A couple of years ago on a hot and dry sunny day in summer, I was cleaning out our van and moving kids out of boosters, and in to boosters and into forward facing car seats and out of rear facing car seats. I took advantage of this time to wash all the padding in the seats and hang them in the sun to dry and then I washed the plastic bases and assigned a child to use the carpet cleaning machine to clean the upholstery after the van was vacuumed out. One more kid was washing the plastic cup holders, door handles and the console and another was washing the inside of the windows.
While I was washing the seats, the oldest kids washed the outside of the van. The littlest kids were tied up, literally, I had used a very long dog leash clipped to their belt loops and tied them to me so that we could all be in the front yard and not have toddlers in the street. We have a lot of kids and I thought it was time to really deep clean everything since it had been a couple of years since we had taken the extra steps. Then, I found proof of just how badly we needed to clean the van.
“Jack, what is this little cup in your cup holder in your booster seat?” I asked. I had found a little condiment cup with a lid in his fold-away juice box holder. It was a strange find because we do not eat out much and I had no idea where he would get it. It looked like gravy. It smelled like gravy. It was more than a little weird. Had this been a moment in a movie, there would have been a slow moving close up and the music would have turned ominous.
“That is my gravy,” he answered matter-of-factly as he continued washing windows.
"Gravy? Where on earth did you get the gravy from?”
“From Kansas, duh” he actually rolled his little eyes as he spoke.
I was confused. “Jack, we haven’t been to Kansas since Great Grandma’s funeral two years ago.” Then it struck me, deep in the core of my being: Kentucky…Fried…Chicken!
“Jack, this is very, very important. Is this your left-over gravy from your chicken finger basket from the trip to Great Grandma’s funeral?!” I was frantic almost desperate. We had stopped in some small town and had no options but eight hungry kids. I remember that buffet KFC and the fact that no one left the restaurant feeling good. I remembered the leftovers that we threw away when we stopped later. I watched as he nodded, apparently we had not thrown away all the leftovers. “Okay, have you eaten this, any of this, since then?!” He shook his head.
“No, it wasn’t very good so I put it in my car seat for later.”
“But you didn’t eat it, not even taste it, or anything, right?” I sighed in relief as he shook his head.
I opened the container and looked at the gravy. It was pristine. I looked like food. It smelled like food. It might have tasted the same, but I was not about to try it. It was not rotting or decaying or moldy or anything. This was food so reprehensible, so awful, so repugnant that bacteria didn’t even want it.
I turned the small plastic cup over and over in my hands as I considered it and weighed its meaning. Here we were two years later, it’s evil little polysorbate-80 tell tale heart threatening me, reminding me that we might have little bits of the gravy lodged in our colons somewhere. What kind of a mother was I, doing things like this to my kids, feeding them impenetrable, undead food? I shivered in the hot sun.
“What have I done? What…have…I…done?!”
“Mom, it’s okay, you can throw it away. I didn’t want to eat it anyway.”
Yes…yes, that is exactly what I would do. I tossed that little plastic cup in the trash, reveling in the knowledge that soon, very soon, it would make its way to the dump—never to be seen again. We would be rid of it and none would be the wiser. Then I looked up at the sky and made a silent vow, “With God as my witness, I will never feed my kids KFC again!”
I looked at the kids, “We will never speak of this.”
Linking up to Fat Tuesday!
(By the way, this is a true story, although this version is a bit theatrical. Jack is a pretty squirrelly kid, you can read about another fun antic in POOP NO!)