How Oatmeal Miraculously Became a Favorite
“You have to eat it, Billy. That’s all we have for breakfast,” Mom said, quietly but sternly.
“Don’t we have any raisins or brown sugar? Really?”
“I’ve already told you; we only have white sugar and milk.”
“But I’m tired of oatmeal. It’s all we’ve had for breakfast all week. And, and we even had it for dinner (lunch) yesterday. I’m sick of it. Can’t I just skip breakfast? Please?”
Dad sat down at the table beside me as Mom moved off to help one of my sisters get dressed. “Billy, you may not leave this table until you eat everything in your bowl. Now you’ve eaten about a third of your bowl, get busy and in no time, you’ll have it finished. Get started.” Dad’s normally warm brown eyes were dark, his usually smiling face stern. “Billy, I’m not going to warn you again, start eating.”
Slowly I lifted a spoonful of smelly, slimy oatmeal to my lips and paused, only to hear, “Put that in your mouth. Now!”
I shoved it into my mouth and tried to swallow, but it only went part way down and I gagged. That spoonful came back up accompanied by the prior spoonful I’d tried to force down my gullet. I spat it into my bowl, tears streaming down my face. Sending a silent mercy-from-oatmeal prayer up to God.
It didn’t work. Without saying a word, Dad stood, took my bowl, emptied it into the garbage, then refilled my bowl from the pot on the stove, added sugar and milk, placed it in front of me and sat back down. I got the message. I’d lost the battle—as usual. I slowly started eating, forcing myself not to gag. After about five bites I was back in the rhythm and started chowing it down.
The crazy thing was, somehow, since then, I’ve always liked oatmeal. Now, I still prefer it with raisins and brown sugar, but can handle it almost anyway it comes. God works in mysterious ways!
Many years later, Mom reminisced. “Back then, things were always tight financially, but several of those years at Country Roads were extremely tight. A young man from the church got into some trouble that involved another church family. He went to jail and Dad visited him there. Your father visited anyone and everyone in jail. Well, that set off the other family who didn’t think Dad should have anything to do with the guy, so they quit contributing on Sunday mornings. That was their way of getting back at Dad as they knew the Sunday morning offering was how Dad was paid.”
She paused and shook her head, a look of wonder still on her face. “Kids, sometimes I only had two dollars to buy a week’s worth of groceries for our family of six. I learned how to scrimp and save growing up during the depression and World War II, but this was extremely tight. I had to watch every penny, buy in small quantities, just enough to get us through the week. A little flour, a little oatmeal, some beans.” Then with tears in her eyes, “God was so good to us. He never let us go hungry.”
“And Billy learned to like oatmeal!” No, Mom didn’t say that, but I thought it. I also learned to love pancakes and bean soup. In fact, I think I was ten, before I realized most civilized folk back then considered pancakes to be a breakfast meal. We ate them for supper, sometimes dinner (lunch). Oatmeal was for breakfast and, once in a while, dinner (lunch). Go figure.