Christopher, 25, was coming over to drop something off.
“Do you have any bagels?” he texted.
“No, but we have rye bread,” I replied.
“I’ll make you grilled cheese,” I offered.
“Yesssssssssssssssss,” he sent back.
It took Ari, 22, going into residence for a year to make him appreciate how wonderful I am. He used to come home and weep when he saw a full fridge, he told me repeatedly how good his laundry smelled and every time I made dinner or took him grocery shopping, I would feel like I was attending my own coronation.
The kind where you pay for your own crown, but still.
As I plunked a plate piled with grilled cheese sandwiches in front of Christer, he sighed.
“I was so stupid when I was a kid,” he began.
I waited. I knew gold was coming.
“Do you remember how we used to complain? I would give anything now, I mean, having to do this whole dinner thing, every single night, it sucks.”
“Now you get how hard it is? You brats each hated what the other liked,” I told him.
“I know! ‘Eww, not crummy chicken again!’ and now, I’d eat crummy chicken every night. And love it. I’d kill for crummy chicken.”
Crummy chicken was what they called chicken breasts with the bone in, cooked in the oven with knockoff Shake’N Bake. The coating was really light, the chicken tasted great, and they complained because of the bone.
I would buy chicken when it was on sale because we were broke, and I’d make crummy chicken because I am not an adventurous cook. When you get in the house at 6 p.m. and have to feed two boys who cannot agree on a single food group, it was never much of a mystery why I just gently cried myself to sleep each night.
I wrote in this space once, near the very beginning of Motherlode, that I considered a balanced meal to be one where nobody fell off his chair. I tricked one kid into eating asparagus by telling him it would make his pee smell funny. I would cut vegetables into weird shapes, I would lie about what they were eating (Ari told me once, as he ate a pork chop, that his chicken tasted weird), and I would let them eat with fancy toothpicks instead of forks. I would light candles and put their milk in wine glasses and tell them we were having special dinner.
“And, what was up with me and spaghetti?” Christer was asking me now, as he dipped his grilled cheese in a puddle of ketchup. “Why didn’t I like it?
“Remember I used to only put butter on my noodles? I love it now,” he finished.
I glared at him.
“I make great spaghetti sauce. It’s one of the few things I do well, and you wouldn’t eat it. And now you like it?”
I was glad to hear it, actually, but Pammy had asked me how to do it months ago. At least he’s learned to treat the girlfriend better than the mother.
There was a time I thought I would never get this kid potty-trained. There was a time I thought he would ask for chicken nuggets at his wedding. There was a time I thought his feet would never stop growing.
“Now, I would eat anything. I would be thrilled at anything.”
I watched as he finished up and put his plate in the dishwasher.
The miracle is complete.