Before it became trendy, my parents were considered health nuts. While my friends came to school with lunch boxes packed full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread, potato chips and Hostess Twinkies, mine was complete with the main course from last night’s dinner on wheat bread or rye. It was always roast beef, turkey, brisket or lamb, and it was terribly embarrassing to me and never tasted very good. I couldn’t help but eye my friends’ wax paper bags, filled with delicious looking pastries and candies, as I gazed into my own sack of apple slices.
After school while I played on the monkey bars, my mother would sit on the green playground bench to watch me swing and give out crisp apple slices, carefully cut with a kitchen knife fresh from her bag of shiny apples. Most of the time I would have the bars to myself after the other kids determined my mother’s snack too healthy and quickly walked away from the “Apple Lady” to look for a tastier treat.
Once at home, I would open the refrigerator and find milk, juice, cottage cheese, kefir, buttermilk, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions and lots and lots of fruit. Inside the cupboards were wheat bread, rye bread, egg bread and bagels. There were cans of water packed tuna and sardines. The only cereals on the shelves were Post’s shredded wheat and some type of granola. Graham crackers were considered cookies.
Whenever I asked for something more exciting, my mother would always say, “Wait for dinner, darling. You don’t want to spoil your appetite. If you were really hungry, you would have an apple.”
So when no one was looking, I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and sit on the floor next to my father’s chest. As soon as I opened the door, my eyes would open wide with absolute wonder. It was a treasure chest full of the forbidden — pistachio nuts, macadamia nuts, and dark chocolate almond bark. I would break off a piece here and there, snatch a handful of nuts and was never discovered.
Years later, whenever I’d run into friends from my elementary school days, they’d mention my mother and tell me they still called her “The Apple Lady.” And I would tell them how I ate bologna and American cheese sandwiches on white Wonder Bread and drank Tab every single day during my entire freshman year of college.