Paradise lost.

Perched regally in my booster chair and resplendent in my tutu, I was almighty. I gazed upon my kingdom and what I saw pleased me: the potted herbs and mini-mist bottle on the kitchen window sill; the shiny copper canister that I knew held a spoon embedded in sugar; the bubbles and puffs that rose from the pot awaiting the pasta my mother was measuring.

My presence in the kitchen was necessary to quell brewing unrest. I admired my mother’s attempts to please my palate, but it would not do to have her plunk my rump roughly into my chair or force spoons into the tight line of my lips. I would not eat things the same beige as the linoleum. Green beans must be cut small, and served with cheese, please.

The tone of her plea “What will you eat?” was not as I would wish, but I responded beneficently.

“Spaghetti, mommy. Please.”

Her sigh was obvious relief that the natural order of life was being restored.

The water boiled over slightly when my mother stirred in the pasta and a pinch of salt. It seemed a long time since I’d placed my order. My mother was odd: she exalted me as her princesa and sought my wishes, only to leave me stranded in my booster chair. If free, I could jingle the measuring spoons on the counter. I knew the cabinet by the sink held the plastic colander I coveted. And the push toy I loved was beyond my sight in the other room. I swung my heels impatiently against the chair. My mother stirred the sauce on the stovetop, and her profile revealed an eyebrow angled deeply into the bridge of her nose.

“Nancy,” she exhaled, “stop that.”

I thumped defiantly. The spoon clanked against the saucepan and my impatience grew. I watched my mother drain the pasta in my colander and spoon it into my Mickey Mouse bowl. She blew on the spaghetti as she tossed it with sauce, then turned and approached me, bowl in one hand and fork in the other.

“Okay, time for spaghetti,” she announced.

The moment had come.

“I don’t like spaghetti,” I decreed.

The look in her eyes was that of the downtrodden who storm castles with pitchforks. She placed the bowl, upturned, on my head. My savage howl brought my father into the kitchen, who lifted me out of my chair and ran with me under his arm into the bathroom.

“Close your eyes, baby,” he said as I stood under the shower head, and water sent spaghetti and sauce streaming down my face.

Even if my eyes had been open, the rage would have blinded me: my rule was lost and a new age had begun.

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