by Lauri Fraser
As a child, I got all the love a nurturing that my parents could have possibly given me. It was not enough. My Dad wanted a perfect kid. I wanted to be that perfect kid. I was a reflection of him and I reflected imperfection. He got critical, and I got hungry. Hungry for his attention. Hungry to be accepted. Hungry to e adored. I had to fill that void. I wasn’t old enough to pick sex, drugs, or rock and roll, so I picked sex’s closest equivalent for a kid…. FOOD.
At the age of five, I used to lie down on the floor by the bathroom and talk to my Dad through the crack at the bottom between the carpet and the door. My Dad was always working and I’d be in bed by the time he got home so this was my one chance to talk to him. I’d ask him all sorts of questions. He’d eventually get fed up and say “Lauri, I’m going potty.” I guess this meant that I was supposed to leave, but instead I’d just be quiet for a while and then start up again. One day while I was being quiet, I noticed his trousers lying over the small chest of drawers. I put my hand in every pocket. Just filling time while I waited for him. I found his wallet and some change. Change, I knew could buy food. I put the change in the pocket of my cowgirl outfit. I wore my cowgirl on every morning that I could until it was so filthy that my Mom would have to sneak it out of my room. I had the shirt with tassels on the back, the skirt, boots, holster, and the hat.
I would walk my Dad out to the car, and I’d wave good-bye to him until his silver Thunderbird, disappeared over the hill to the left of our track home in Monterey Park. Well that morning as he drove away the Helmes truck came up over the hill to the right sounding it’s unmistakable Helmes truck horn. The Helmes truck was a bakery on wheels, kind of like the Ice Cream Truck but it was filled with cookies and donuts and pastries. Heaven for a five year old. Okay, for THIS five year old. I felt the coins in my pocket and shot my hand up in an uncontrollable victory salute waving him down. There he was in all his glory, The Helmes Man. He held the key to that great big door at the back of the truck that protected the precious cargo that lie inside waiting for ME. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as I often did when I was about to tell a big fib. After all it was just ME. Without my Mom. It would have never been my Dad. He wouldn’t let me eat sweets because he didn’t want a fat kid. In fact he would make us Avocado or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and give the other kids each a whole sandwich and cut mine in fourths, give me one of the fourths and tell me to come back and ask him if I wanted more. Did I want more? Was I so abnormal? Why wasn’t I treated like the other kids? A quarter of a sandwich? Of course I wanted more. That was the beginning of my never being able to get enough of anything. Especially food.
In fact I would be engulfed in an epicurean delight as soon as I could tear myself away from whatever was causing me to feel anything but good. Oh, wait a minute. GOOD, had it’s own set of set me offs), accompanied me into the limo. I sucked out the stuffing in a lady like manner as not to disturb the sausage skin being the vegetarian that I was. All this while sitting next to my new groom, who perceived this as sexually exciting. A promise of things to come. And now here I was in front of the Helmes man. The man of my dreams. He pulled out that long tray of cookies and donuts and the smell lifted me off my feet. I picked two sugar jellys and two twisted glazed, and cookies with sprinkles and chocolate cupcakes and when I handed him the money he said “Oh you must be having a party.” and I said “Yes we are. “ The next day after waving my Dad good-bye over the hill, my little neighborhood friends were there with me when the Helmes man came. I picked more this time because I had more money. My Dad was always pretty cheap but donuts were too. All had a good time. And everyone liked me which thrilled my little budding people pleaser to no end. I had a real thing going here, I was the pied piper of Monterey Park with a song in my heart and a sugar high in my metabolism, until my Mom decided to stop the Helmes man one morning. She was having a couple of PTA ladies over and the Helmes man commented, unbeknownst to me, on how he hoped that she enjoyed all the goodies for all the parties she’d been having. The following day, it was me in my cow girl outfit, the bathroom door conversation and business as usual, only this time when I waved my father good-bye over the hill, he had instead gone around the block and caught me red handed with a sprinkle cookie in wax paper, in my hand and my friends waiting eagerly to pick there morning fare. I felt like G. Gordon Liddy when the Watergate cops caught him breaking in. My Dad walked up and stared down at me….”Open your hand.” I put my head down and looked up and shamefully opened my little sweaty palm revealing 55 cents in one hand and a sprinkle cookie in wax paper, hiding behind my cowgirl skirt, in the other. I was busted. At this point I was all alone, My friends had all but scattered and I was quietly but swiftly ushered into the house, gripping tightly to the sprinkle cookie wrapped in wax paper and still intact. My only solace for what could be an eternity. He’d be watching my every move and even though I, could get every cookie out of the package without hearing a crinkle or a crackle coming from the wrapper, when it came to listening to me in the kitchen, HE could hear a baby mouse peeing on a blotter. My father was not a mean man by any sense of the word, but I had hit a nerve. He didn’t like fat people. They disgusted him. A Nobel Prize winner? His favorite Aunt? If they were fat, he didn’t want them i8n the house. Oh, he’d put up with it, but he kept his distance. Even my boyfriends. If they were handsome and fit, they could have robbed us blind and he’d defend them, but let them have one ounce of fat toppling over their pants and they were losers. He didn’t particularly like this quality about himself, but it didn’t seem to stop him. I’m sure that he had nightmares of me coming home with my hands full of shopping bags from Lane Bryant and a chili dog with all the trimmings hanging out of my mouth while trying to give him a kiss. I’m not sure what he was angrier about. That I stole the money or that I was starting to get chubby and he didn’t know what to do about it. He never hit us but sometimes we got the towel. The Rat-tail. That day I got the Rat-tail. He’d wind the towel up and fling it just barely grazing us but stinging us just enough to let us know that what we did was NOT okay and not to forget it. I didn’t.
Now in his eighties, you can still see the handsome in his face and HIS tummy just topples over HIS pants and I watch him as he scours the refrigerator for what may be HIS only solace. Oh, sure, I’m tempted to swat him with the Rat-tail, but I manage to suppress that. I still have dreams that I hear that oh so familiar horn and go running towards the door. But after therapy, diets, meditation, and exercise, I’ve managed to suppress that urge, too. But if I truly look deep within my soul and am absolutely honesty, I musty admit that NOTHING compares, to a sprinkle cookie from the Helms man….or two sprinkle cookies.