Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don’t Eat Rubber Grapes and Other Vital Warnings

When I was about ten years old, my mother bought some rubber grapes and put them in a bowl on the dining room table as a decoration. Then she delivered the very dire warning: Don’t eat the grapes! They are rubber. Don’t eat them! They may look real, but they are not. Not real! They will poison you or lodge in your throat and choke you to death!

I was ten—why on earth did she seem to think I’d want to eat rubber grapes? To me, the implication was that I went around indiscriminately vacuuming up objects into my mouth, like a giant goldfish, in case they might remotely resemble food. Worse than a goldfish, even, to inhale with such force that they would lodge in my windpipe.

Besides, this was in our formal dining room, which was not a place I associated with eating, anyway. It was for homework and jigsaw puzzles and class projects. But the main thing was, the grapes were rubber. They looked rubber. And even if they had looked that real, wouldn’t I have figured it out when I tried to pick one? And even if a rubber grape made it to my mouth, would I swallow it for lack of knowing what else to do with it?

So I was pretty insulted by that warning.

But then came the time I was grown and trying to germinate poisonous Morning Glory seeds in a little container in my kitchen. Being apparently more passive aggressive than my mother, I made a little Post It note that said, “Don’t eat! Poisonous seeds!” And I drew a little skull and crossbones for good measure. My daughter was then about twelve. She looked into the little cup at the brownish water with a few little black things floating in it, looked up at me, and said merely, “yum.”

She was right—they didn’t appear very appetizing. But still, I was a mother and couldn’t take any chances.

Then the other day I discovered a jar in the kitchen that looked like a science experiment. Both of my children are into science, so I wasn’t surprised. It was a jar of water with colorful chunks in it. Turned out she’d found some old “Magic Rocks” in the basement that she’d missed as a child, and she and her friends had mixed them up. Under the jar was a note: DO NOT DRINK GROWING ROCKS!

I am so proud.

Also, our caretaker, Mr. Filch, has asked me to remind you that the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a most painful death. ~Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


  1. Hey, teenagers sometimes eat first and think/look/ask questions later. They're such bottomless pits, they're driven to just FILL their gullet.

    But maybe when our kids get college-aged, the tables turn. They see their mothers--menopausal monsters with an insatiable appetite for chocolate and cheese and doughy delicacies--and they want to warn us just like we warned them...

  2. Worry warts, all of us. The other day I was cleaning my classroom and came across a piece of fake food, a slice of American cheese, and it had a definite bite taken out. Now I'm worried about which kid had anintestinal blockage over the summer.

    Your daughter's comment cracked me up.

  3. Apple. Tree.

    Not quite the same thing, but when my mom was young, she thought her mother had put a bowl of ice cream on the table before supper to tempt her and get her in trouble.

    "How mean!" she thought. "I'll show her! She'll never know." Mom grabbed a serving spoon and shoveled a heaping helping into her mouth.

    It was cottage cheese.

    I doubt that a note with a skull and crossbones would have deterred her.

  4. Sioux, you're right! You made me realize I am much more likely to eat rubber food now that I'm old and blind and really do inhale food much like a giant goldfish....

    Linda, I'm still laughing at your cheese with the bite out of it! My daughter had that fake cheese when she was little, so I understand. The real thing looks so plastic that the plastic stuff looks REAL.

    I don't quite get your mom's reasoning, Val, but I love your grandmother's! That's much meaner than a skull and crossbones.

  5. Fabulous! Gotta love the instincts you and your daughter inherited from your mother!
    Good stuff, Tammy.

  6. Sounds like the be-careful-not-to-eat genes run in your family.

    You SHOULD be proud!


  7. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. I state the obvious so often my youngest daughter doesn't even roll her eyes anymore. She just pats me on the head and says, "Oh, Mama!"

  8. You're so funny... love how the kids take after us after they grow up.

  9. That reminds me of my constant comment that continues to this day whenever my grown up kids go anywhere..."Be careful."

    One day my daughter responded in an exasperated tone, "No Mom. I'm going to be reckless."

    Critter Alley


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