November 2020

Cora Rose was excited about Thanksgiving.

She was no longer Coco. She was also not a monkey, or a monster, or a goose. “I not a Doose,” she explained firmly, when the need arose. “I Cora Rose.” She especially was not Hot Cocoa. Sometimes books mentioned her in bizarre places – characters would be drinking her, for instance – and she would have to correct this misnomer immediately. “I not Hot Cocoa! I Cora Rose!”

“I mean, they were drinking hot chocolate,” I would say, and she would be appeased for the moment. But she would continue to listen closely in case someone else in the story called her the wrong name.

Cora Rose was enthusiastic about cooking in the kitchen. Perhaps due to her ongoing love of eating (or perhaps not), she has been very clear about her desire to help out in the kitchen whenever I am cooking. Annie might be reading a book with her daddy – and it might be a book Cora Rose enjoys – but she will leave them, and go to the table, and grab on to the back of a large chair, and slide it across the floor until it is exactly lined up with whatever I am doing. If I am mixing things in a bowl, she will line up the chair with the bowl. If I am sautéing on the stovetop, she will put the chair directly in front of the burner I am using.  This usually means I have to shift myself over to make room for her chair. If I then shift my bowl over a little so I can reach it, she will move her chair over so she remains directly in front of the action.

If I do not have something for her to do, she finds something helpful to do, like removing all the Tupperwares from the drawer, or emptying the dirty dishwasher by taking dishes out and throwing them on the floor. Therefore I always find a task for her immediately. “Coco, tell me when I need to flip the pancakes,” I might say. “You’ll see bubbles on the top. Tell me when there are bubbles.”

“I am not Coco. I Cora Rose right now,” she inevitably points out. But she watches the pancakes closely, and tells me when I need to flip them. 

It was tricky to find important tasks like this for Cora Rose to do throughout Thanksgiving morning. She helped me to find the oregano in the spice drawer, and she really liked that task. “Here is regano,” she said afterwards, handing me a small jar of sesame seeds. “Here some more regano, Mommy,” now handing me some curry powder.

“Thank you, Cora Rose,” I said. “Can you put them back? I’m all done with the oregano.” I turned back to stir my saucepan, making the rooky mistake of letting her out of my sight for more than one-sixteenth of a second.

She was silent for a moment. “I open the top,” she stated. “I dump it out.”

“What? No!” I cried, turning back to her. But it was too late. She had opened the basil and had turned it upside down and was shaking it. There was a flurry of green in the air, floating down to dust the floor. I snatched it away and snapped the top back down. She watched me, nonplussed, then reached in and pulled out the tarragon. “No! No! No more oregano!” I said, taking the tarragon from her, and then the garam masala, and then the cumin powder, and slamming the spice drawer shut before more spices emerged.

After that, I kept a close eye on the spice drawer. She bided her time and watched me mix things, helping now and then with stirring – alternating between microscopic movements with the stirring spoon, and zealous beating that resulted in flour all over the counter. When my attention wandered from her for a moment, she calmly grabbed the canister of salt, shook it, felt disappointed by the lack of a tangible result, fiddled with it until she was able to slide open the metal tab, and then inverted it. She watched the salt pour out like snow onto the floor, to mingle with the basil, and felt much more satisfied.

We had decided that, even though they couldn’t see their grandparents on Thanksgiving, we would give the girls a proper Thanksgiving dinner – at least, with all our favorite Thanksgiving foods. We cooked a very small amount of turkey, so we could use it for stuffing and gravy; we cooked sweet potatoes (since Annie doesn’t like regular potatoes); we cooked corn pudding and applesauce and corn muffins and Peter’s “pea things” (creamed peas in a pastry shell); we had canned cranberry sauce and apple cider. We did not expect Annie to eat it, since she eats nothing but bread, fruit, nuts, oatmeal, cheese, eggs, and anything sweet she can get her hands on. But Cora Rose eats everything, with gusto and enthusiasm, so we expected her to devour her meal.

