When Geneen Roth (Woman Food and GOD) was 11 years old, she stopped believing in GOD. She found comfort instead in Hostess Sno Balls. You know the fluffy pink balls of delicious goodness we ate as children (and probably many of us still eat as adults).
By the time I was 11, I didn’t believe in God either. I tried to. I can’t remember exactly how old I was (probably the summer my brother Kevin left) but as soon as I heard there was something called Vacation Bible School, I was all over that shit. It was only a week but for many summers I went not really sure what was supposed to happen but loved the idea that adults were happy to see me and the little snacks they gave us on the way home were an added bonus. Nothing magical happened. I stopped going.
By the time I was 11 I also didn’t believe in my mother. I spent too many hours (days, weeks, months, years) wondering when she was going to come home, and I spent just as many hours (days, weeks, months, years) sitting at a restaurant table alone while she drank in the bar. As a young child ( 7 or 8 ) I remember my mom owning her own bar (talk about enabling your addiction) and every night she would come home around midnight and fall asleep in an alcoholic stupor. In the morning when I got up to get myself ready for school there was a bank bag just inside our front door. Some one would close the bar down, cash out the till and bring the bank bag to the house for my mom to deposit the money. You see where I’m going with this right? A young child with no parental supervision discovers that a bag full of money “magically” appears every day…
I learned to steal.
Where did I find my comfort when the adults in my life failed miserably? Cans of Pie Filling. Every morning I would take a $20.00 bill from the bank bag and stuff it as far down into my jeans pocket as possible. There is would be a beacon to me as I sat through elementary school. As soon as last bell rang and school was out I was going to do what I did almost every day: walk to my neighborhood convenient store and buy either Cherry or Blueberry Pie Filling, and then sit in the safe haven of my room and eat it. Don’t ask me why I choose pie filling. I’m sure if I were to delve deeper it would have something to do with remembering a somewhat happier time (around age 4) when my brothers would pick the cherries off of our trees and my mother would spend hours canning them. Summer time. Back door wide open. Breeze coming through. Standing in the kitchen watching her and loving her as much as any confused kid could love their mom.
Those days were long gone by the time I started stealing.
I didn’t believe in anything.
Except pie filling.
There was something so comforting about waking up in the morning, stealing money from my mom and then coming home to an empty house with a can of pie filling. Opening it up with a can opener (and when that broke, a knife) and smelling the sugary sweetness as it filled my nostrils and brought a sense of calm to my anxious little body. I remember the metallic taste on my fingers as I used them to scrape the inside edges hoping to get every last drop of that gooey syrup. In each can I found love, attention, maybe even a little hope…
Eventually the bank bag stopped showing up. My mother lost her bar (for the better? who truly knows?) and the $20.00 daily beacon of comfort was replaced by government cheese and food stamps. I still stole money when I could. It wasn’t as easy as having a bank bag practically dropped into your lap every morning but it wasn’t too hard when your alcoholic mother can’t keep track of important things like her purse. The cans of pie filling were replaced by things larger in quantity. Penny candy and lots of it (yes, when I was a kid there was still such a thing as $.01 candy) or bags of marshmallows that I would then “roast” over a candle flame in my room (some parental supervision would have been especially helpful at this point).
As a child I never found comfort in any adult in my life. The comfort came in the form of what I could put in my mouth. When there was a question in my little mind that there not might not be enough food (since bank bags can magically appear / disappear surely so can blocks of government cheese) panic began to settle in. All my life I’ve been afraid there will not be enough food to comfort my sad existence. Even as an adult, where I make my own money and have never been without I am afraid food will not be available to me. You can walk me into a food store and tell me that for the rest of my life I can have whatever I want, when ever I want and I still think it’s going to all disappear one day.
There is no real point to this blog tonight.
There won’t be a catchy last phrase that I’ve come to use as my signature closing. There won’t be any words of wisdom about how you should stand up and take control (though you should). This is just a story about me and why I function the way I do. Getting a better understanding on how my brain is wired so that when I get up in the morning I am that much more prepared to fight another battle.
In case you’re wondering: I can’t stand the sight of canned pie filling.
You can’t blame me can you?