Of all my children, Sara was the one who excelled in adventurous eating. The top two were only 14 months apart, so I can time when I learned this fact precisely. Lonny was all skinny legs and dead weight in my front carrier and Sara was no more than 15 months old.
Sara was playing in the bedroom with her imaginary friend, Jack, who lived under the bed. I was in the kitchen and thought to look in on her since she was unusually silent. She and Jack were usually quite boisterous.
As I entered the front hall I met up with Sara. Her mouth was all chocolaty and she was holding what appeared to be a Baby Ruth. She was chewing. She was smiling.
She was eating dog shit.
I gagged. I ran to her screaming something I can’t remember. I really frightened her and I just feel awful about that, but honestly, wouldn’t you scream? (I realize that a picture of this would have been great, but at the time, my mind must have been somewhere else.) I picked her up and ran to the bathroom and, holding her aloft with my right arm, I moved Lonny’s hanging little body over to the left. I rinsed out her mouth and washed her face and hands, all the while gagging and screaming as quietly as I could so as not to frighten her, or Lonny, more than I already had.
She was angry with me. She had been enjoying her snack.
(This, right here, is why you do not get an older dog from a shelter. More often than not, they are in the shelter because no one could housebreak them, or they never stop barking, or they attack anyone who passes who might be wearing boots or a hat. You walk in, fall in love and go home to raise a retarded dog, who is sweet as can be except for just one little quirk.)
Some of you may wonder just how sick Sara became after this. She did not get sick at all. She had probably been feasting on dog shit long enough that she was accustomed to whatever bacteria grows in dog shit.
A few weeks later, I was wearing my skinny legged baby as usual and Sara was walking next to me. She was always very dependable and did what she was told. I never had cause to worry about her misbehaving or, say, running into the street. We entered the elevator and Sara asked for the chapstick. I handed it to her. The elevator was full. When we got to the 6th floor, I asked Sara for the chapstick back.
“I ate it,” she said.
“You ate it?”
“Do you have any more?” She asked.
I did not realize up to this point that you had to explain to a child that chapstick was not edible. You learn something new every day as a mother. The tube was completely empty, right down to that little plastic circle with the point at the bottom.
I watched her pretty closely after that. She had a tendency to pick things up off the sidewalk and appear to study them, but if you looked away, she had already popped them in her mouth.
She ate lots of pennies and dimes and nickels, although she only sucked on quarters.
She ate flowers.
She ate gravel.
She ate dirt.
She ate little pieces of plastic.
You name it.
If it were in her path she’d tuck it in her mouth. She was pretty quick. I got so that I only worried if the item was too large. She had good instincts, though, and never choked on anything.
You might think that this would have made her a sickly child. You would be wrong. She never had the slightest stomach upset. I don’t think she ever vomited in her whole life.
Sara was three years old when we joined the Navy and moved to Annapolis. We used to treat ourselves to a dinner out once a week at generic fish ‘n’ chips greasy spoons, where Lonny could make lots of noise and run around like a banshee and no one would care, while Sara sat patiently waiting to eat.
At one particular dinner that is emblazoned in our minds, we asked Sara what she was chewing, because our order had not yet arrived.
“But we don’t have any gum.”
“Where did you get gum?”
She indicated the underside the table.
Then she smiled and showed us her cupped hand full of used pieces of chewing gum that she had been busily been prying loose and collecting.
“These are for later,” she explained.
We gave her the “You Shouldn’t Eat Gum from Under the Table” lecture, but, really, we knew it was useless. We at least got the gum out of her mouth that time and her stash of the moment.
You do what you can do. (I do wish I had had a camera with me then.)
By the time the top two were old enough for small chores, and before the bottom three were born, we asked what chore each would like to do. Lonny didn’t want to do anything, but we made him do little things that wouldn’t push him over the edge. Lonny did not like to be told what to do. Sara offered to clean up the dishes after dinner every night.
This is how Sara looked at this time:
After a while I noticed that the plates were coming into the kitchen pretty much clean. There never seemed to be any leftovers. This is when we cottoned on to her trick of eating everything that anyone else had left over on his plate each night. She really enjoyed cleaning up after dinner, but she had her own reasons.
By this time we thought we had a handle on Sara, but then the unthinkable happened.
In High School, Sara became a vegetarian.
The girl who could and did eat anything, stopped eating all meat and fish.
(What category would dog shit be in, anyway?)
When she went to college, she came home a vegan.
(I’ve told you her history. Can you believe this?)
I had to make Thanksgiving for all the ravenous carnivores in the family and an entire vegan Thanksgiving also. I discovered upon researching that the “Tofurky” is no match for the “Now and Zen.” She had to have vegan “turkey,” “gravy,” “stuffing,” cranberry sauce, (Okay, that one was easy,) and dessert with no meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, gelatin, or any animal product. She still liked to eat, mind you, she was just suddenly enormously finicky.
Thankfully, she has reverted a bit and as of now is a regular vegetarian with a touch of pescatarian thrown in on occasion. She will eat milk products, but only those from “The Happy Cow Farm,” and only eggs with painstaking requirements that boggle the mind. (Just try to go shopping for her.)
This from the girl who ate dog shit.