So, I have been called upon to write a post that won’t make you cry. I thought, oh, that’s easy, I’ll post a recipe but then I thought that would sort of be cheating. Here is my attempt at a non-tear-jerking post but I can make no promises…
If the kids are good (well, even decent) in church, on the way home, we bring them to Starbucks. I get my grande, no water, no foam, extra-hot soy chai. Gino, Lucy and Daddy get an orange juice. Milo and Sal get a cow’s milk. We wipe down the table and chairs, and while doing so, we usually get a few what-in-the-world-are-they-doing glances. Then we sit. We sit in such a way that the baby, Lucy, can’t have accidental access to the cow’s milk. Gino is now old enough to know he doesn’t want to drink the cow’s milk but still he sits closer to Lucy and can act as a buffer. Milo knows he can’t take a sip of my drink because of the soy. As soon as we are settled into our complicated and assigned, wiped-down seats, we open the orange juices first and then move on to poking the straws into the cow’s milk boxes. This preparation takes awhile which is why I order my chai extra hot.
On the way home one Sunday a few weeks ago, Gino had a revelation. From the rear of our minivan, he yells over a cranked-up Adele song, “Mommy, now that I am not allergic to soy anymore, can I order a chai from Starbucks like you next time?” Luckily we were pulling in the garage so I could take him aside to explain the complicated concept of cross-contamination to a five-year old. I explained to him that when they make the drinks at Starbucks, they make them really fast because there are always long lines. He understood that. I told him that when people are making drinks really quickly that they do not have the time to clean the equipment that they use to make the drinks. So, if they don’t have time to clean between a coffee with cow’s milk and a soy chai, then cow’s milk could get into your soy. Did he understand what I was telling him? Was it going to disappoint him that he couldn’t get the same drink as I do? He was quiet for a moment. Then, ah-ha, he got it. “Okay, Mommy. Yeah, I do not want cow’s milk in my soy chai. But I still want to be able to have a Starbucks soy chai like you.”
The mind-racing we all experience kicked in, racing to find an alternative, racing to figure out how I can make a drink that was somehow the same, but different. When I remembered that they sold the same Tazo Chai Tea at the bookstore, we took a quick walk and picked up a container. If I warmed that up with the newly-safe vanilla soy milk, voilà, a Starbucks soy chai. When we made the soy chai together, I put a small amount in a plain white coffee mug. I made a similar rice milk chai for Milo who has FPIES (food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome) to soy and they each took their first sip of a lukewarm chai. After the first sip, Milo guzzled his. Gino drank it more slowly, maybe he liked the experience more than the actual flavor but he would never admit to that.
When I put Gino to bed that night, I could tell he had something on his mind. When I pressed a little, he said, “Mommy, I loved that chai today but I am trying to figure out how I can make it like yours. Can I make it and then bring it to Starbucks and pour it in a cup that matches yours?” I had an epiphany. I grabbed my phone and brought up a picture of the ceramic Starbucks mug that looks exactly like the paper to-go cup. He took the phone out of my hand and used his thumb and pointer to make the picture as large as he could and then he giggled. “Oh, Mom, I love that lid.” (The lid is a simple black travel mug lid.) He fell asleep dreaming about the possibility of having one of those mugs with that amazing lid all for himself.
When I picked Gino up from school the next day, I had a Starbucks bag with two mugs wrapped in tissue paper inside, one for him and one for me. Before he even opened the bag, he threw his arms around me in pure joy. He thanked me over and over. “Now I can drink a soy chai in a cup just like you!! Can we make it as soon as we get home?” And so we did. But when I was putting him to bed that night, he again seemed like he was thinking about something. When I asked him what it was, he quickly explained, “I’m really happy that I got to have a soy chai in that Starbucks cup but do you think Saturday you could make us both one and then we can go do some running around like you like to do with your chai?” “Yes, Gino, we can do running around with your chai on Saturday. Good night…”
There is something powerful about the desire for a child to emulate his parents and something equally as powerful in the Starbucks brand. It means acceptance to him. It means doing what everyone else is doing. It means fitting in. And he found a way to do all that but still do it safely. As I looked down at him as we did some running around that Saturday morning and he held that heavy ceramic Starbucks mug clumsily in his little hands I realized that I, too, loved that Starbucks mug and that silly black lid. As I was pouring love over him, he looked up at me, took a sip and smiled… and I suddenly felt a powerful desire to emulate my son, his purity, his easy satisfaction, so I did the same. Soy chai never tasted so good.
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