It took me only four months in the beginning of ’81 to get the correct shoe on the correct foot. After one month of telling me to change my shoes most mornings, mom wrote an ‘L’ and an ‘R’ on the bottom of my shoes, but I still put them on the wrong foot 80% of the time because I couldn’t tell my left from my right. She considered writing an ‘L’ and an ‘R’ on my hands when she noticed that I had a freckle on my left hand and no freckle on my right. Just three months later, I was up to a 50% shoe accuracy rate.
Jeannene turned 4 in ’81. She got a Doll of the World, a purple princess dress with white gloves, and a chocolate cake; a big chocolate cake with real, not whipped cream, chocolate frosting and candy pieces that said ‘Jeannene’.
I thanked three people on her birthday: God; that He didn’t make me a girl, so I get real presents like action figures and super-hero Underoos. Mom; that she made a big cake. And Jean; that she didn’t have any friends so I could get a bigger piece of cake.
Dad cut the cake. “Dad I want this corner piece for the extra frosting, but cut it at an angle so I can have the ‘N’ and the ‘E’ of Jeannene and the blue candle.” I showed my dad with my hands just the type of gerrymandered piece I wanted.
Jean got a big piece because it was her birthday. Jeff got a big piece because he was the oldest. Jake got a big piece because he was only two and hardly any got in his mouth. And I got the smallest piece of cake I’d ever seen, no corner, no letters. I ate the cake from the bottom and then the glorious chocolate icing. I held my plate back up for another piece. Dad scoffed, but didn’t cut me another piece.
Everybody finished and mom collected the plates. Over half the cake was still left. Everyone went to the living room. CHiPs was on. Jeff and I pretended we were on motorcycles. Jean played with her doll and Jake crawled around.
During a commercial break, I had to go to the bathroom. I saw the cake. Maybe it was the adrenaline from Ponch and John, or maybe it was that I got the smallest piece with no candies; but I forgot I had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t grab a fork and I didn’t grab a plate.
I put my right hand on the very edge of the corner piece, the corner piece that should have been mine, and I swept it toward the three candy pieces, the ‘N’, ‘N’, and ‘E’. I had more frosting than could fit in my hand. I shoved it all in my mouth. I used my left hand to clean up the chocolate at the edges of my mouth while my right hand went back to the cake. Three-and-a-half handfuls later, just as Jeannene turned the corner of the family room, the frosting was gone. She screamed louder than I’d ever heard her yell, “Jimmy’s eating all the frosting!”
I turned to say “No I’m not!” but I had too much frosting in my mouth and didn’t want to lose any by talking. Dad came around the corner; looked at me and looked at the cake. I knew a spanking was in order. I saved some frosting in the roof of my mouth, so I could taste it while I was getting swatted. It was worth it.
I gave Zach a taste of the beater after mom made fudge. He smelled it, his eyes lit up, and his tongue darted out. He reached for the beater and then he reached for the bowl, screaming somewhere between a coo and a howl.
I took the beater away and placed it into the bowl. He lunged for the bowl.
I pushed the bowl away and took him into the other room. He screamed for more chocolate. I showed him my empty hands. He grabbed my left hand and looked at the palm. He turned it over, smiled, and sunk his three teeth in the back of my hand. Open-mouthed, I felt his tongue vigorously licking my freckle.
He is my boy.