Monday, April 12, 2010

Frosted Flakes

Sugar Sugar - Mary Lou Lord + Semisonic (mp3)
Jonny Quest/Stop That Pigeon - Reverend Horton Heat (mp3)

When I was a kid, my father would only be assigned the task of going to the grocery store on rare occasions. Maybe three or four times a year.

It seems like I was always sitting in our kitchen on a Saturday morning eating cereal when Dad would walk in and ask me what kind of cereal I wanted from the store.

Because I was something of a cereal slut as a kid, my whole-grain affairs changed with the seasons. One time it might be a Monster Cereal. Next it would be Corn Pops. Then Honeycomb. Golden Grahams. Cookie Crisp. Lucky Charms. Crunchberrys. The list really does go on and on. Hell, I even went on a Crispix binge for several months.

So I'd give Dad my order. And he would return, a couple of hours later, with a box of Frosted Flakes. Every time.

In my younger years, I thought he just wasn't paying attention, or maybe he misunderstood me. In my pre-adolescent years, I took it personally. He was asking just so he could make damn sure to get me something I didn't ask for, either to spite me or to "put me in my place." By the time I hit the high school years, I wouldn't even give him an order. I'd just sigh and tell him I didn't care.

Maybe it was always intentional with Dad. Ask me what I want; then go out and get me what he wanted me to have. This isn't a particularly unique parental trait. I'm guilty of this one a lot. I excuse mine by claiming it's about "important" stuff and not trivial things like cereal. But maybe I'm fooling myself. Besides, since he was the Dad, and he was paying for it, I guess that was damn well his prerogative. I mean, if I wanted Cookie Crisp, then by God I had an allowance, and I could just sacrifice this month's issue of The New Mutants and buy my own friggin' box of Cookie Crisp.

These memories came to the surface last Sunday morning. I was asked to make my semi-regular Sunday run to Panera for bagels and coffee, and I took everyone's order. Jenni, though, switched from her usual Cinnamon Crunch bagel and spread and asked for one of those breakfast sandwiches. On an Asiago bagel.

Well I'll be damned if I didn't return to the house with a Cinnamon Crunch (not to be confused with Cinnamon Toast Crunch) bagel and spread. No breakfast sandwich.

The sins of the father, indeed.

In hindsight, it's possible he asked me what cereal I wanted because he really wanted to get whatever that was. But then, when he got into the familiar routine of grabbing a buggy and walking those chilly aisles, he just instinctively grabbed the Frosted Flakes.

By the time I was in junior high? Yeah, I think by that point he'd started to be amused at his own force of habit. Not a power play so much as a private practical joke at which only he laughed. And when I stopped caring in high school, it probably saddened him a little.

Truth is, I don't know what he was thinking. About many things, including cereal purchases and Tony the Tiger fetishes. I don't know if there was a secret message in the cereal box decoder ring that said something like "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

All I know is that those Frosted Flakes memories feel important, and it was one of the tangible sugar-sweet ways I miss my father.


troutking said...

Very nice post, Billy.

troutking said...

On another note, some of these cereal names and graphics are really scary. I haven't closely examined the cereal aisle lately, but I feel like maybe this is one area where we've progressed a little. I don't think current kids cereal boxes scream INSANE SUGAR HIGH quite as loudly as these do.

Bob said...

If you go out to Big Lots, which I did yesterday for some unknown reason, you can see the names and brands of the cereals that didn't quite cut it.

Thom Anon said...

Cinnamon crunch bagel, hunh? As a latter-day New Yorker, I am appalled. As a former Southerner, I am intrigued.


Tockstar said...

Great post and best blog art ever. Although I'm not a fan of Christian rock really at all (it makes me want to wretch, in fact), The Newsboys have a song called "Breakfast" that's pretty funny.

jed said...

wonderful pictures, even better post.