Annie consumed the following: 2 slices of cranberry sauce; 2 cups of apple cider; a corn muffin; a few bites of apple sauce; a few bites of sweet potato. Cora Rose also drank multiple cups of apple cider. She picked at a muffin, picked at her cranberry sauce, declared the stuffing to be “yucky”, the turkey to be “yucky”, the corn pudding and pea things to be “yucky”, and mushed the apple sauce and sweet potato around her plate after eating a couple of bites. “I excuse the table?” she asked.

“Don’t you want to eat any of the food?” I asked.

“No. It’s yucky.”

She and her sister both excused the table, and went to do some coloring in a corner while we continued to eat. But after a few minutes, Cora Rose wanted to give treats to the cats. They had been weaving in and out around the chairs, looking up with sad eyes at our heavily food-laden plates as turkey smell wafted through the house. Peter gave her a small bowl of dry cat food. The cats and children were all under the misapprehension that these were “treats”, and the girls would throw them to the cats who would chase after them and eat them. Cora Rose had difficulty taking out individual treats and throwing them. She always does. After a few seconds, the bowl wound up upside down on the floor, not far from the spot where the oregano and salt had been recently swept up.

In retrospect, it is unclear why Annie decided to pretend to eat a piece of cat food. She put it up to her mouth and giggled and waited for someone to tell her urgently to stop, stop. No one did. I shrugged and told her it wouldn’t hurt her. She licked it.

Cora saw this and popped a piece of cat food into her mouth. I waited for her to spit it out. She crunched it and swallowed it, looking quite happy. Then she picked up another piece of cat food and tossed it into her mouth.

Cora! That’s not food!” I said. By now we had cleared the table, and I was in the kitchen with my hands covered in soapy water.

Cora Rose picked up a few more pieces and chomped them enthusiastically.

“C’mon, Cora, stop!” I said.

Cora Rose looked at me, then picked up some more bits of cat food and ate them, happily.

I dried my hands and went over to her. “Cora, what are you doing?”

“Eating tat food,” she explained. She was down on her knees now, to have easy access to the cat food scattered all over the floor. Her hand moved quickly between the floor and her mouth.

“Uh oh,” said Annie, laughing. Cora laughed, too.

“Is that people food?” I asked. Cora didn’t answer because her mouth was full. Also she was ambivalent about answering stupid questions at the best of times. “Are you so hungry? Why didn’t you eat Thanksgiving dinner?” I asked.  Cora continued to eat the cat food as fast as she could, sensing that it would soon be taken away.

“No, honey, please don’t,” I said. “That’s not food.”

Cora Rose ate more quickly.

I gave up arguing. We scooped up the remainder of the cat food into the empty bowl and put it out of reach. “No!” Cora cried. “Want it! Want more tat food!”

The next morning, we decided to try out a new, fun tradition: Eating Pie for Breakfast. We had heard about this from friends, as a traditional post-Thankgiving breakfast. Following the cat food incident the night before, the girls had both greatly enjoyed pumpkin pie with whipped cream, so we were optimistic.

We had some cereal and fruit before the pie came out, since the girls normally have big appetites at breakfast.

“Who wants pumpkin pie?” I asked after everyone had finished their cereal, as Peter carved wedges of pie and plated them.

“Me!” Annie yelled.

“Don’t want it,” said Cora. “I want more Cheeos.”

“Oh, you’ll love it,” I assured her. “Pie, remember? You loved it last night. Pumpkin pie.”

Cora shook her head decidedly. “No. I don’t want.”

Peter put slices of pie in front of everyone.

“Nooooo!” Cora Rose shrieked, pushing the pie away and almost knocking it onto the floor. “Want Cheeos!” She started screaming incoherently at the top of her lungs. Tears appeared, mysteriously, and dripped down her face. The situation was very, very upsetting.

“Okay, okay!” I said, and got her more cheerios. She settled down at once. The rest of us ate pumpkin pie while she happily ate her cheerios. We tried offering her the piece of pie once more during the meal, and she started shrieking again. So Annie ate it for her.