Thursday, March 13, 2014

Breakfast with the Captains

"Mo-om," I bellowed from the green upholstered chair in the living room. "MO-OM!" I yelled as loudly as my puffy cheeks and swollen, sore throat would allow. My discomfort was growing, but I was not about to miss my favorite television show. Captain Kangaroo was about to start.

This was about 1966. I would have been five. In 1967, the United States began vaccinating against mumps, which was just about a year too late to do me any good. My memory of having that dreaded disease is still with me. 

In the early sixties, we were living in our little ranch-style home on Kenmore Road in Amherst, Virginia. I had been sick, and although one of the symptoms of mumps is a lack of appetite, leave it to me to not have THAT particular symptom. I was hungry, and whiny, and hurting.

Mom appeared in the open doorway between the kitchen and the living room. 

"Do you need something?"

"I'm hungry."

"What would you like? Some scrambled eggs? Oatmeal?" What a mom. She was the best. Johnny-on-the-spot, willing to serve at a moment's notice. But I was being a brat because I was so miserable. I didn't want ANY of the things she offered. She KNEW what I liked for breakfast. Didn't she remember what I wanted EVERY day? Why was she suggesting these disgusting things?

"NOOO...I don't want those. You know what I want."

"Oh, Denise, Cap'n Crunch cereal is so...crunchy."

I started to whimper. "That's all I want. I want my Cap'n Crunch." Mom ruffled my hair, and looked at me with sympathetic eyes. She just wanted me to get better. Her gentle touch made me cry. What is it with moms and kids? As soon as mom shows up, kids realize they can get sympathy, and they turn on the waterworks. I was no different, in fact, probably a little worse.

Mom disappeared into the kitchen while I settled back into my chair to watch our black and white TV set. Some commercial for coffee was playing while I waited for my morning show to start. I loved Captain Kangaroo. Having him in our living room every morning was kind of like having a grandpa and Santa Claus, rolled into one awesome man. He read me stories, and entertained me with Mr. Green Jeans, Dancing Bear, Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit. The instrumental theme song was just starting; I didn't want to miss a thing.

In just a matter of minutes, Mom had set up a TV tray for me, with a bowl of the best cereal on the planet, Cap'n Crunch, sitting in a sea of milk in my plastic Tupperware bowl, complete with the best spoon in the house, the sugar spoon. What a mom. I tried to smile up at her, but even that hurt. My whole face ached with my swollen glands. "Thanks, Mom," I said through my big, fat face. She returned to the kitchen to do whatever it is moms do all day while their kids watch TV.

Cap'n Crunch entered the breakfast cereal scene in 1963, which was great news for me. The sweetened oat and corn cereal was available by the time I was able to stand up in the grocery cart and point to what I wanted. "Cap'n Crunch...stays crunchy...even in milk" was its selling point. Crunchiness has always been a critical cereal factor for me. I'll even eat a cup of cereal dry, and chase it with milk to preserve the crisp texture. I hate soggy cereal.

What child hadn't been thrilled by the "Snap! Crackle! Pop!"characters of Rice Krispies fame, only to discover a bowl full of mush staring back at them as soon as the faint crackling sounds stopped? And where was the taste, people? Unless you heaped your bowl of Rice Krispies with spoons of sugar, that stuff was an unpalatable as an unsalted Saltine cracker.

So Cap'n Crunch is what I wanted, and Cap'n Crunch is what I got. I LOOOOOVED the Cap'n. I loved his cereal, I loved his commercials, I just loved him; he was adorable. The commercials were like mini-cartoons, and I would stop whatever I was doing to watch the Cap'n. 

My mouth watered ever so slightly in anticipation of my favorite bowl of cereal. It was hard to open my mouth, but I forced it to a very uncomfortable, slightly open position to receive a spoonful of yummy goodness. And then I tried to chew. 

Now Cap'n Crunch, on a good day, could shred your mouth to bits, but it was so full of sugar and deliciousness, I was willing to put up with a few inner mouth lesions to devour entire bowls of it. Imagine having a mouth so swollen it is difficult to pry it open, and then having so much pain the tissues around your teeth. I could barely get my teeth together to try to chew. I screamed out in pain, and tears streamed down my cheeks. Mom appeared at the doorway again, and rushed to my side.

My mouth was full of un-crunched, crispy cereal. I was choking on the milk trickling down my throat. Not only could I not chew the food, I couldn't swallow it; my throat was much smaller from all of the swelling, and it was just too tender to try to get anything thicker than liquid into my system. Milk was dripping off my chin onto my lap and onto the TV tray. "Just spit it out, Hon," she suggested softly. I began to wail. I was HUNGRY. I WANTED Cap'n Crunch. It hurt so bad. I picked the last of the kernels of cereal out of my mouth, and dropped them into my beautiful bowl of cereal.

Mom cleaned me up, and put me back to bed. I was inconsolable. My perfect breakfast time with my two Captains was ruined. My day was ruined. My LIFE was ruined. Well, at that moment it felt like it. It would be a few days before I returned to my normal, happy life. My breakfast with the Captains ritual didn't resume until those awful mumps left me for good.

Captain Kangaroo's Opening Theme


  1. Aw. Such great description I was with you all the way. Now, my throat hurts and I want Captain Crunch too. I felt like I was at home with you in your family room. Hope you're not still contagious!

    1. Ha ha ha! I've had a hankering for Cap'n Crunch, too. Wouldn't my teenager be surprised to see THAT in our kitchen?!

  2. The only mumps I know of in our house is my mom got them just after I was born so for 10 weeks I got to lay in my crib and have my bottles propped of my toddler sister would crawl in and hold them for me.

    Luckily one of my favourite when I am sick foods was jello tea (a few teaspoonfuls of jello in worm water so I did fine when I had tonsillitis and the swelling from that.

    1. Ooh, you're lucky you like Jello Tea. I despise it. I stick to salt water for sore throats these days. Glad you survived being taken care of by a toddler!

  3. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! Love the video clip!! That theme made me feel like a kid again!

    1. YouTube has helped me walk down Memory Lane more than once! Glad you enjoyed it.


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