national oatmeal season

the fine folks who tell us these things, tell us that this is national oatmeal month. they are wrong.

at our house, the oatmeal barrel gets hauled out once the leaves start crisping and swirling to the ground. doesn’t get put away ’til the easter grass is pushing through the softening earth. oatmeal is a way of life. it is, by all accounts over here, a good life.

we are fully aware that in some corners of the planet, perhaps just down the block, the word oatmeal is met with hands crossed over mouth, and heads ducking for cover. apparently, it is an old porridge. an ancient porridge. goes all the way back to the ancient chinese in 7000 b.c.e. not too long after, relatively speaking, the greeks were gobbling it for gruel. they were the first, the history books tell us, to do so.

oats came to america, the story goes, when a sea captain planted a crop on one of the islands off massachusetts, somewhere around 1602.

then, along about 1877, true modernity practically, the man we know and love, the quaker oat man, showed his shining face. that man, a pottery rendition thereof, now sits on the shelf, looking down on my stove. he is pretty much my kitchen buddha. i don’t leave him offerings, but i do bow down before him. and i always say, if we had a fire, my oat man i’d grab. see, my papa, once an ad man, gave me the oat man. and every time i’ve moved, the oat man gets layers and layers of tissue and newsprint, lest he lose a nose or a tip of his tri-cornered cap in the transfer.

but back to the bowl that will soon be set before those who i love.

if this is national oatmeal month, there is a reason beyond the pure promotionality. oatmeal in your belly fuels you right through ’til pb&j-time.

but for me, it’s all in the making. i stand there at my cookstove, pouring my oats and my milk. then i start doctoring. i would no sooner spoon up plain oats and milk than i would pour orange juice on cheerios.

no, i add things. as if i am tossing in jewels. i have a whole row of dried fruits in glass jars, fruits the color of amethyst, ruby, garnet and onyx. every day it’s a new rendition: chunks of dried apricot, a sprinkle of cranberry. if it’s not for the boy who hates nuts, almonds land in the mix. i’m not afraid of wheat germ, consider its power, so that too gets stirred in the brew.

it is as if i am arming my boys for the dragons they’ll slay. the more i toss in the mix, the more certain they’ll conquer the day.

it is a mother’s amulet, almost. oatmeal as shield for the dangers that lurk.

that is rather a lot, the power i put in the oats, steamed, rolled and cut. but as i stand there concocting i’m some sort of sorceress. me and my oats and my shriveled-up fruits.

brown sugar on top, a small moat of milk. they sink spoon into mound. once the bowl reappears, specks of oatmeal no more, they are set, they can soar.

as they bound out the door, i toss a glance to my ol’ quaker friend. he is winking, i swear. we’ve done it again.