Christmas Eve 2006, for our family of seven, was spent fumbling through the all-hours cafeteria in the most distant corner of the Twilight Zone.
Our family drives home from a huge feast with my wife Patty’s extended family. Each of us, in turn, complains about how stuffed we are. We're a groaning contest on wheels. When we arrive home, the kids, still holding their stomachs, retire to one of the upstairs bedrooms to watch a movie.
Connor, our youngest, calls downstairs—he’s famished. It’s Christmas, a time for giving rather than sudden violence, so we relent and let him poke around our fridge. When he arrives on the main floor, he insists he will settle only for food that is “hard” (and adds, “And NOT candy.”) We suggest apples. “Not hard enough.” Celery? “Nope. Too soft.” He throws up his arms and, in a huff, ascends the stairs. Moments later, our daughter Kelly appears to let us know Connor has had an epiphany—the “hard food” he’s been craving...is chicken.
All the discussion of food reminds our oldest sons—Devin and PJ—that there’s food in the house yet to be eaten. PJ heats up enough pasta to feed Chicago and most of the suburbs. Devin settles for a large tub of hummus and a jumbo bag of pita chips. While noshing, he expounds upon how exciting it would be to “comparison eat” several different types of hummus. We have only one variety, and it's disappointingly generic. He grumbles, but finishes it all.
Kelly remembers that Connor had been offered an apple, so she reappears to collect apples for herself and the other kids. A year before, she would have balked at an apple, because she had decided she was allergic to them (as had her favorite cousin…go figure). When she discovers that, unlike our hummus, we have more than one variety of apple, she yells, “Well, then just forget it! This is too confusing. I’ll just get one for myself. They can get their own.”
The remaining apples disappear.
One of the kids calls down—they're still hungry. Patty considers their request, then yells for the lot of them to shut up, settle down and go to sleep. She’s not frustrated because it’s late, nor because they are relentless eating machines. She’s agitated that the constant interruptions are preventing the grown-ups from concentrating on the program we've settled upon: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Patty and I call it a night. Down the hall, Connor dozes with a smile, with visions not of sugar plums but of rotisserie chickens dancing in his head.