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See What You Can Find

December 27, 2010

In the Christmas song “Soul Cake”, one of the lyrics is: “Go down into your cellar/ and see what you can find.” I was thinking of that recently not just because of Christmas, but because of an exchange I had with my niece when she spent the night a couple of days ago.

After we finished dinner, I asked if she wanted anything else, and she answered, “Not now, but I’ll probably get hungry later.” Sure enough, around 9 o’clock, she said, “I’m hungry again.”

“What would you like?” I asked.

“I’ll just look around to see what you have.” My expression must have given me away, because she added, “If that’s okay.”

It actually wasn’t okay, although I didn’t say that outright. Instead, I said, “Well, do you know what you might want? I have tortilla chips, crackers, toast, fruit, popcorn, peanuts, carrots.”

“I’ll have some tortilla chips, I guess.”

So I got out a bowl and the chips and gave them to her, then headed upstairs to get ready for bed. But even then, I felt badly about the exchange. Why was I uncomfortable with the idea of her looking through my cupboards and fridge to see what she could find? Was it a control issue, or something else?

As I pondered, I realized that it was something else. It was a holdover from my earlier days, when I didn’t want people to see what I had to eat for fear of being judged for it. These days, I don’t feel like I need to be embarrassed because of having too many sweets or junk food or anything like that, but sometimes I actually feel the opposite. At times I haven’t had anything that would qualify as “snack food” for most people – no chips, crackers, pretzels, nuts, ice cream, etc – and I always felt a bit embarrassed by that.

Then I discovered that there was one other element beneath this. I had recently gotten some goodies from friends for Christmas, which included homemade truffles, cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and homemade banana bread, and I was feeling possessive of those. I didn’t have a lot, and while I don’t eat many sweets, I enjoy them when I do, and I wanted to save those for myself. I didn’t want to share. While the desire not to share is a small concern, I think the larger issue – that I wasn’t willing to even acknowledge it – was more significant.

Once I recognized that, I wished I could go back to the earlier conversation with my niece. This time, instead of censoring what food options were available, I would say to her, “Sure, go ahead and see what you’d like. I’d just ask that you leave the items in the little jar in the fridge for me, since those were a Christmas present.”

But since the good Doctor with his TARDIS isn’t around, I’ll have to content myself with remembering this, and if the situation arises again, know that I can respond in a more open way.

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