Though the middle of our three boys, he was determined to avoid the middle at all costs. His emotions were either hot or cold, his joy irrepressible, his sadness inconsolable. He was prone to bursts of anger. One time he threw his baseball shoe at me while I was driving because he did not like the fit of his socks. And on the good days, he overflowed with love, telling me again and again, “I love you momma, to the universe and back.”
One particular poignant thing about Shane as a little boy was the wave of sadness that would overtake him on the eve of his birthdays. “I will never be seven again. I will never see the world as seven.”
I knew then, despite his elfin stature at age seven, Shane was capable of very deep feelings.
And of course there was no middle ground in the food department. Oh that boy was stubborn. Friends still laughingly recall his bun and ketchup dinners. No meat was going to pass his lips. The one night we decided to press the issue, he said he would rather go to bed hungry than eat. As his dad carried him up the stairs, I followed, scooping up the bits of burger Shane had been storing in his cheeks until the right moment for release.
Our twice annual trips to McDonalds were nightmarish. The kid wanted a happy meal, so I tried to order a cheese burger without the burger. No pickles, just ketchup. The order always came wrong, followed by a cascade of tears. There was no having it your way at Mickey D’s for Shane.
So, Shane declared himself a vegetarian. When I told him being a vegetarian necessarily involved vegetables and that ketchup didn’t count, he said he would be a fruititarian, better yet a dessertatarian.
We decided to trick him into eating. Red pears were known as apple/pears. Apples were acceptable, pears were not in his world. Breadcrumbs were a euphemism for flax meal. My friend Sonni made him chicken nuggets and called them fat fries. But my best trick was protein powder in my whole grain oatmeal pancakes. The kid could put away a mountain of flapjacks as long as artificially flavored syrup was on the table. He was never the wiser.
In essence, Shane inspired me to make every morsel count. If I was going to make my family dessert every night, a paternal family tradition, and there were always going to be cookies in the jar, then darn it I was going to make treats that had nutritional redeeming qualities. No white flour for me. Suzie had a similar child in her daughter Olivia. And that is the real story behind Among Friends.
Shane is 20 now, a handsome, strapping lad, a little fitness crazy (remember the extremes) who is my best eater. He would live on beef, as long as it is grass fed, and it is not uncommon for him to grab a red pepper and an apple for a snack. He made himself an omelet every morning before work this summer. And I try to keep him in Among Friends cookies at college. His current favorite is the Darcy’s cookie with a dollop of peanut butter for a quick pick me up.
I still rely on Shane a good deal to be an official taste tester. If a product passes his muster, it’s got to be good. Thanks Shane for teaching me to make every morsel—and moment-count. Your smile could light up the world. Just don’t frown.
PS: My mother just told me this story last week. In his dessertarian phase, Shane loved pizza and ate pepperoni pizza with my parents. When my mom told him pepperoni was a form of meat, he said SHHHH, “Don’t tell my mom. She doesn’t know.” Not sure who was tricking whom.