Considering that there were 8 kids living under the roof of my childhood (myself plus 7 siblings), there was a good deal less squabbling over food than in many other families I’ve heard about. I think this is a testament to how well stocked Mom kept the shelves in that kitchen. Still, there’s something about discovering hidden sweets that can turn a child’s heart toward larceny…
It wasn’t in the kitchen, in the can cupboard, or even in the dining room. It was in my parents’ bedroom in the top drawer of a high bureau. Still, it was certainly chocolate – a small bar that was sectioned off so as to break into little squares. Even if I had been able to read the lettering on the front, I wouldn’t have read any significance into the word “Ex-Lax” at that point in my life.
And there were witnesses. At least one older sibling witnessed the deed and reported it to Mom as soon as she showed up. I had eaten at least a couple of those squares of chocolate – I don’t recall the precise number, and my sibling took no small pleasure from the act of tattling that I had taken some candy that clearly wasn’t intended for us kids.
I don’t recall that Mom said a great deal to me. I don’t recall any specific admonition for taking something that wasn’t mine; no discussion about why I would have done such a thing. What I do remember is that she briskly and efficiently pulled me into the bathroom, set me on the throne, and told me to stay there. I recall feeling puzzled and a little scared about why she would compel me to do such a thing. Very soon though, my questions were answered in a very personal manner. Let’s just say that learning is sometimes both an internal and an external process, and that it’s a lesson that has stayed with me. And while it didn’t lessen my fondness for chocolate, it may have accelerated the development of my reading and comprehension skills!