Just a spoonful


Anyone who has ever met my Auntie Clarie knows that she marches to the beat of her own drum. She is fiercely independent and headstrong – characteristics that she has possessed since childhood.

In the late 1960s when Clarie was a girl, parents typically implemented some preventative measures to safeguard the health of their children. For my grandparents, Clarie’s parents, one such measure was a regular dose of liquid (not encapsulated) cod liver oil. If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking cod liver oil yourself, it’s as delightful as it sounds: oily and fishy. On the list of things children will willingly consume, cod liver oil does not make an appearance. Children will say it’s because it tastes awful and is almost impossible to swallow but for some strange reason, parents are convinced that it’s because children enjoy rebelling against things that are good them. Nonetheless, most children will bend to their parents’ will and obediently but reluctantly swallow their allotted dose. Not Clarie. Clarie would have no part in this supposedly healthy regimen.

One day, Clarie’s sisters and her mother decided that this would be the day that she received her dose of cod liver oil, whether she liked it or not. They knew it would not be easy but they thought that among the five of them – all bigger than Clarie – they should be able to pull it off. The plan was fairly simple: pin her down, pry her mouth open and pour in a fishy, oily spoonful. One person had her legs, another her head, another still her flailing arms, another tried to pry her mouth open and the final participant was tasked will delivering the dreadful dose. But Clarie was not intimated by this coordinated attack, nor was she going to make this easy for them: she struggled and fought, even through the occasional slap meant to inspire good behaviour and cooperation.

This harrowing scene continued for some time when suddenly, Clarie appeared to calm down. Her body went limp, she opened her mouth wide and docilely accepted the spoonful. If they had looked into her still fierce eyes, they would have known that something was amiss. She immediately closed her mouth and then unleashed the contents in a spew all over her oppressors. The cod liver oil was everywhere: on the walls, on their faces, in their hair. The team, now deflated and defeated, spent the rest of the morning trying to rid themselves, and that room, of the fishy film. Never again would they attempt such a feat.

Clarie: 1. Cod liver oil: 0.

Featured image is “just a spoonful…” by Sarah Klockars-Clauser, CC BY-SA 3.0