Sunday, October 7, 2007

from a different angle

About a week ago, Iris came over snacking on a puffed bready-looking thing that I couldn't identify. It turned out to be mochi, one item on the very short list of foods that Iris is allowed to eat.

Mom's insanity/asceticism applies to her diet as well. The household is strictly vegan, and they don't eat sugar or bread or cereal. Iris has a piece of fruit and some nuts as an after-school snack (unless she's over at our house, gorging herself on breakfast bars, quesadillas, milk, and pretty much anything else she can get her hands on). For dinner every night they eat rice and raw or steamed veggies.

What's more, they eat very little of the very little they eat. Right around the time we started to get suspicious, Stupid Daddy snuck over there to check out their kitchen. There were a couple of containers in the fridge (pumpkin seeds and I forget what else), and that was it. Absolutely nothing in the cupboards. And it was exactly the same when Iris brought me over there the other day.

(I've always believed that people whose "healthy" eating is so extreme and restrictive are simply masking an eating disorder, though there's so much else going on psychologically in this case--read on--that it's hard to know.)

Mom is a walking, tatted-down skeleton--no surprise, especially given the hours of hula hooping she does daily. Iris looks normal; I'm guessing that's because she does get to eat the school lunch (I'm not sure why) and if her consumption at our house is any indication, she's getting a whole lot of calories in on the sly.

So, back to the mochi. I was kind of curious about it and picked some up at the grocery store. A couple of days ago, mom sent Iris over around dinner time to see if I had baked any of it yet--and if so, could she please sample it? The garlic-sesame mochi that I had gotten was the only kind in the store that day, and since Iris hadn't ever tried that particular mochi before, mom didn't buy any. But if Iris tried some of ours, and it turned out she did like it, then mom would run to the grocery store to get some.

Okay, it was kind of a strange request, but whatever. I offered to bake some right then and told Iris I'd be over with a sample when it was ready. About 20 minutes later, I went next door with a bit of mochi cooling on a cloth napkin. Mom thanked me and I left.

Last night after the kids had gone to bed, mom came over.

"I just wanted to thank you so much for bringing the mochi over yesterday," she said. "It was a really big hit; Iris loved it. It was just so kind of you, I'm just really appreciative of community and also blah blah blah."

"You're welcome," I said. "It was no problem." Because I'm succinct. (Except in this post, I'm just now noticing.)

"And so," she said, "I wanted to offer you something in return, but I don't really have anything because unlike you lesser beings, you with your chairs to sit on and your stocked fridge, I've completely rejected consumer culture. So I'm offering you this chocolate."

And she produced a one-inch square of chocolate wrapped in red foil. As I opened it, she explained that it was raw chocolate, sweetened with agave nectar, and every so often she'll have half a square because a little goes a long way. I of course popped the whole thing in my mouth. And I have to say, it tasted pretty good.

"Also," she began. "Oh, I hope I'm not offending you here. But our home is like a sanctuary to us, and yesterday when you came over with the mochi, I felt you didn't give me time to let you into the apartment. You just announced yourself and walked right in. I'm really touchy about this. And also, blah blah blah. I really need people to ask permission to come into my home and then wait for me to give it to them. And blah and blah. I hope you'll understand."

I was uncharacteristically gracious with her, never mind the fact that the door to her apartment building was wide open and the door to the apartment itself was wide open and she was expecting me and she was standing right there.

Besides all of which, Christ, maybe I should have waited, but did my transgression really warrant a 10-minute conversation? Seriously, every little thing with her turns into the most labored, agonizingly sincere (or pseudo-sincere) exchange.

As she began to leave, I noticed she did kind of a two-step tap thingy on her way to the door. But I didn't think too much of it, because she had already demonstrated that she's plenty weird.

Right at that moment, I heard Levi calling for me even though he was supposed to have been asleep an hour already. I excused myself and said good night and then ran upstairs to deal. Levi told me he really, really wanted to drive a race car. I told him he really, really needed to get to sleep. I settled him down and kissed him a bunch of times and then came back downstairs.

The front door was still ajar, so I went to close it. And there was mom, on the front porch, minutes later, doing her two-step tap thingy. I didn't want to embarrass her, so I pretended I didn't see her, shut the door quickly, and turned off the porch light.

So, hello, OCD! I began to wonder whether at least part of why she's so late in leaving the house every day is that she's got a whole series of rituals to go through before she can get out the door. I began to see her treatment of Iris as a symptom of her disease, instead of just plain cruelty. I began to understand--at least in a general sort of way--why she freaked out when my kids left some of their toys in her yard even though it's not really her yard, and why she freaked out when they absentmindedly plucked a couple of blossoms from a large bush over there, even though the flowers were on their way to dropping and there were about five thousand of them and it wasn't her plant anyway.

Mostly, though, I began to feel really bad for her.

1 comment:

Ginny said...

Hi, Deb! I clicked on you through your comment on Fussy, mostly 'cause our last names are similar, although yours is better and mine is from MARRIAGE. You are very funny! Your exercise/poop story had me, (are ya ready?) ROFLMAO! I'm also intrigued by the Iris Saga. You're a great read--I'll definitely be back! (Off to bookmark...)