You Are What You Eat

(From a recently-ancient work that’s ever resurrecting hopefully someday to be realized).



Hi Hol:


Didn’t mean to stress you out by dropping in on you Friday eve’nin.  I had depositions scheduled in Philly thru Friday afternoon, and (admittedly impulsively) I thought it would be nice to head south to Baltimore, maybe just grab dinner with you in Fells whatever, and head home around 10:00 pm.  (In all honesty, the ride and visit would do me a world of good) (I’m goin’ thru a rough time myself).


No problem that you’ve got something else going Fri.  Maybe another time.


You’re loved today.  See ya soon.




Above is a classic, although relatively tame, email from my Father.  I say tame because typically, “Hol” would be replaced by some other mutation of my name such as “Hollister”, “Holly-meister” or “Hoolina”.  Apostrophes and abbreviations abound as my Father strives to emulate “normal” speech (i.e.: eve’nin, goin’, ya). I swear, the first two years at college, every email he sent me had the subject line “Nothin’ Special”—apostrophe always included.  Often, when he’s feeling particularly spirited, he’ll mimic my playful “gangsta” speak by calling me “dawg” or “kat” and asking “how you be”.  His emails usually contain a potpourri of anecdotes from home, updates on family friends, insights into quirky cases that rarely interrelate but almost always amuse.

Like most people, I have a strange Father.  A Father who would give up a sunny afternoon on the golf course to sneak off to coffee with his eldest daughter.  After 21 years, I’m just beginning to learn what this means.






My earliest memory of my Father is not singular, but a collective recollection of early morning breakfasts eating and reading with him.  My Father has always been an early-riser: he works, sneaks in some leisure reading and lovingly brews the coffee so it’s waiting for Mother when she awakes much later.  He has often regaled us with how wonderful life would be as a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. guy—but running a law practice, raising three children and being overextended in the community has forced him to be an 11 p.m. (or more typically 12 a.m.) to 6 a.m. kinda guy.

Although I have to keep it on the down-low at college, as going to bed before 1 a.m. and waking before 8 am is terribly freakish, I’m still one of those souls whose up before the sun.  Jogging through the wispy mist—still free of car exhaust—I enjoy a dominion over the world as I pass through nature veiled in evaporating darkness.  I’ve grown so accustomed to rising early that on weekends when I go to sleep much later than usual, I still find myself waking early—because being a little tired, for me, is preferable to feeling lazy.  I can’t say for certain if I’m innately programmed this way, although I think I am, but I do know I’ve been doing it since before I could read.

Maybe it was my eagerness to be read to or perhaps it was some Freudian ‘Elektra’ complex, but whatever the motivation, I loved waking to read with my Father.  With “sleepies” still in my eyes, I’d slowly (but loudly) trample down the long stairs like an elephant heralding my arrival to my Father.  He always sat at the kitchen table with a legal pad, frayed brown leather pencil holder, highlighter and books strewn about him.  His reading glasses clinging to the edge of his nose for fear they’d fall off, he’d look up from whatever it was before him and raise the glasses to his eyes to behold the messy mangle of curls that stood before him.  Smiling, he’d make one of those affectionately, silly remarks like “Well, if it isn’t the Hollister”—as if he expected anybody else.

As I told him about the dragons that chased me, and the unicorns I rode—in my dreams that is—he’d take to fixing us breakfast.  He’d ask if I wanted cereal or toast.  Until high school, I didn’t bother with cereal—yet every morning my Father would inquire.  This I did not understand.

“I hate cereal Dad.”

“Oh no you don’t!  You don’t ‘hate’ anything,” he’d tease.

“Yes, I do!  I tell you every morning…” I’d petulantly protest.

“Oh, ok, ok.  I forgot.”

As I drenched my toast in cinnamon sugar, he’d slice some fresh banana into his bowl of Wheeties before we began reading.  The Bernstein Bears and Good Night Moon (even though it was morning) were favorites in my pre-literate years.  When I entered Kindergarten, my dad bought me the first set of Nancy Drew books and each morning I’d devour them along with my breakfast.  My sleuthing with Nancy began with Father’s narration.  After a few months, I relegated him to resident dictionary and sound-it-outer of unfamiliar, polysyllabic words.  Eventually, I began reading to myself; and the outside world black and the inside world hushed, we’d sit side-by-side reading—and I’d loudly chew.

“Stop chewing like a cow,” my Father would almost daily remark.

