This morning as I stood in the kitchen cooking oatmeal, my mind tripped back into my more and more distant past. It was a lovely Summer morning. I was at my uncle’s home, having spent the night, and my cousins and I tumbled out of our beds like puppies and ran outside to conquer the day. As we charged past my aunt she yelled, “Don’t go far. Breakfast is cooking.” At least one of us probably answered her, but she and her warning were both forgotten before we’d cleared the back porch.
Several hours later we were down by the creek making pine needle rafts, when somebody said, “I wonder if breakfast is ready?” We all froze, and listened. My aunt had a huge cowbell she rang to call us in for meals. No echoes from it lingered on the breeze.
“Can we even hear the bell from here?” Caution asked.
“I doubt it,” Rumble responded.
“I’m hungry,” Tattle wailed. Suddenly we were all hungry — ravenous, even. We scrambled back through the woods and into my aunt’s kitchen. It was empty save for the faint aroma of sausage.
My aunt entered the kitchen right behind us. She informed us that we had missed breakfast, but lunch was in two hours, and we’d just have to wait. She had a garden to weed, besides, she wasn’t running a restaurant.
We shuffled back outside and sat glumly on the stoop for about 45 seconds, then something caught our fancy and we ran off to play. When we judged that the appropriate time for lunch had come we bounced back to the house only to discover yet again that we had missed it. The kitchen was clean and my aunt was mucking out the barn. She ordered us to go get cleaned up because we were going to Grandpa and Grandma W’s in just a few minutes.
Cookies! We washed and brushed and dressed in a flash. Grandma W. would feed us!
Aunt explained to her mother, Grandma W., that we had chosen not to come in for our regular meals, therefore we were not permitted any snacks! Grandma W. put the cookie jar away. We went outside, shuffled over to the barn and climbed up on the coral rails, where we sat like pouting magpies. Whimpers, whines, and choruses of, “I’m hungry,” accompanied us.
Tattle, my youngest cousin, was crying in earnest. We sent her back to the house alone thinking they might at least feed her, but she returned in moments still wailing. That’s when Caution, the eldest of us, got this great idea. “Come with me!” He ordered. “I know where there’s food!”
We followed him into the barn and straight to the oat bin. Food! We dug in with both hands. Who could have predicted that raw oats would taste so good?
Of course they made us thirsty.
Our next stop was the pump. Caution worked the long red handle and got the water flowing. We gulped it down from our cupped hands. I was so thirsty I am certain I drank a gallon!
And for the moment we were content. Our tummies were replete. We were once again ready for some serious play, except …
… maybe we were just a little too full?
And in no time at all our stomachs were in expanding agony. We fell to the ground and wreathed in pain. My aunt found us there, wiggling and moaning like macabre earthworms. She ordered us to come inside to dinner.
Between our moaning and wailing, we somehow managed to explain that we had eaten far too many oats and were in mortal peril. She asked us when we had eaten the oats. We told her it had been shortly after we’d arrived. She glanced at her watch and ordered us all into the house.
Once inside we were each given a huge spoonful of some nasty medicine that made us belch tremendously, and of course reduced us to fits of giggles. It also eased most of the pain in our stomachs.
Aunt ordered us to the dinner table.
That raised another chorus of protests. We did not want food. She remained unmoved by our pleas and served us each a small bowl of ham and bean soup and then stood watchover us to ensure we ate every bite.
Afterward she said none of this would have happened if we had come in at mealtime, and she hoped we’d learned our lesson.
We most certainly had. After that whenever we skipped meals we had enough sense not to eat more than a small handful of oats!