This I Believe

cynthia - laguna beach, California
Entered on April 6, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

A Rice Krispies Mourning

I mourn, yet no one’s died. And how Rice Krispies provide catalyst to my lament is complicated. But for as long as I can remember, my father has eaten Rice Krispies two mornings a week: Tuesdays and Saturdays. He’s always been quirky like that. A specific cup is used for its assigned juice, clean socks should only be folded into a ball, gold-toe obscured by its mate, and if you want to make it to a movie on time (seventeen minutes early, to allow ample time for a visit to the restroom) and have missed a light, you need to increase your driving speed by a harrowing 44% in order to make up the time. (Assuming the red light glows for the standard 33 seconds and you are well within four cars of its pending change to green.)

My parents divorced when I was three so Obsessive Compulsive Disorder wasn’t a term I would have understood. What I did comprehend was the feeling of inadequacy I felt every time he picked my two older brothers and me up for one of his weekends. We went through the formalities of getting to know each other again – how was school, soccer, the dog. I was usually last in the inquisition which was fine, because by the time my dad and eldest brother finished recounting his accomplishments of the week – ‘The honor roll? Again? You watch – you’ll going to be a Brown alum just like your Dad’ – we were already at the grocery store.

Another ritual.

Each visit, before we made it to his house, we stocked up on all the meals and accoutrements we’d need for our extended stay. Because if there’s one thing he hated, it was unscheduled trips to the store due to poor planning. So let’s say I needed a box of Kotex due to such poor planning – at 12, you’re highly irregular – it was simply easier if I walked the mile and a half each way to get it myself, dipping into my meager allowance. My two-hour disappearing acts were never an issue.

What was noticed were my glasses. With my legally blind left eye and my might-as-well-be in the other, contact lenses weren’t an option until my teens (although my mom confessed she put me in contacts at one at the urging of my father). But the coke bottles offended my dad, so I squinted my way through entire summers. What also was noticed was my lack of athletic ability. An avid golfer, my father had the lean body of an Olympian. I, unfortunately, couldn’t see the damn ball, let alone swing at it.

But most of the time I existed under his radar. Nineteenth-century Chinese culture would have likened me to a useless branch in a family tree. Which could explain why after a golf game, my father would summon my brothers to accompany him to the “19th hole” at the club’s gentleman’s bar, while I sat in the car, sometimes for two hours. Or why, after dinner, it was my job to clear the dishes and wipe down the table. Or, why it was my birthright to roll his clean socks, gold-toes in.

In those days our visits generally lapsed a Saturday, so we consumed many bowls of Rice Krispies. My father, brothers and I would be seated together, after our glass of juice we drank standing up, (‘for optimal digestion’, explained my father), and we’d begin our ritual of who would be ‘Snap’, who was ‘Crackle’, and lastly, who got to be the ‘Pop’. Being a girl, I was mercilessly black-balled from the game, only to lose myself in a silent debate over whether Mr. Kellogg had any compassion for me at all.

But I hate to sound resentful. Those who ostracize themselves from their less-than-ideal parents are heartless, in my opinion. And others who launch a quest for resolution in hopes to make up for lost time are simply chasing their tails. So I suppose that leaves me somewhere in the middle – nowhere. There are moments where I long to pick up the phone and scream ‘Hear me! Accept me! Love me!’ Of course, it’s usually at night, when I hear my husband gently coaxing fluoride onto one of our kids’ back teeth. “Roar like a lion, bud.’ But then I look at the clock, and remember my dad unplugs his phone precisely at 8:30. And if I were to catch him, I’d probably cry, which is the only thing that trumps his hatred for my glasses. I’m best left to defer to old Chinese thinking: In our next life, undoubtedly we will be old sames, working in the fields, side-by-side.

But in this life, it’s a Tuesday. And as I stare at my box of Rice Krispies, I pass right over Snap and Crackle as I always have. My longing, my yearning has always been for Pop.