Hungry teenager a menace to kitchen

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Nov. 21, 2013

Hungry teenager a menace to kitchen

There are nights when I lie in bed and hear the scurrying through the walls, a scrabbling down hallways and into the kitchen. The refrigerator opens, cabinets close, and there is the faint beeping of a microwave.

This is no mouse, no roof rat; we’ve seen those before. There is no singing and dancing, anthropomorphic Disney rodent hunting a wedge of cheese. It’s a teenager, the most troubling of vermin, and he is in search of a nighttime snack. It will be his eighth meal of the day.

It takes a lot of energy to become 16 years old, the same way it takes a lot of fuel to push an SUV across town or electricity to cool your home during a Memphis summer. If MLGW had a meter smart enough to measure for such energy, I think we would be surprised by the consumption necessary to power a student through a day at White Station High School.

I’m usually not threatened by Calvin’s random meals, as our tastes rarely overlap. The leftover chili dog he eats at 10 a.m. is not a problem, and I know my chicken curry is safe at noon; the days-old Garibaldi’s pizza with everything on it under the sun is safe from this son at 8 p.m. But that midnight microwave was full of my spaghetti and meatballs, and that’s where I draw the line.

There have been times when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner for the family and he’ll come in to ask how much longer until we eat. “About 30 minutes,” I say. He then pours himself a bowl of cereal that would choke Jethro Bodine.

“Are you going to eat dinner?”

He doesn’t answer because his mouth is full of cornflakes. I’m not so much worried about him ruining his appetite — I know he’ll eat dinner in 30 minutes, and he’ll eat it again in 2 hours and 30 minutes — as I am jealous that I can’t eat a meal just before eating another meal. Not anymore. Not at my age.

And when I hear the patter of size 11’s in the kitchen late at night, and the clumsy clunking of bowls and silverware, more than wanting to get out of bed and tell him to keep it down or that it’s too late for ice cream with a warmed-over brownie, I want to join him. But I can no more get out of bed than I should be eating dairy at that hour.

Vermin have been known to stow away, and sometimes I wonder what he does at friends’ houses. I have this image of him rifling through unfamiliar cabinets in the wee hours. Is he eating someone else’s chicken leg or a slab of meatloaf found in the back of the fridge? Should I tell him not to eat what he finds, or should I suggest he scurry over to the neighbor’s for that midnight snack from now on and keep his growing paws off my leftovers?

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