top of page


milk n toes.png

            “Meeeee-haw. Meeeee-haw.”

            My family was utterly perturbed by the sound I was making, huddling around me at the dinner table as I was held hostage by the highchair.  It’s the story they love to bring up, twenty years to date.  The moment when my limited vocabulary of hiccupping cries and gurgling laughter suddenly became very peculiar.  Very donkey-esque.  At least, that’s how my dad loves to describe it; though my sister did sound just like a cat as a newborn, so I guess it just runs in the family.  No one could decipher my chant, and it only grew more desperate as I slapped my hands to the plastic tray, sending Cheerio crumbs raining to the kitchen floor.

            “Meeeeee-ha!” By god, what could that mean?

            At that age, my three older siblings were quite eager to cater to my every whim.  I was a novelty to them then. They wouldn’t dare leave this mystery unsolved.

            “Oooo, me! Me! I got it!” my sister boasted, “She’s saying milk!”

            Well, at least I was trying to.

            From that day onwards, my name became synonymous with the opaque white beverage of lactose.  My drink of choice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and each morsel in between.  It was a thirst that could never be satiated.  Our fridge was never seen without it, always stocked with a gallon or two.  And when I was strong enough to hold it, I may have taken the liberty to pop off the cap and drink right from the molded spout.  You know, just a few times.

            There was just something about it.  Simple, yet sweet.  Creamy and rich and just pairs so, SO well with everything.  When not chugged right from the plastic source, I had a few other means to enjoy it.   Most notably at the once-in-a-blue-moon family get-together.  

            My sister and I usually found ourselves perched on the squeaky piano bench as our makeshift table was set.  We were clad in matching black knit dresses with pink trimmings and cat embroidery, our hair curled and pulled back into our trademarked “princess-do”.  I sat crisscross as I patiently waited for my mom to return, lacing my fingers between my bare toes.  Foregoing the potential for a future pile of glass shards, she handed me a tall stemmed glass, brushed with strokes of yellow, green, and stipples of brown.  Every adult and child were seen with one in hand, a matching set.  With so few tykes around anyways, she probably thought why not make us feel like one of the adults.  I, for one, quite appreciated this gesture, as I was rather eager to leave the nest at the wise age of six-and-a-half.   Though, most everyone had something of the bubbly nature, alcoholic or not.  I always loved running my hand over the hills of paint, mapping out the edges as it traced the sunflower.  The glass was chilled and felt crisp on my fingertips.  My chubby hands clutched the stem as if it were the Holy Grail.  With my chalice in hand, I brought the rim to my lips, tilted my head back and took a swig.  No bubbles found here, just some plain ol' milk.

Seeing the trend?

          My mom was desperate to hinder this obsession, while also fueling it.  Lecturing me about its consequences while simultaneously purchasing old-fashioned milk bottles. Ranting about the hormones whilst pouring from a cream pitcher in the shape of a cow.  Claiming to never restock its place in the fridge as a black and white tea kettle began to moooOOO on the stove. 

          Hypocrisies aside, any parent will tell you that dealing with a kid on the “white diet” is never a good time.  Consuming plates upon plates full of buttered pasta, bread, mashed potatoes, rice, and maybe even a piece of chicken when served with a threat.  To top it all off, I required not one, but two cups of milk for Oreos snackage.  So what?  Those black dots are the very thing I was eating.  Nah, it’s contaminated now.  A dipping only vessel, not a sip to be taken.

          And it’s no wonder why my stomach was always grumbling.  Why this was all part of the “growing pains” I was having… Why I was always feeling sick.  Why I never felt satiated. 

          And why I knew I was too old for this.  The realization stung as I reached for the pint-sized carton once again.  Smuggling it in my oversized sweatshirt sleeve, I reached the blue bleachers containing the other 5th graders.  I hid it on the bench next to me, risking it nearing the cob-web underside of the table rather than placing it next to my lunch like a normal person.  Everyone must’ve been judging me; I knew it for a fact.  I could scarcely enjoy my food as the paranoia chanted through my thoughts.  It was enough of a distractor to miss the puddle of white now flowing to the concrete below.  And they say spilled milk is hardly something to cry over.

          Maybe that was the day I felt satiated.  I can’t explain how or why, but I just did.  But that’s how it’s supposed to go, right?  Suddenly my plate’s full of greens and meat.  And I’m tearing apart pita and scooping up a dollop of kibbeh nayyeh- a concoction of burgle, bell pepper, spices, and minced lamb.  Raw minced lamb.  Now my grandma no longer has to persuade me to eat veggies from her garden.  And since when did I like salmon so much?

          I think it’s the same exact moment when you wake up one day, and it’s all different.  When you realize that your mom’s donating the highchair.  There’s no need for it anymore anyways.  That you and your sister no longer fit on the piano bench together, at least, not as comfortably.  Or the last time you heard that tea kettle on the stove- it hardly even makes a sound now.  And those bleachers probably aren’t blue anymore, so much of the paint’s chipped away.  I can’t remember the last time the fridge was stocked with milk.  I can’t remember the last time life felt simple, yet sweet. 

          Now that I’m grown up, I’d give anything to have it all back.  Not the milk, but you know, everything else.  Especially because I’m lactose intolerant.

bottom of page