevator - my son commented not on the family-is-the-most-important-thing message of the film, it's delightful even campy feel, but rather that he would like our swimming pool drained and filled with chocolate pudding. I watched as a dreamy quality came over his face. He was having his Sugarland Express out-of-body experience, and I was left with the body.
"You know Daddy," he said meditatively "Sugar is my best friend. I wish the whole world were made of sugar so I could eat it."
In that moment, I realized that Ethan was a junkie. A true, dyed-in-the-wool junkie that would easily slit your throat for a red velvet cupcake or a moon pie. His obsession is deep and ugly. It manifests itself in characteristic junkie behavior such as sneaking extra mouthfuls of cake at birthday parties, 'fair trades' of his healthy snacks at school for nasty Pudding Pops, and even stooping to eating stale crumbs from our forever-empty cookie jar. George and I rarely give Ethan sugar as he metabolizes it poorly. His ingestion of sugar is not what you would expect - it does not make him hyper or overly energetic. He first becomes impossibly irritable (like an angry drunk), then emotional (like a weepy drunk), and finally sleepy (like all the drunks in my family). We're Jews - and as we all know Jews can't drink. Give us two glasses of Manishevitz and you'll find us passed out under the glass and chrome coffee table after a furious fight over who Zada and Bubby loved more. It never fails.
At one infamous family get together (my grandmother's funeral) - my inebriated younger sister announced her preference for sleeping with African American men. This came as quite a shock, as at that particular moment we were discussing whether Grandma Sadie should be buried in the pink shift dress she preferred or the smart blue suit that made her look like school marm. My sister's pronouncement was all the more shocking as we had recently come to learn that she was gay.
No one said anything as none of us knew what to say.
An uncomfortable moment passed and then all our eyes turned towards my father who had raised an imaginary glass to his mouth as he grunted 'glug, glug, glug.' A knowing look came to my relative's faces. They'd all seen this many times before. Poor girl, they must have thought, Jews just shouldn't drink! Remember Aunt Dot at cousin Randal's Bar Mitzvah? How about Uncle Abe at Shelly's wedding - beyond belief! Oy vey -such a shande! My sister's statment meant to be provocative and disturbing, dismissed as one-to-many White Russians.
My son had returned from his sugar fantasy.
"Dad," he asked "Are you ok?"
I gazed at my son lovingly and said, "I'm in the mood for some chocolate chip cookie dough, how about you?" My son glanced at me as if he hadn't heard me correctly. A moment passed, a smile crossed his lips and he asked tentatively "Let's not even bother to bake them this time, we'll just eat the raw dough until we get sick, ok?"
"Sure." I said
My son leaped off the sofa and raced to our kitchen. Like any good user/enabler, I readied myself for the fighting, crying, and pleading that was to await me after our cookie dough pig-out. While our mixer turned the dough, my son became hypnotised by the heady smell of sugar, flour, and chocolate. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I wanted to stop, but just couldn't. The dough had finally finished mixing and we dove into the bowl. It was every man for himself and my son put up a fierce battle. He shoved whole fistfuls of dough into his mouth and labored to swallow them. Concerned he might choke, I insisted he slow his attack.
We finished half the dough when my son began to tire. We both sat on the floor, nautious and fatigued but pleased we had satisfied our shared addiction. I tried desperately to remember that 12-Step serenity prayer - but couldn't.