Never a Prouder Mama
Learning of the apparently inherited similarities between my son and me has always made me happy. The first batch of photos Kathy sent, when Eric was maybe 6 months old, included one of him eating a big slab of watermelon. Immediately upon seeing that, the tears started flowing. I was in my social worker’s office, and she was startled. Mary had expected me to be happy with the pictures, so the tears confused her. I had to explain something I’d never had a reason to tell her.
Having loved watermelon from as far back as I can remember, I would eat a huge chunk of watermelon every day with lunch at work for the entirety of my pregnancy. It was such a regular thing that my coworkers began to tease me about it – and on the rare day when the cafeteria didn’t have watermelon, they’d ask what was up. So seeing this photo was astonishing – he was continuing a pattern I’d created for him in utero. Kathy said in the letter accompanying the photos that she thought he’d eaten three whole watermelons by himself that first summer. His love of watermelon continues to this day – and Kathy will still send the occasional picture. The most recent one was of Eric, home over a break from college, with a huge bowl of watermelon in front of him as he watched sports on the living room TV.
I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that he’d inherited my extreme distaste for mushrooms. We were all out for pizza over the weekend of our wedding, Eric and his parents having flown in from New Jersey to attend. “They’re slimy and disgusting,” I answered when the question about mushrooms arose. “Exactly!” Eric confirmed.
One fall when he was perhaps 4 or 5, Eric’s parents took him to one of those “pick-your-own” farms where you can personally pick fruits and vegetables. I’ve always loved the places and was happy to see the photos when Kathy sent them. Then one photo, in particular, tickled me so much. It was Eric, holding a mottled green and orange pumpkin, maybe the size of an average head of iceberg lettuce. Kathy said about the photo that he’d chosen that pumpkin because it was green – different! – and got really aggravated when it turned fully orange. A rebel after my own heart!
When I was back in New Jersey visiting a few years ago, Eric accompanied Kathy and me to another pick-your-own farm where we picked apples for pie and apple crisp. My dad used to say you can’t get good apples in Arizona, something I always dismissed until I ate fresh-from-the-tree apples back East. Pumpkins weren’t very plentiful that year, but I bought Eric a huge pumpkin he took home with plans to carve later. He didn’t remember and hadn’t heard the green pumpkin story, but it made him laugh.
The story that really captured my attention, though, took place when he was closer to 11. Kathy and Bruce had been allowing Eric to play an online game with his friends. The thing was, you could only get to a particular level with the free version; after that, you had to pay to continue the game. Every night he’d play the game and then plead with his folks to let him pay for the upgrade, and every night they’d say no. Until, one day, he evidently wore them down. He asked if he could pleeeease pay for the upgrade, and one of them said the fateful word: “Maybe.”
That was all Eric needed to hear. The answer was no longer “no” – it was “maybe,” which in his mind meant, “Yes!”
Kathy said she woke up the next morning to see a fat envelope out at the mailbox, stuffed full of one dollar bills Eric had pulled from the piggy bank under his bed. Around them was wrapped the order form for subscribing to the game. He’d wasted no time at all in even trying to make the leap from “maybe” to “yes” – he just went ahead and assumed, and then took immediate action. Kathy said it was all she could do not to laugh while trying to educate Eric about the importance of not sending cash through the mail.
I heard this story and thought, Damn – this kid is an achiever! He persisted and persisted, undeterred, until he got what he wanted. I was never a prouder mama.