I love this picture for a lot of reasons. I took it in March 2011, right after coming home from Africa and right before flying back to OR. Ezra is holding a chicken nugget in his hands. Karine is mugging up front. Classic.
One day this summer my siblings were all in town and we went to the Mall to meet up with our cousins, JE&CT and their kids, A and Am. There was a lot of running around and Happy Meal consumption. Uncle CT also got the kids milkshakes at the end of the meal, and a frozen strawberry lemonade for Ezzie, who is on a non-dairy diet.
Although he doesn’t eat dairy, Ezra eats lots of other things. As we sat in the food court waiting for our cousins, I felt it get too quiet around me and could see my sisters telegraphing distress signals to each other with their eyes. The focus of their attention was Ezra, who was chomping merrily on something while he sat obediently at the table. Not wanting to betray her anxiety, Ruthie asked him very casually, “Ezra, what are you eating?”
“I eating chicken!” he declared joyfully.
Ruthie’s eyes widened with alarm and focused on Ai Ai and then on me. Ai Ai raised her eyebrows and gasped in my direction – we didn’t need to say anything, we just all had a horrible image of Ezra fishing a random chicken nugget from off the table or floor and popping it in his mouth. I could tell Ruth was steeling herself in preparation for the imminent moment when she would roll up her sleeves, dive into Ezra’s jaws and extract the chewed-up poultry.
Thankfully, Ernie heard our conversation and saved the day, informing us that he had gotten Ezra a chicken teriyaki sample from the hibachi grill on the way in. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
Ezra’s peace, in the meantime, was undisturbed as he ate his chicken, happily unaware that we were all imagining one of the worst possible food hygiene scenarios we could think of. I can still hear his answer in my head: “I eating chicken!” was a definitive and enthusiastic statement. He was just going to enjoy his teriyaki – Mom would worry about the rest.
We were actually late to meet our cousins for dinner. It was my fault – Tanpo and I were on a conference call with my former employer, and that was when we got the definitive news that the ADA (Americans w/ Disabilities Act) doesn’t cover people in a situation like mine – i.e. when there is no reasonable timeline for the employee to return to work. So I lost my job that day. Intel took good care of me when I was well, and when I was sick – but even I understood they couldn’t do it forever, especially when no medical opinion on the timing of my work-readiness is forthcoming. I understood but I was sad. So sad, that my brother needed to give me a pep talk. He did so right there at the food court in the Mall. “Now you can do whatever you want,” he told me. And I am. Someone Else is in charge of the details.
p.s. Thank you so much for your support and kind words yesterday. The list of countries that “read” Just Keep Swimming kept on getting longer throughout the day. I’m grateful.
p.p.s. Today is National Pancake Day. (Not kidding. I don’t joke about pancakes.) Everyone will get a free buttermilk short stack at IHOP, but bring your wallet anyway since they will be collecting donations for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and other charities.