Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Boy and a Snail

(originally posted 7/2/10)

Parents experience a variety of proud moments as they watch their children grow:  first word, first day of school, spelling bee victory, piano recital, high school graduation, Nobel Prize, Supreme Court confirmation.  I have known some of these and might know others in the future. However, while in Paris last week, I experienced one of my proudest moments to date.  My son ate a snail.

It was our first evening in the city. Having endured an overnight flight and a bleary half-day of sightseeing, we were very much feeling the mild disorientation that comes from great exhilaration combined with even greater exhaustion. We decided to eat dinner at a café just around the corner from our rented apartment and settled in for a carafe of wine and some down-to-earth fare.  My husband and I ordered a starter of escargots while we perused the menu.

My 13-year old son Paxton, tired and moody as we all were, flatly refused to sample one of our snails.  He had his mind and heart set on a steak-frites, and nothing was going to get in his way.  So we started working on our younger son Declan, who would turn nine the next day.  He appeared receptive but noncommittal.  He asked what the snail would taste like, and what was all that green stuff on top?  This was promising, as he has only recently emerged from a diet consisting primarily of pasta, chicken nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches and plain cheese pizza. 

Finally settling on a 10-euro bribe, Declan picked up the shell with a steel clamp, plucked out the escargot with a tiny fork, and scrutinized it as it dripped garlic, parsley and butter.  He sniffed, then examined it some more, carefully turning it and holding it up to the light.  Finally, after much discussion and only mild cajoling, and with a surprising amount of alacrity and enthusiasm, he popped it into this mouth and began chewing happily.  At that moment, several tables in our immediate vicinity erupted in applause, and we realized that at least a dozen people had been waiting to see if the little American boy would actually eat his first snail as they watched.  Declan was mortified.  My husband and I beamed.

Why do I care that he ate a snail?  Because it indicates a willingness to try something new, of course.  And since trying and loving new foods has been such a significant source of joy in my life, I felt a surge of happiness and hope that my son would now have all that pleasure available to him.  In that moment, his palate opened just a bit -- enough to let in a snail.  Not that he doesn't still enjoy a good slice of plain cheese pizza.  Don't we all?

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