Forgetting to Eat?
by Marvin Payne

Did you ever sit up straight from whatever you were doing on a particular Tuesday with the thought, “Oops, I forgot to eat. Since, when was it now? Saturday! Hmmm, better do something about that, I guess. Well, maybe later.” This has not, in fact, happened to me real often. Maybe it’s different for you, but I will frequently sit up straight from whatever I’m doing at a particular eleven o’clock and think, “Oops, I forgot to eat. Since, when was it now? Nine-thirty! Hmmm, better do something about that. Immediately.”

Why do I even imagine that there might be someone out there who’s even slightly unlike me in this matter? Someone odd, someone a little bit wounded in their brains. Well, it’s because of Caitlin Willow, my otherwise magnificent four-year-old daughter.

I rarely relate to Napoleon (Bonaparte, Emperor). It’s not just his clothes, but his general demeanor, and, I guess, that really screwball hairdo. (I take some self-righteous satisfaction from not lying to the world about my baldness. I’ve decided to be honest at least about that. I’ve never grown my remaining hair in such a way as to be combed deceptively over expanses of skin. Besides, people see right through that particular ruse–and anyway, what does it do to a guy’s commitment to the environment when every morning he arises with the feeling that the wind is his enemy? Well, here you have Napoleon not only combing his hair in a way that he actually thinks might fool somebody, but then reinforcing the whole effect with garlands of laurel leaves. Then he has the poor judgment to get himself painted that way in several dozen portraits, thinking, I guess, that if he is seen scratching his belly under his vest in each portrait, it’ll draw our attention away from his pate. He and I see things, mainly ourselves, quite differently.)

But getting Caitlin to leave the world she has created with Woody and Bo-Peep and Tarzan and fifteen Cinderellas in order to sit down to the table for a meal is precisely as simple as Napoleon getting his army comfortably out of Moscow. So I know how he feels. Suddenly we relate.

I’ve seen her eat, don’t get me wrong. There was that time when she was watching The Nutcracker on television, and her mom slipped a graham cracker into her mouth, because it was already open. And of course there are her nephew’s cheetos, which she particularly relishes because they’re her nephew’s cheetos. She is rumored to like those little thumb-sized carrots, and her nursery-school teacher reported that when Caitlin was asked to name her favorite food she said, “Broccoli” But accepting these revelations requires a degree of faith.

Two nights ago she sat down to dinner and just didn’t eat anything. I’d been back over to the stove twice, and then made some toast with peanut butter for myself, and was standing at the corner cupboard, gazing in wistfully, and she still had eaten nothing at all. Laurie said, “Okay, no bedtime snack then. Do you understand that?” Affirmative. A couple of hours later, as she was drifting off toward oblivion, she murmured, “I’m hungry.” I said, “What about what Mom said?” Caitlin answered, “Oh yeah,” and went to sleep.

I think a lot of this is not so much disinterest as it is forgetfulness. There have been times when I’ve announced, “We’re going to Grandma’s to eat ice cream! “Hooray,” she shouts, and talks about it all the way to Grandma’s house. But when she gets there she picks up a doll or a book or a weapon… and forgets. At home, she will sit at the table and forget what food is. A unit of asparagus isn’t called a “spear” for nothing, you know.

And all it takes is one bite out of a chicken nugget for it to become a crescent moon. A member of the Cinderella army may be removed from Caitlin’s plate-side to the top of the piano, but the psychic bond will not be broken. She and the Cinderella will maintain communion at great distances. And of course Cinderella has no interest whatsoever in eating, she being a toy and, after all, not even a historical reality. (Unlike Napoleon, whose hand may have, in fact, been rubbing his belly in all those portraits to ease indigestion.)

But I don’t forget to eat. Although that’s what it felt like on the evening of December sixteenth. I hadn’t written in my journal for a couple of weeks. It seemed a dismal couple of weeks, actually, lots of material pressures and not feeling so well, and lots of hours on the narrow end of a snow shovel. I was feeling the weight of having to hurry up and finish reading into a microphone a lengthy training program having to do with finance and business law and office systems and that sort of thing. (Ha! You may have thought being an actor is all about chasing bad guys on the roofs of speeding trains, with occasional breaks in the action during which you kiss beautiful women. Ha!) And although the client is generous and I’m grateful for the work, that kind of thing really can kind of numb your brain.

Anyway, I wasn’t feeling compelled to capture the thrill of it all for posterity. But I keep a journal, rain or shine, and, being a journal-promoting columnist, felt a certain obligation.

So I found myself writing about hearing my daughter Eliza, 21, sing a solo from the John Rutter Requiem that nearly broke my heart. I wrote about Christmas kindnesses from loving neighbors. I wrote about the spiritual impressions, testimonies, and comfortings I’d had in those two weeks (and nearly forgotten I’d had) and while I sat there writing, I had more of the same. Even as I wrote about blowing the head gasket on the truck, I was struck with how impossible it is to escape relying on the Lord. (The only way for miracles to occur is for there to be a need for miracles.) The common feeling resonating through this moment of minute-taking on my two weeks was gratitude. And the sensation was just like eating. Eating something good. And I thought, like a dummy (but a happy dummy), “Oops, I forgot to eat.”

Gratitude feeds. Like food and drink. It empowers service, enhances faith, engages the heart. And a journal can jiggle your gratitude bones.

“But,” you say in cyber-chorus, “Marvin, not even a brain as unanchored and gossamer-like as yours can be so careless as to forget such frequent invasions of grace. We are inclined to think you are practicing a rhetorical device upon us, an exaggeration to make a point.” Not so. I would merely recall for you the brother of Jared (the one who saw the Lord, the one whose faith was irresistible to the Lord) whom the Lord left camping in silence on the beach for four years because the brother of Jared forgot to say his prayers. Or, of course, the Israelites, who forgot entirely every six or eight years who God even was. Or maybe the people we love who don’t get reminded of their baptismal covenants every week by the bread and water at the table of Christ (either because they’re not there, or because they’re thinking about something else), and gradually forget that they were baptized.

No, I forget. You forget. I forgot for a couple of weeks, and then on the evening of December sixteenth I remembered. Thank you, journal.

In preparing to share with you this notion of gratitude being like food and drink, I of course went to the scriptures for support and authority. I carefully surveyed the numerous entries under “Thanksgiving.” And there was nothing. I mean, nothing. Wow. Was this nourishing valence of gratitude unique to me? Was I, through the parti-colored pixels of Meridian Magazine, about to spread false doctrine? Well, there wasn’t exactly nothing. There was this.

“…ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:17-19)

Gratitude is good for you. Belly up to the journal.

Well, I need to quit writing here because it’s only a few days before Christmas and I have to climb in the Samurai and do some last minute shopping. I’m packing Caitlin’s stocking with Cinderella-shaped multivitamins. (I think she’s giving me a gift certificate to Chuck-a-rama.)

Merry Christmas.



“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)


2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.