Thursday, March 29, 2012
SLICE #29- THE DAYS OF NOT ENOUGH
I remember only snippets from that day. I do remember, though, helping Isaiah order from the children's menu. The menu, as I remember it, was a typical kids' menu- hamburgers, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets. Isaiah asked for pepperoni pizza.
The waiter brought the pizza to the table. It wasn't anything fancy, a kids' pizza on a dinner plate, with a fruit garnish. Isaiah, however, was totally enthralled. When the waiter set the pizza down in front of him, he looked at it, then looked at me.
"Is this all for me?" he asked. "I get to eat all of this?"
In fact, eating was a theme that was threaded throughout that entire first summer. There had been signs for several years that the boys were not getting enough to it. Isaiah would always go back for seconds and thirds in the school cafeteria. His second grade teacher sent him to the office more than once for hiding food in his desk. Kadeem was a skinny, wiry little guy. I did not even begin to understand the severity of their hunger.
Shortly after the boys came to live with me, I took them to dinner at their favorite restaurant, a buffet. They had never eaten in restaurants and I was trying to ease them into a few niceties of life. We ate at this particular buffet every couple of weeks because there was a wide variety of food and an ice cream machine that served as a perfect incentive for doing a good job during the meal. The buffet thing meant that the boys didn't have to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.
This particular night, we were driving to the restaurant. Kadeem commented that he was really hungry, and I assured him that we would be eating in just a few minutes. He turned to Isaiah and said, "Do you remember how sometimes at Teresa's (previous foster mom, not her real name) we would get so hungry that we would shake?"
Isaiah said he remembered. Kadeem continued, "Do you remember your legs would just shake and shake and you would feel like you were going to fall down?"
My heart broke then, as it would many more times, for my sweet, sweet boys.
Despite my continuous reassurances, the boys seemed unable to believe that there would always be plenty to eat at our house. I have never been a great cook, and breakfast at our house was usually pretty simple-- cereal, bagels, toast, etc. Those first few months, Kadeem's choice was always microwave pancakes.
He didn't, however, eat one or two servings of pancakes. Instead, my skinny little seven-year-old would sit with his fork in one hand, knife in the other, and consume an entire box of microwave pancakes. Every. single. morning. I did not understand until much later that the boys thought that they needed to eat a lot at breakfast because there might not be food later on in the day.
Even now, after nine years of plenty of food, the boys, and especially Kadeem, get nervous if our cupboards start to look a little bare. "Don't you need to go to the store?" Kadeem will say. My boys remember, all too well, the days of not enough.