So there I sat at the dinner table the other night, watching Spouse eat, and suddenly realized what a bad, bad influence I’ve been on him.
When I first met Chuck way back in college, he was a food Nazi; never would he allow his mashed potatoes to intermingle with his meat and heaven forbid a rogue pea had the audacity to invade the fortified kernel corn outpost. All food items on his plate were duly categorized and carefully separated from each other by the width of four fork tines, not a millimeter less.
He avoided gravy at all costs because, well … just because. It would have to touch another food in order to be gravy.
I, on the other hand, always enjoyed smooshing a little of this and a little of that together on my fork, and sopping up pot liquor (vegetable and meat juice) with my roll until it was a soggy, gooey, lump which followed that multi-integrated bite into my mouth, where my tongue relished a good workout trying to sort out which flavor and texture was which.
I figured it’s all going to the same place anyway. What difference does it make what form it arrives in?
But Chuck has always been a nutritional purist. Not only would he not allow his foods to touch each other, he would not touch them either. I drove him bonkers with my Southern grab-your-corn-on-the cob and ribs and fried chicken with your fingers and chow down technique. The big goof even cut up his dinner roll with his knife and fork.
And now, 40 years later?
I was completely bamboozled to observe this very same man the other night slopping together his meat, rice, and vegetables into a disheveled heap in the middle of his plate, and spooning Cream of Potato soup, like gravy, over the whole pile. Then if that wasn’t enough, he snatched a couple of croutons from his salad (with his fingers!) to sprinkle on top.
I feared that any minute he’d start scooping handfuls of the mess into his mouth Buddy-the-Elf style.
What’s happened to this guy? I wondered. I felt like I’d been sucked into the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, when the wide-eyed Asian guy laments to Donald Sutherland about his freshly body-exchanged spouse, “That not my wife!”
Then it hit me. I happened to him. I’m the reason he’s turned into Bubba the Redneck does the diner.
All those years of watching me mix and mash have had an impact on him. My habits have rubbed off. Neither of us intended for it to happen, but, well, there it is. Proof dripping off his fingertips.
You know, it happens to you too, my friend. Your habits – both good and bad – eventually rub off on those around you. You may not be doing it intentionally, but your actions affect others. And theirs affect you.
So it might behoove us to give a little thought to which habits we’re passing along to those we care about, even those nuances that might not show up for another generation. When little people observing us now become grown people who subconsciously emulate the adults they knew and loved – parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends. That would be you and me.
Are we doing a good job passing on good habits? Kindly habits? Faith-filled habits?
The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.
Even pudding spooned onto graham crackers and dipped into a vat of hot fudge then deep-fried and topped with sprinkles.
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