La pelea de las migajas started innocently enough. Little girl gets up all cranky, hair frazzled (don’t comb it mom, it hurts), blanket-stuck-to-cheek, undies-in-a-wad. Her mother (yo) drags her out of bed, dresses her like a baby (mom, you’re bending my ear with the shirt!), and manages to get her to the kitchen table – where the real fight begins.

“I got your backpack ready, what are you gonna have for breakfast?

“I don’t know; I can’t decide,” she says to the overflowing pantry looming over her. “All we have is cereal and snacks.”

We do this every morning, and Dr. Bogeyman doesn’t do the trick anymore.

“Cheerios? Waffles? English muffin,toast, egg?, ” I’m hoping something will click.

“I can’t decide!”

The tyranny of too many choices.

“How about egg and bread?” I offer as I notice someone left the bread bag open overnight and that might not be a choice after all. “Your father left the bread open again, me caso en su vida!”

“No, mom, that was me last night. I was hungry after dinner.”

“That’s because you don’t want to eat the good food your mother prepares for you,” sniffing the bread, it’s fine. “And if you can have plain bread at night, why don’t you at least have toast with butter now?”

“Because it’s not the saaaame…

“All right, we gotta go to school in five minutes, what’s it gonna be? 

Silence.

“Well, here’s some toast and a couple of strawberries.”  I’m done bargaining, and we’re out of time.

Little girl stares silently out the glass door, maybe hoping a great egret will pick her up and whisk her away from this appetizing torture.

“Time to eat,” I prompt to interrupt her vision.

“I just can’t deciiiide,” she whines as her toast loses precious heat (it’s 40 degrees out).

That’s it, in lieu of the Tiger Mother, the Boricua Mother comes out: “It’s not a matter of deciding, it’s a matter of opening your mouth and chewing the food you got in front of you! ”  

She gives me the puppy dog eyes. Starts to get teary. I want to laugh, but a flash of my grandparents’ GreatDeppresion-AND-Two-Hurricanes-Devastate-The-Island stories (Lares, PR, circa 1933, sopa de gandules for breakfast, lunch and dinner) toughens me up.

“¡CO-ME-TE  EL  PAN!”

She knows I mean business now. Spanish comes out when I’ve had it – another absurd twist of Living La  Vida Traducida. 

She proceeds to put the cooling piece of buttered toast in her mouth and take a tiny bite. I look away before I lose it. I hear munching on strawberries and then breaking of bread. When I look again, she’s got the bread over her head, back turned to her now-really-captive audience and is performing a strange  puppet show with the bread dropping crumbs on her hair.

“This is you,” she enlightens her audience. “And this is me,” shaking the other half of the bread.

“Eat, so you can grow!”  “But I’m not hungry!”  The dueling bread halves yell at each other, all while continuing to drop crumbs on her head.

She turns around just in time to see the right corner of my mouth struggling to contain a smile. Satisfied with the shadow of a half-smile, she quietly eats both halves of the bread, leaving only crumbs on the tablecloth – and on her head.

When she’s finished, I toss her hair with my fingers and get a few breadcrumbs off. “Remember to explain to your teacher that those breadcrumbs got there after a breadcrumb fight with your mother…”

We actually make it to school on time. She gets out of the car, and with her most beautiful smile says “Have a good day mom!” 

I shake my head, half reproaching, half proud. “I love you,” I wave from the driver’s seat.   

And off I go to my daily work of translating medical brochures, cleaning, editing an M.D. interview, cooking…and other things mothers juggle to put breadcrumbs on the table.

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