A feather in my cap

THE solution was simple but the approach was not. On the stove sat one abandoned, partly eaten pot of macaroni. On the couch lay one exhausted post-teen son staring at the television. Caught between them stood one weary mother cleaning up the kitchen. It was 10:30 p.m. I contemplated the congealed pasta, trying to phrase a question that would preserve both harmony and macaroni. Part-mother, part-helpmeet, part-roommate - searching for the right voice in a pot of leftovers.

I almost asked, ``Do you want to save the leftovers?'' but that implied that Zeff should have done it in the first place. I considered, ``Do you want any more macaroni?'' which I assumed he didn't, as it obviously had been sitting there quite a while, but I feared he might say yes and try to eat it to prove he hadn't made too much. I also feared he might say no, which would require the further question, ``Do you plan to keep the rest?'' with the suggestion that he should rouse himself, put it into a dish and wash out the pot, but he looked so tired. Of course, I could have put it away myself, but I didn't want him to assume I was there only to clean up after him.

``Will you put away the uneaten macaroni before you come upstairs?'' left the door open for postponing immediate action; his reply might be, ``In a minute,'' and then the macaroni might be there in the morning if he forgot. The thought of facing congealed macaroni before breakfast knotted my stomach. ``Please put away the macaroni now,'' risked the inevitable response, ``Why?'' ``Because I say so,'' would demean a 21-year-old's struggle toward maturity. ``Because I want the kitchen clean, now,'' would seem, from his point of view, an illogical demand. Yet, unmentioned, the probability of finding the pot untouched at 6 a.m. was 60-40 based on past experience. This would be hard on my stomach and harder on my temper. Could I risk the possibility of a ruined tomorrow?

The question, when it came at last, was simple, light in tone, suggestive but not insistent.

``Would the rest of this macaroni feel more cheerful in an icebox dish?''

I put a feather in my cap and saved the macaroni.

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