Yesterday morning, already more than half an hour late for work, I hurriedly ate a bowl of Cheerios while leaning up against the kitchen counter. At the bottom of the bowl, I chased the the last three uncooperative O’s around in half-circle, eventually convincing them to board the spoon. I tipped the green bowl up to my mouth to finish off the milk and managed to dripple only slightly down my front.
Cheerios was the cereal of my childhood. There was always at least one open big yellow box, either on top of the fridge, in a cabinet or perched on a window sill, as well as an unopened one, waiting in reserve. When my sister and I were just starting to learn to eat things that crunched, my mom would throw a handful of O’s onto the tray of the high chair, and let us go at them with our mediocre motor skills. As we got older, they remained the snack du jour. Need a treat for the movies? A baggie of Cheerios would appear from my mom’s purse. Need a craft project? While not as colorful as Fruit Loops, Cheerios made nice, non-sticky bracelets and necklaces. Craving a nibble before bed? A handful, straight out of the box (my mom actually still does this, almost every night. They are surprisingly good this way).
In the mornings before elementary school, Raina and I would fight over who got to read the back of the box while eating. The really good days were when we were allowed to drizzle a little honey on our O’s to make them sweet. Sugar cereals were better known as birthday cereals in our house, because we were only allowed one box a year, picked out the day or two before a birthday. You were required to let your sister have at least one bowl of your birthday cereal, the rest was all for you.
When eating a bowl of cereal during my childhood, it was well known that the milk was the protein part of the cereal experience, and that you better finish every drop. Bad things could happen to kids who didn’t get enough protein. In college I was shocked to discover that some people didn’t finish the milk at the bottom of their bowl. My roommate Meghan would always douse her cereal with milk, and then very carefully select spoonfuls that included as little milk as possible. When all the cereal was done, the leftover milk would go down the drain. I’d like to say that I watched in silence, but I’ve never been good at silence (especially when scandalized). I made a comment once, wondering why she poured her milk down the drain, and wasn’t it just the tiniest bit wasteful? She looked at me with surprise and possibly just a little bit of annoyance and said, “I don’t like the milk” and left it at that. Meghan and I didn’t always see eye to eye.
If you have a childhood cereal memory, please feel free to share.