Of all the stories that I tell the girls, their favorite is the story of the Kansas City airport and the Dijon mustard.
Well, let me tell you, that story was NOT funny at the time. We were flying from Oklahoma City to Orlando with a stop in Kansas City to switch planes, and we saw all four seasons in one day between the departing city and the arrival city. At the time, though, I don’t remember being all that concerned about the rapidly changing weather and our lack of appropriate clothing. No, I was more concerned about Ana, who had thrown up all over herself approximately ten seconds before we boarded the plane in OKC. She threw up again on the airplane (into a giant garbage bag, thank you, wise flight attendant) and was a sick mess by the time we got to Kansas City. To get to any of the restaurants in that airport during our long wait for another flight, we would have had to leave the boarding area, gone out to the main lobby, and come back through security. I wasn’t about to do that with a sick child, so I asked Wes to pick up something — anything — from one of the overpriced shops inside the boarding area. He came back with a ham sandwich for Emma and me to split while Ana rested.
I offered Emma half the sandwich. She refused because she didn’t like ham. After I took a bite, though, she asked if she could have the cheese on the sandwich. I gave it to her. Then, she asked for the tomato. I gave her that, too. The lettuce? Sure, why not. Oh, and the bread, please? Um… okay. Pretty soon I was left a chunk of ham coated with Dijon mustard. Sensing that I had something more than just ham, Em requested what was left of this “sandwich” and LICKED the mustard off the ham. Then handed it back to me.
Being a mother stinks. I distinctly remember thinking this as I ate what was left, not grossed out in the least bit that her nasty saliva was all over it. (And how could I be, since I had been cleaning up the other child’s vomit all day long?)
As I was grumbling over this, I remembered another trip to Florida, back when I was a kid. My parents had taken us to the beach, and we’d gotten a hotel room with a balcony. A balcony — a real novelty for us at the time! We’d picked up McDonald’s, and I’d insisted on eating on the balcony. Approximately two seconds after I opened my Happy Meal, I dropped my hamburger right off the balcony.
I don’t remember a lot of details from that vacation, but I remember that my mother gave me her hamburger and that it was a great irritation to me. Her burger had all kinds of crazy sauces and toppings on it (as crazy as McD’s got in the eighties), and I hated it.
Remembering this twenty-five years later had me sorely regretting that I hadn’t been more thankful for what my mother did. She went without really eating that night, just like I went without eating there in the airport. (And Emma was far more thankful than I had been!) I resolved then to thank my mother for that hamburger, all these years later and to never — ever, ever — do that to her again.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was and am all grown up now and just exactly the same age that my mother had been back when my hamburger took a nose-dive off that balcony in Florida. We made a plan to meet up with my parents in Dallas at a burger joint, where we all ordered and dug into our meals.
“Great,” I muttered just a bite into it. “This has all kinds of crazy sauce all over it!” While I was bemoaning the fact that I should have ordered it plain and dry, my mother took apart her own hamburger, gave me the dry parts of hers in exchange for my saucy parts and essentially sacrificed the goodness that was her original burger for a saucy mess.
And I totally let her.
I’d like to think there’s a day coming when Emma will be an adult and won’t be licking my food. But if my own behavior is any kind of indicator… well, I better just expect it.
Thankful for my mom… and thankful to be a mom myself, licked ham sandwiches and all.