All gifts had to be vetted for their mess potential and anything that could get into the carpet, stick to surfaces, or require a bath was vetoed. I was not allowed Play-Dough, clay, paint, Magic Sand, Silly Putty, and all bubble gum was rationed from a special cabinet. I had an Easy Bake Oven, a Snoopy Sno-Cone machine and a foot-powered blender that made Kool-Aid, but it was never a good day to use any of them.
People ask me why I don’t cook and the reason is very simple-my mother didn’t believe in cleaning up after me! I was not allowed to do anything more than open a can of corn, lick the bowl after she mixed a cake batter or get some juice from the fridge (depending on how full the pitcher was.)
Unfortunately, I was a kid who liked to make things and one day while watching some science show on Nickelodeon, they showed an easy recipe for a toothpaste alternative using ingredients found around the kitchen. Excited, I immediately went into the kitchen to gather up the baking soda, baking powder, and salt, which was located high above the stove and required a stool, two phone books and a coffee can to reach. (I’m telling you, the woman went to elaborate lengths to avoid messes.)
I happily emptied half of each container into a giant zip-lock bag, shook it up and took it into the bathroom to try out. When I was finished, I wrapped the whole thing in a yellow paper towel, hid it in my bottom desk drawer, put everything away and forgot about it.
A year later, my mother found it while conducting a mass cleaning of my bedroom on her day off. Let’s just say a two-pound bag of white powder in my bottom desk drawer was enough to give her a coronary. Gingerly she tasted it in hopes of discerning what exactly she’d found in her 11-year-old’s room but with no previous narcotics experience, she had no clue what “it” was supposed to taste like. She threw the whole thing into the trashcan, took out the garbage and prayed the police wouldn’t come knocking.
I swear it took her three hours to work up the courage to ask me what I had hidden in my drawer. Busted, I became flustered and offered up explanations that did little to help my cause.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I knew you would be mad if you thought I had been messing around with it.” I pleaded.
“Julie, for God’s sake, what IS it?” She demanded.
I will never forget the look on her face as she learned that I was the “tooth powder” Czar of the Eastside. I couldn’t tell if she was relieved that it wasn’t that “other” thing, if she didn’t believe me or if she was ticked off that I had been fooling around in the kitchen in the first place. “Well, I threw it out,” she declared, determined to have the last word in the argument. “That kind of thing might attract ants.”
“That’s OK,” I assured her. “Now that I have the recipe, I can always score some more.”