I’m 51 years old, but there is no grown-up cereal in my cupboard.
Come on over and I’ll show you. Open the cupboard door right now, and you’ll find Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops — all the same cereals I enjoyed as a kid.
Occasionally I’ll treat myself to some Cap’n Crunch. That’s the best, always has been.
With most cereal, you have to start eating it seconds after you pour the milk over it, because it’s not as good when it’s all soft-soaked with milk. With Cap’n Crunch, you can leave it alone for a few minutes, to maybe finish making your toast, and it’s still good and crunchy, the way cereal ought to be.
The original was my favorite, but the Crunch Berries and the Peanut Butter Crunch and whatever other seasonal varieties they produced were all fine with me. As a child, I worshiped the entire Cap’n Crunch catalog.
It was a morning dose of unbridled sweetness, with the added bonus of the taste of your own blood, as the coat of cemented sugar that retained the hickory-wood-like crunchiness tore the living hell out of your mouth, leaving both physical and emotional scars that lasted through high school and well into adulthood.
It’s a rite of passage. Sometimes you need to spill a little of your own blood in the pursuit of happiness.
I know kids’ cereal has virtually no nutritional value. I know I should eat something more grown-up like Total or Special K or Product 19 or Formula 55 Fire-Baked Fiber Flakes or some such nonsense. I’ve tried some of those and they weren’t too bad, until I was informed that I’m not supposed to pour three cups of sugar on them before I eat them. When I stopped doing that, they became boring bowls full of soggy, joyless, soul-killing gruel.
And yes, I need to monitor my sugar intake, I know that. So maybe I’ll eat a little less, like half a bowl, to keep those glucose levels down. I refuse to give up my childhood cereals.
Late author Kurt Vonnegut is quoted with saying, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”
A bowl of cereal in the morning is a little thing, no doubt. But to me, it’s a big thing.
I met a little thing named Quentin Donald this past weekend. He’s a bit more than two weeks old and a tiny bit more than seven pounds, and were it not for the fact that he has more hair on his head than most of his adult male relatives, his total poundage would likely be on the lower side of seven.
He doesn’t do much and doesn’t know much — but I think he knows a little more than he lets on — and he has yet to learn that there are a lot of people who already love him. I am told he will be taught to call me Papa James when the time comes, and I like that, but honestly, he’ll be allowed to call me whatever he wants to. Anything he says to me will sound like “I love you” to my ears.
I saw a message the other day that there are lots of ways to say “I love you” without actually saying it. Sometimes “I love you” sounds more like “be safe,” “did you eat?” or “I made this for you.”
As my wife pointed out, in my family it’s “safe home.” It was something my grandmother would say at times of departure. We grandkids called her “Granny,” and to her that meant “I love you.” When she bid us farewell with the words “safe home,” she was telling us, “I love you, too.”
Although she passed away nearly 40 years ago, the words “safe home” are still repeated in my family. That tradition is just a little thing, maybe even a childish thing, but it’s a thing we hold on to, and that makes it big to us.
Other little things that are big to me? When I’m sitting comfortably in my chair, watching TV or typing on my laptop or just unwinding from my day, and my wife walks by, I reach up my hand, and she touches it. When she does, it makes my heart a little happy, for just one second. When we miss the moment, it makes my heart a little sad, for just one minute.
I believe my wife would tell you that one of her big little things is the feeling of snuggling into a bed at night, under freshly-washed sheets.
Digression: Is there any little thing more satisfying than popping bubble wrap?
I love a big little thing like making my daughters laugh, or watching them try to make me proud of them, unaware that I already am, and have been forever.
Or maybe hearing a great song for the first time, or hearing an old song, one you used to love, for the first time in years.
Watching your favorite football team pull out a win against a good opponent in the final seconds. Or better yet, watching two teams you care nothing about play a game with all their hearts, leaving everything they have on the field, until one team wins, the other team loses, and both teams cry. Maybe I’ll cry, too.
Earning the unconditional love of a dog — and earning the reluctant acceptance of a cat.
Flushing a pheasant on a crisp, November morning. Feeling a walleye on the other end of my line, and pulling it into the boat — then another, then another — and releasing them all, in a flash of a splash, watching them swim away.
A talented artist’s painting of a sunset. Or maybe, a real sunset.
Hugs. Warm ones.
Sharing and embellishing memories with old friends.
These things, so small in the grand scheme, so important to living life.
There is a Bible verse I learned long ago, and I’m not sure I’ve ever liked it. It’s from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, verse 11. It says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
I don’t like it, but maybe there’s some truth to that. I’m 51 years old now, so perhaps I should set aside childish things and act like a grownup. Maybe I should throw those sugary cereals away, and buy a box of Product 19.
Perhaps I should. Perhaps I will.
Just not today.