With an eighth grade graduation party looming in my near future, I stood at the meat counter this weekend and, after a few minutes of pondering, I asked the butcher, “Exactly how much ground beef should I buy to feed six fourteen-year-old boys?” The butcher laughed and said, “At that age, they’ll probably try to eat themselves.”
Two hours later, it looked like my kitchen had been ravaged by a pack of wild wolves. Missing from my pantry and refrigerator were four pounds of hamburger, two sacks of hamburger buns, a jumbo bag of frozen French fries, and two cartons of ice cream. The bottle of chocolate syrup lay on its side on the counter, every last drop of deliciousness squeezed from its insides. The boys stood around in a circle, patted their distended stomachs while looking very dissatisfied, and asked the seemingly shocking question, “Is there anything else to eat?”
The boys slept over and the next morning, it looked like a hungry grizzly bear and her cubs had invaded our kitchen. Missing from my cupboards were two boxes of granola bars, three sacks of potato chips, and twenty-four cans of soda. Wrappers and crumbs surrounded the boys as they slept peacefully on the living room floor, their tiny peach fuzz mustaches now hidden by sticky soda pop mustaches.
Last weekend in the checkout lane at the grocery store, the checker yelled out my total, “Two hundred and twenty-five dollars and three cents!” to anyone who was listening because I, unfortunately, had already gone into the fetal position on the floor after I mistakenly viewed the not-yet-final total while loading the groceries on to the belt.
“You lost me at one hundred and fifty,” I said weakly as I grabbed the checker’s hair in order to pull myself up from the floor.
I turned to a mother of two small children under the age of three who had mistakenly chosen to stand in line behind me, her cart only half full with tiny juice boxes and other miniature snack assortments, and said, “I bet your grocery bill is only fifty dollars a week, isn’t it?”
She smiled, nodded, and said, “How do you know that?”
“I used to have little children,” I said wistfully. I continued as she listened intently, “I remember the days when my children would only eat three grapes and a cracker for dinner and I’d worry myself sick. I’d say to my husband, ‘Birds eat more than our children!’ Little did I know that one day my son would consume more food in one week than a college football player.”
She looked horrified as she listened to me quietly mortgage my house on my cell phone and then pay the checker. I walked to my cart which was now heaped with large boxes of snacks, fifty pounds of meat, and four gallons of milk and grunted, “One, two, three … HEAVE HO!” This time, it was me who looked like a football player in training camp as I pushed the cart out into the parking lot.
Meanwhile, back at my kitchen table, six hungry boys sat waiting for breakfast. A few minutes later, missing from my refrigerator was a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, a half a loaf of bread, and a gallon of orange juice. “Is everybody doing okay?” I asked.
“We’re still hungry,” my son said.
The butcher was right. There is no such thing as “feeling full” when you’re fourteen. As I watched the boys who were now turning into men compare muscles, talk about girls, and laugh at each other’s jokes, I realized that in just a short few years, the scene was going to change around my kitchen table. The chairs will more empty than occupied; my cupboards more vacant than full. My children will be grown and making their own memories around their own kitchen tables.
And with that realization, I clapped my hands excitedly and asked the boys, “Okay, now which one of you wants to try to eat himself first?”