I love cereal. At one time in my life, I ate cereal virtually every day. When I was a kid, I had this dream that upon reaching adulthood, I would have full control of how much cereal was in my pantry. I was convinced that when I became a man that would mean I would have a vast amount of cereal. Not one box. Not two boxes. Nay, not even four boxes. When I became a man, I would have an almost unlimited selection. This would include the healthy stuff with whole grains and fiber, and also the good stuff with sugar, frosting, and other awesome ingredients.
Flashback to 2010. I had been married for ten years. I got married two days after graduating from college, so my entire independent adulthood had been spent with my wife. In all that time we had flirted with total cereal perfection. We would get our cereal selection built up to 4 and sometimes even 5 boxes.
Occasionally we would get to 6 boxes but that usually meant we were running out of certain varieties and there was so little there we didn’t want to eat it and we were forced to buy a new box or two. (Side note: no one wants to finish off a box of cereal. It’s all powdery and that makes the milk mushy and gives it the texture of baby food. Pass.)
So even though we came close to realizing my dream we weren’t quite there. We were so close that I could taste it, but the final goal was elusive.
My cereal dream became a reality.
The final goal of cereal perfection was elusive until my two oldest boys started eating it at a rate that surprised even me. They were the missing ingredient in my search! Those rascals would eat cereal twice a day and sometimes more. Their tastes were varied but they migrated towards the sweeter brands while I had mostly transitioned to slightly healthier options. Due to this, we were forced to keep plenty of cereal on hand for them and for me. (Side note part two: my wife will have a bowl every now and then, but she does not understand our cereal fascination. It’s her loss.)
On October 15, 2010, I opened the pantry door and looked at the top shelf where we kept the cereal. (Side note part three: if we had kept it on a lower shelf the boys would have had unlimited access to it and that would have been a disaster for everyone involved.) As I gazed on the 9 different boxes, a solitary tear of joy worked its way down my cheek. I had arrived.
I was now the man I had dreamed of becoming so many years before. I could see 7-year-old Phill standing next to me beaming with pride. I gave 7-year-old me an imaginary high-five and closed the pantry door. I swear I even heard a voice say, “Today you have become a man.” We celebrated that day by eating many bowls of our favorites.
“Is there a point to this story about cereal?”
What’s the moral of this story? Perhaps you are asking yourself that right now. Or maybe you are asking, “why did I read this?” Fair point. At the risk of making many of you angry, I will admit I have no grand point to make by telling this story. Obviously, 9 boxes of cereal didn’t magically turn me into a man, but that moment is etched in my memory, so it felt like it was worth telling. I know it sounds frivolous and silly, but the fulfillment of a childhood dream is nothing to be scoffed at. Maybe that is the point. Childhood dreams matter, regardless how inconsequential they truly seem.
Or maybe the point is I need to eat a lot of cereal again. I still love cereal but not like I used to. My youngest son has never been a huge fan of the stuff and my oldest son is at college, which leaves my middle son to carry the cereal weight for the family. He does his best – he eats more than I ever did. My legacy is in good hands. But if this is truly the point, then I apologize. It’s a dumb point and I am afraid I have wasted your time.
Or just maybe, the point of this story is the story. It is the memory and the joy it brings to my heart when I think about it. It was a bonding moment between me and my boys. In the grand scheme of life, the number of boxes of cereal one has is completely irrelevant. But for my family, at that specific time, it meant a lot. Thinking back on it still means a lot. I smile every time I do.
Or maybe it’s just a dumb story about cereal.
(Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared on my long-defunct blog which you can read here.)