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  • Friday, September 24, 2004


    Breakfast in America: Mummy-style

    Life is back to normal for America's Worst Mother™ and, for us, that means that Meghan (and the kids: Miasma, Pinot Noir, Gravitas, and Mersault) hit all of their marks; all of the things that compel us to morbidly return each week to read the car-wreck that is The Fever Swamp. So, let's get started, eh?

    Son Mersault in his role of incipient manly man:

    Molly and I laugh out loud. "It depends — " I begin, as she is saying, "No dog is that thin," when I say, " — but in general, if you're measuring from nose to tail — " at which point she asks, "Why do you want to know, anyway?"

    He shrugs. "I was just wondering." And that, really, is that. Paris is bouncy and curious but so far as we can tell he is totally lacking in introspection. This seems to me very healthy and linear and manly. Pick him up from school and ask, "So, how was your day?" and more often than not he will answer, "Great!"

    "Great how?" you may pursue, "Socially great? Academically great? Was there a great snack?"

    "I don't know," he'll say, shrugging genially. "It just was. Great."

    Obviously Mersault will grow up to be like a certain President who is also known as The Steely-Eyed Rocket Man or the Dress Up Flightsuit-Bunny depending on whether you live in a red state or a blue state.

    Moving on we find Mr. Meghan fleshing out the fifties sit-com dad archetype; a man of few words dispensing sage advice over the top of the newspaper when he's not shaking his head over the exploits of his zany, but delightful, mate:

    Looking around the table I cannot believe my good fortune. This morning is different from all others because...after ten years of Balkanized mealtimes, with children eating at this time, in this room, and adults eating at that time, in that room; and worse, of breakfasts wherein children sit around a table being served by adults who stand and gulp their cereal from bowls held in their hands or turn their backs to the chewing throng to read the op-ed pages — well! After all this time, a foot has been put down. A line has been drawn in the oatmeal.

    "If our family does not start eating together at least once a day," I told my husband a month ago, "I will explode." He gazed apprehensively at me. "Since you are not home early enough in the evening," I plowed on, "I propose that we eat a proper breakfast together. In the dining room."

    He took this as well as could be expected of a man who is about to have his early-morning newspaper reading interrupted. "I'm sure," he sighed, "it will be very nice."

    ...and he goes back to pretending to read his paper all the while wondering if his mistress will let him sleep over since he would rather wake up to a hummer than a muffin, and, hey, who wouldn't?

    Then there is AWM™ herself in the role of Mother-Who-Tries-So-Very-Hard-But-What's-A-Mother-To-Do:

    Warm family breakfasts with informed, lively discussion about current events! Cheerful back-and-forth about what's happening at school! Steaming hot chocolate! Cereal with berries! Bacon, melon, juice!

    Constitutionally I am inclined to wear rose-colored glasses anyway, but I tell you, for the first two weeks of the new regime I was so totally engulfed by a rosy miasma that you could only see my feet. Up at dawn, slip into clothes, nip downstairs. Put the coffee on, retrieve the newspaper, set the table, pour the juice, remove some baked good from the oven, and call up the stairs in a sparkling voice, "Children, husband, breakfast!"

    "Wow, home-made muffins!" the children would say one morning, and "Gee, chocolate-chip pancakes!" the next. "Oh, boy, cantaloupe!" and "Is that sausage?"


    So it has been a month of splendid breakfasts.

    Alas, things fall apart, the center cannot hold. The Martha-Stewart mania that roused me at dawn each morning has waned. Once again I must struggle to get out of bed as under the ancien regime. The crisp discipline that had me putting fresh linens and silverware on the table each evening before bed has deteriorated, too. Often now there has to be a hasty sweeping-off of textbooks and watercolor sets before anyone can eat.

    Worse, the dissidents are growing bolder. "Some day can we just have plain cereal?" said one the other day, as she dolefully contemplated a table groaning under the weight of sliced nectarines, Greek yogurt with honey drizzled on top, and toasted English muffins. The next day, someone else actually complained, "Do I have to have French toast?"

    And last, and always least, there are the girls who each week are drug kicking and screaming out of their rooms to do something cute, and merely exist as a aside in this potentially dysfunctional Where's Tennesee Williams When You Need Him freakshow:

    To maintain my grip on power under this new arrangement, I begin to perceive that I will have to allow for more diversity of opinion and appetite, for the sitting-down-togetherness is priceless. The other day, after Phoebe had sung everyone the teapot song, with realistic pouring actions, Violet announced that she had a song for us, too.

    "It's from The Sound of Music," she said, beaming, and began: "How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a clown and pin it down?"

    As I say: Priceless.

    As I say: No wonder the terrorists hate us.


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