By the time high school rolled around, both my breakfast and reading tastes had changed.  Having solved all the mysteries with Nancy long before I had a locker at school, my morning reading in those years either consisted of some school text or the paper.  My Father always brought the paper in when he returned from walking the dog and on most days it would rest on the kitchen table undisturbed until I barbarically ruffled through it trying to excavate the arts section.  Having found and read what I wished, I’d pretend to put things back  in order by fluffing the remaining sections and advertisements into a vague, rectangular shape all the while only further creating disarray.  Gauging my irritability, my Father would either kid me about it or admonish me for being so thoughtless.  I usually said I was sorry…and did the same thing the next morning.

Those high school years marked my gradual evolution into a granola loving, fanatic about fruit pescatarian whose preferred breakfasts was oatmeal and berries.  Having destroyed the family paper, I’d set to chopping up more strawberries and blueberries than my Mother thought economical while my steel-cut oats simmered on the stove.

“Making another concoction?” he’d call.

Once I began frequenting the health food store, it seemed everything I made was a “concoction”.

My Father was still fond of Wheeties—although he’d often top it off with some Cracklin’ Oat Bran for “dessert”.  The man is no health nut—but he does have some curious habits like his three hole rule on his belt.  If he has to loosen his belt past one of the three-tightest holes, he cuts back.  Since he’s kinda a string bean, my Mother and I tease him for being neurotic, yet we also commend (and sometimes envy) his self-discipline.  Even when he’s not stretching the belt buckles, my Father only accepts “slivers” of cake and “tastes” of ice cream.  He almost always requests “another sliver and a taste”—making him quite the joke at family soirees—but he never overindulges.  He’s worse with salt.  To this day, I cannot reach for the saltshaker without hearing my Father’s reminders that “you really don’t need much, if any, salt”.  As children, we were made to shake a sprinkling onto our hands before dashing it atop our food: saltshakers, after all, were known to be rather dangerous.  We eventually dubbed him the “salt police” and my Mother’s sisters (who do enjoy their sweets) never relinquish the chance to chide my Father about his “sliver and a taste” habit.  All things considered though, he’s not worrying about high-blood pressure or weightless as he ages.

After devouring my swirling mesh of berries and oats, I’d scurry about the kitchen trying to erase the trail of spoons, oats and milk I had trailed about the kitchen.  Without fail, I’d slam drawers and clang bowls while blasting the water full speed.  My Father detests when I run the water at full speed.  I can be doing the dinner dishes, filling the teakettle or rinsing off a knife, but if the water is blasting for more than ten seconds, it is his duty to comment.  As the water splayed the remaining oatmeal across the sink, my Father would comment and I—in the morning cheer characteristic of most teenagers—would try and blast the water even higher.  Nowadays, once all the pots and pans are in the sink, thus forcing me to wash them, I find myself lessening the water pressure.  ‘There’s only so much water in the world’ I remind myself.

Ironically, for all his mindful eating habits and lunches that consist of nothing more than a banana, my Father eats a lot.  Growing up, he consumed much of what my siblings and I rejected.  He was a particular champ during my soft-boiled egg phase.  On weekends, we’d both sleep in a little—to all of 7:00 or 8:00—and after a morning walk we’d jointly prepare breakfast for the “other birds” as we fondly referred to them.  Josephina did most of the work while I flittered about the kitchen trying to locate little used, interesting plates and cups to decorate the table.  Father would always put on music as he cooked—sometimes classical sometimes corny country, but always too loud for my Mother.  As everyone but me like scrambled eggs, mine were specially prepared soft-boiled style.  I think I preferred the glossy sheen of egg white and molten yoke to the yellow, dried-up sponge fragments that the frying pan offered.  Once the steaming white egg sat before me, I’d adorn it with a generous amount of salt and pepper—the former when my Father wasn’t looking.  I’d eat a bite or two off the top—than scoop out every bit of yoke I could find.  Than tackle the fruit salad; I was done with my egg.  The first few times I did this, quizzically inquired why he had specially prepared the egg for me if I didn’t intend to touch it.

“But I did touch it!” was always the defense.

Breakfast would continue and come time to do the dishes, the soft-boiled egg would have miraculously disappeared.

Other weekends were pancake weekends.  I thought pancakes tasted like snake skin (or rather felt like snake skin) and I made this known.  I hated (and still hate) snakes more than I hated not winning the pair of green purses in the game Memory.

“What do you want, then?” my Father would ask.

“Waffles,” I’d reply.

“They’re the same thing as pancakes.”

“No—they’re so different.”

My Father didn’t always oblige, but if we had the time to pull out the antique Belgian waffle iron from the cabinet depths, we’d make waffles.  He knew my Mother enjoyed a good Belgian waffle too; and those waffles, for all the massive mess their preparation required, were always incredibly yummy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: