There really is no point to a saltine – except for the salt, of course.
For some reason, as many other kids, I loved them when I was little. I think it had more to do with trying to stand it upright in between my top and bottom teeth or shoving it in my mouth in one bite rather than any great gastronomic pleasure. I didn’t return to them until I carried whole sleeves of them around with me during my bouts of morning sickness three times over. That’s the telltale sign of a pregnancy, isn’t it? The white, crinkly cellophane pulled open at the seam, the stack of perfectly pointed squares cascading out into the open, and hopefully, into your belly to quell the ravaging beast that threatens to ruin every waking moment – not just those in the morning. A friend’s mother says that she hasn’t touched a saltine since her pregnancy over thirty years ago. I can’t say I blame her. It is not a pleasant connotation when that’s your last memory.
So, imagine my surprise, when I found myself chowing down on them as I rushed to an appointment in the car. So light and insubstantial, I was flying through the sleeve with reckless abandon – actually just savoring the salt and waiting for some sort of gratification from the mush that the enriched flour had turned to in my mouth. I had bought them for the kids, but running late and low on fuel, I needed a quick and easy – if not satisfying – snack.
After I’d downed a quarter of the sleeve, the sharp bite of the salt searing into my tongue, I realized what I was doing. I was eating saltines! After a miserable last pregnancy, I avoided at any costs anything that reminded me of those memories that made me shudder. I gave away all my maternity clothes with great aplomb. I threw out the sitz baths and lanolin left in the house. A wicked pack rat, I even sorted through and shredded all paperwork from the hospital. Saltines fell into this category. I didn’t fling them out my window, a crazed cracker hail sending birds flying, I just didn’t even think of pulling a box off the grocery store shelf.
In one conversation with my therapist in that first year of recovery, I explained how I felt as if I were grieving a death. I marked each familiar date, each holiday, each anniversary of some hard memory – noting it, like the rung of a ladder I had to climb to get up and out of this hole. ‘Okay, I’ve made it past that one,’ I’d say. I’d survive one set of negative memories at a time and start to wipe them away with new ones.
It wasn’t easy and I knew I wasn’t suffering the same grief as someone who had actually lost a loved one, but, as my therapist so astutely pointed out, I was suffering a loss – the death of my life as I had known it. Things were totally – in some ways, irrevocably – different. It was time to move forward with the positive and with this new knowledge and see what would happen. Life certainly wasn’t over – it was just different.
As was the action of eating a saltine. I wasn’t a kid crushing one into my mouth as I cavorted on the beach with my parents. I wasn’t a desperately nauseous woman at the mercy of her upset stomach (and those damn hormones). I was an adaptable survivor who could do simple tasks again without the crippling connotations once associated with them.
Saltines have never tasted so good.