The fine art of sandwich slicing (or why your children hate you)

I was preparing my kids’ lunches today when I had a profound realization: what happens to us in childhood stays with us. Elementary, my dear Kate, you might utter with justified condescension. Of course. But I’m not talking about big things – like absentee parents, divorce battles or finding a dead body (like in Stand By Me. Man, I miss River Phoenix). I’m talking about the little things that are seared – if not into your conscious memory – into your sensory memory – that collection of experiences that is stored in your body, only realized in physical release.

Let me clarify. So I was making lunches for my kids – you know, turkey on brown (oh the indulgence, the irony of using deli turkey as a carcus of the same bird sits in my fridge reminding me of yesterday’s gluttony). It was as I was cutting the sandwiches (diagonally) that it came to me: I do it this way (triangles NOT squares) very purposelfully, and only because this is how I wanted MY sandwiches cut as a youngster. It was a minor tragedy to endure squared sandwich pieces. I felt resentment toward my dad – for his practicality, his lack of creativity, and what I was certain at the time was his mean spiritedness. Now, my dad’s a decent guy – an author, mentor to some, and overall good citizen (shovels his walk on snowy days, tips the Canpar guy at Christmas, and says things like “howdy” and “good man”). But to my young mind, he approached Scrooge on this matter.

Well. I reflected on this as I finished preparing the lunches; there are other things – tiny little things – that I do as a definite reaction to my childhood, and it’s perceived shortcomings. Mostly this has been brought into relief as I raise my own children. It’s a bit like reliving my childhood and, in a way, it’s like a second chance. I get to broaden and deepen my experience of childhood, after the fact, from the perspective of an adult. It’s fun. But in other ways, it’s a conscious response to aspects of my childhood that I wouldn’t want to recreate for my own kids. Trivial? Yes, on some level – and it’s prudent to be mindful of context. But some of the silliest things (to adults) carry the most weighty significance to children. In righting the injustices of my childhood, I hope I can also stay attuned to my kids, and respect their harmless (yet potentially profound) little likes and dislikes.

On another note, I’m finally making some progress on my comps. I dumped one committee member, and signed up another. Rick Gruneau is an old Marxist, but erudite and pretty fucking savvy. He knows what’s the what and doesn’t mind telling you. He swears a lot, which of course I like, and has more than a healthy disrespect for authority. He comes from an interesting place, which includes, but is not limited, to being his daughters’ soccer coach. I like that. I gave up a long time ago on the dream of having a woman on my committee. In some ways it was tokenistic, but in other ways, still important. But I’ll settle for three out of three being parents, and two of those with kids young enough that they’re still involved.

Rick and I talked for over an hour in our first meeting, and his endless stream of information (about socialism, modernity, enlightenment, social change. But wait, there’s more!) was literally music to my ears. By the end of our meeting, we had my list sorted out; by the end of the day, I emailed him my revised version. I feel like I can finally begin this process in earnest.

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