I left for work yesterday just before 5:30am and got home just after 4pm with plans of making either pancakes or waffles for dinner. Both were nice and easy and both could be used for a quick lunch for son today. I checked the fridge as soon as I walked in and we had just enough milk left. Of course, a half hour later when I went to make the pancakes, son had already drank over a cup and we no longer had enough.
I grumbled and we headed out to the grocery store to pick up milk and something for dinner as by that time I didn't really feel like making pancakes. We headed down the dairy aisle first then son started down the ice cream aisle. We looked at the huge row of tantalizing confections and son burst out, "It's not fair. I can't get ice cream because of your stupid diet". I assured him we could go back to the dairy aisle and pick up cream then he retaliated with, "No! Then we'd have to wait until tomorrow and I don't want to have to wait. I want ice cream now!"
At the time I simply empathized with him. It wasn't fair. Why does our food have so much stuff in it? I'm not talking about added vitamins and minerals. I'm talking about edible fillers used so our food is almost the same as the original but cheaper to produce. High fructose corn syrup instead of plain sugar. Cellulose gum in cartons of 35% whipping cream. And I said to him, "What does it do to our bodies when so much of our food has fillers added so they can be made more cheaply? Things that are edible but taking the place of food with real nutritional value. Why can't we buy a carton of ice cream at the store that has nothing but cream, eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla? Why can't I buy a simple carton of whipping cream that has an ingredient list comprised of cream?" Or more specifically why can't I buy a 500mL carton for under $9 when the rest of the cartons are $3.99?
This morning I thought back to one day last week. It was a hot sunny day and I knew I had an hour ahead of me, after work, before I got home. This includes a walk around a city block through downtown to transfer from one bus to another (thanks darn one-way streets). But I'd made two different batches of ice cream the night before and was looking forward to having a bowl after dinner. I couldn't wait to open the freezer and pick my ice cream. That's when I realized we're missing out on one other crucial ingredient these days. Anticipation.
My Mom commented once about credit cards and layaway. That up until the 1950's, people simply didn't have credit cards. If you wanted something, you saved up your money until you could afford it then bought it. If there was something you wanted desperately, like an engagement ring, and were worried it would be gone ahead of time then you put it on layaway and made payments towards it until you'd paid it off. But you didn't get it until you'd made your final payment.
These days there's no waiting. If you want something, go out today and get it. From the little things like a bowl of ice cream to the big things like furniture. We live in the NOW. Not mindfully, not the Buddhist tradition of "living in the now", but like toddlers who can't wait for their cookie. "I want it and I want it now", versus "I will not fret about the past or worry overmuch about the future, instead I'll savour today and live life for this moment".
That afternoon, while I pondered my ice cream, felt a little like Christmas. Something good was going to happen when I got home. Something tasty. Something I liked. And I couldn't rush it. It was going to happen in it's own time.
These days anticipation happens less and less frequently. It doesn't matter what we want (especially in urban areas) we can get it right away. Our grocery store is open 24 hours a day and so is our drug store. At least one of the local fast food outlets is open about 22 hours a day and several more for the full 24 hours. If you want burgers at 2am, they're good with it. If I want to watch a TV show, on demand television brings it to my living room any time I want. If I want to read a book, I can buy it and instantly download it to my ereader this second.
Each one individually isn't a bad thing. I love being able to pick out a book to read at bedtime. And when we moved in here and were still unloading the moving truck at 11pm, it was great to be able to run to the store for cold drinks and food. But as all these conveniences move into our lives, we experience anticipation less and less. I could run across the street and buy a loaf of bread right now. I could go a few more blocks to an actual bakery and pick up a loaf of fresh bread. But we'd miss out on the aroma of fresh bread permeating the apartment for the last hour before the bread was done. We'd miss out on that first slice, the one where the bread is finally cool enough to cut but still warm enough to melt butter.
And that's what I want for my kids. Eat an apple, have a piece of cheese, but otherwise you have to wait because Mom's making real food for dinner. Anticipate. It's good for you.