I was on the couch, chewing on a straw, watching the zillionth commercial where a middle-aged man takes a pill and he’s suddenly happy as all get-out, when my 11-year-old son approached my throne.
“Arggh argghzhin rumblph,” he said.
He obviously had something in his mouth that was prompting even more garbled gibberish than usual.
“Boy, what’s in your mouth?”
He proudly opened his jaws wide, where I witnessed a huge, mangled eraser atop his tongue.
“Son, don’t ever put erasers, or anything else that isn’t food, in your mouth,” I commanded, straw betwixt my incisors. He spit out the offensive toy in my open hand and merrily went his way.
This, unfortunately, wasn’t an isolated incident. It’s been going on for years. Every day, we find new and unique items in our children’s mouths – gem clips rather than gem squash; cutlery instead of cucumber.
I tend to blame any of our children’s shortcomings on my wife, but I can’t lie (which is a lie). Truth is, this one is on me.
I have a long and detailed history of eating, chewing and sometimes choking on inedible objects.
At 3, I ate dirt with my grandparents’ dachshund. From what I remember, it wasn’t that bad.
At 5, I swallowed a quarter. My parents took me to the doctor, where an X-ray was taken. I still have that X-ray — my wee skeleton with a shiny quarter dead in the middle of my rib cage, so clear you can almost read “In God We Trust.”
At one point during my youth, I had swallowed a quarter and a dime in the same week – the only time I was actually worth 35 cents in my life.
In fourth grade, I grew tired of coin-swallowing and decided to chew on a giant button for some reason. I swallowed the button and an alert substitute teacher — Mrs. Stevens, God bless her — saw me gasping for air on the playground. She utilized the Heimlich maneuver and the giant button came flying out. I haven’t chewed on a giant button since, no matter how tempting.
This habit of chewing on unchewable items isn’t limited to the males of the Robbins clan.
A number of years ago, we were at a high school basketball game and my wife noticed our daughter, then 4, now 15, was chewing something.
“What are you chewing?”
Our daughter opened her mouth to reveal a wad of gum.
“Gum,” she gleefully exclaimed.
“Where’d you get that gum?”
Our daughter pointed under the bleacher seat in front of her.
“I got it from under there,” she said, my wife’s jaw dropping in horror. “There’s more if you want some.”
They immediately went to the bathroom, probably to wash her mouth out with soap. I immediately went into convulsions of hilarity.
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of the Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.