Monday, July 7, 2008

Taste Test

By Margy McCarthy

“Mom, do you have a few bucks I can borrow?”

You would think that after eighteen years, Snooze might have figured out how ridiculous this question is; I am, after all, a public school teacher. But then, for that matter, if you’d seen his SAT Verbals, you would also think he’d have a clearer understanding of the definition of the word “borrow.”

“I don’t know, but go ahead and check, Honey,” I answer, from my place in front of the stove, “I’ve got my hands full over here.”

The kitchen is fragrant with the mouthwatering scent of Bolognese sauce. Pancetta and onions, ground beef, carrots, celery, garlic, and allspice have been tempting us all afternoon from a creamy sauce of Marzano tomatoes and wine. On the back burner a kettle of water reaches a rolling boil. I open a box of mostaccioli and pour it into the pot as my first-born rifles through my purse.

“There’s just three bucks here.”

“Then I guess that’s how much I have.” I give the pasta a stir, and finish tossing the salad. “Contrary to what you seem to believe, ATM cash is not shorthand for ‘Always Take Mom’s.’” Snooze scowls at the three singles as I continue. “Hmm. Wait a minute! What happened to the change from the ten I gave you to buy a bag of ice with yesterday? You can take some of that. You’ll have to dig around a little. It’s probably loose in there.”

Somehow, while both of my children are gifted at the art of removing cash from my wallet, neither has developed the fine motor skills necessary to return bills to their proper place. Once stuffed into their pockets, crisp new tens and twenties close in upon themselves protectively, taking on the shape and texture of the subterranean larvae of an extinct species of moth. Paleontologists have been known to spend inordinate amounts of time dissecting crumpled bank notes.

So have mothers of teens.

“Um-- about that…” Snooze rattles off a list of expenses that includes his lunch of Pop-Tarts and Diet Coke the day before, a grievously belated Christmas gift for a friend, and a pint of gas for the car.

“Oh.” I sigh, checking the pasta. “So it’s gone?” He nods. I sigh again. “Then I guess you need to ask your dad.”

“Ask me what?” Sparky enters the kitchen, pulls open the freezer, and pops a bag of broccoli into the microwave. Reaching for the bread basket on the top of the fridge, he begins slicing a fresh loaf for dinner. “Shriek?” he calls, “Come set the table.”

“Snooze needs some cash,” I tell him, draining the pasta and folding it into the sauce.

“Well? You have a job, Son, what’s wrong with your debit card? Shriek? Come set the table, now!”

“I put my check into savings,” Snooze explains. “because if I put it into my debit account, I just end up spending all my money.”

Sparky rolls his eyes. “But if you put it all in savings, you end up spending all my money.”

“Right.” Snooze’s eyes can be just as sparkly as his father’s. “See how much better that works out? I’m saving a fortune!”

You gotta hand it to him. His SAT math wasn’t bad either.

Sparky carries the basket to the table, sidestepping our daughter as she saunters into the room, tossing silverware in the general direction of the table. He reaches for his wallet with a sigh. He peels off a few bills and hands them to our son. The microwave dings, heralding the readiness of the vegetable, and I ladle the pasta onto plates, grating fresh parmesano reggiano over each steaming serving.

“Thanks, Dad. Oh- Mom?” I look up at my son who is twirling a set of car keys around his index finger. “None for me, thanks. I’ve gotta run-- I’m meeting the guys for pizza. I’m really hungry for Italian food.”

Sparky and I stood slack-jawed, staring at our plates as the door swung shut.

“What does he think this is?” my husband asks.

I shrug. Maybe someday there will be a standardized test on international cuisine.


Kalynne Pudner said...

The Fundamental Economic Law for Teenagers: "The faster I spend it, the sooner I can ask for more."

HRH said...

Love it.

Also filing it away for future reference along with Kalynne's comment!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Can I come over for dinner? Please?

MargyWrites said...

Thanks for the pointer, Kalynne- and for the rest of you, here is the equation:
spend fast = ask soon.
I'm not much at math but I'll remember that. (I'll probably remember it every day!)

Thanks, HRH. You're right-- Kalynne can Erma with the best of them.

And Judy- we've talked about this before. Get over here. Now. I will feed you.

Barb McKone said...

My kids are also confused by the word "borrow," just like they are confused by the word "yell." "Quit yelling at me," they often say when I'm simply making a point, in a calm and even tone, that they don't want to hear. It's actually sort of funny. I explain that just because my comment doesn't make them feel good doesn't mean I'm yelling, that yelling has a volume component. I've started getting my cash in tens and fives instead of twenties so I know I can enforce their taking less from the wallet... I'm still tapped out much of the time... and I want to come over with Judy!!