Healthy Habits

Published in the Britton Journal on February 27, 2019

I’m not sure which of us started it, or how we spread the word amongst us that this was the place to stash the unwanted chalky pellets. But however it came about, the space between the cushion and the corner table of our living room sectional was the Official Hill Children Vitamin Hiding Place between the years 1997 and 2003.

I’m staring at the multivitamin aisle at Walmart today, taking in the overabundance of supplements. Every vitamin in the alphabet stares me in the face, bottles with unpronounceable names like Arginine and Curcumin and Glucosamine Chondroitin. And then the handful of supplements that I didn’t even realize you could bottle, let alone why you’d need or want to—cranberry, milk thistle, cinnamon, ginger root.

My eyes linger on the section devoted to the children’s multivitamins. It’s hard not to, what with all their bright colors and labels decked out with characters as a marketing tactic to make kids somehow want to take their vitamins. Nearly all of the children’s vitamins are in gummy form now, some sprinkled with a sugar-like substance to make them even more like candy.

The lucky little twerps.

I draw my fingers along the variety of Flintstone’s vitamins—“Pediatrician’s #1 Choice!” (as well as my mother’s). I’m surprised to see that among the glinting bottles of gummy characters they still carry the chalky chewable form. The kind that look slightly similar to PEZ candies, but taste nowhere near the same.

The memory hits me like a wall. How every morning of my childhood, my mom would place one of these colorful demons in front of each of the three seats on the breakfast bar. How Fred and Wilma and Barney would sit there beside our juice, waiting for us. Taunting us.

My brother, sister, and I never really got along as kids. We’d scream and kick and tattle on one another like it was our job. When we had a common goal, however—a common goal that was often conniving and sneaky and absolutely against the rules—we’d work together with the elegance and grace equal only to the skills of SEAL Team Six. And if we ever had a more common goal, it was in our mutual hatred of our Flintstone’s vitamins.

Sometimes we’d stick the vitamins in our mouths only to spit them out when Mom turned her back. Most the time we could slide the pills underneath our hands undetected, push them under our legs until we got up. And in an orderly fashion, with the unspoken understanding that we couldn’t all do it at once, we’d have a sit on the living room sectional and sneak the vitamin in the cushion crack with no one the wiser.

My siblings and I would then take care to do periodic sweeps for the evidence. In mid-afternoons when our father was napping and mother wasn’t paying much attention to our goings on, we’d take turns piling up the hidden vitamins in our hands and pushing them to the bottoms of trash bins throughout the house. Never all in the same trash, though, as that would raise suspicion.

We were diabolical.

As guilty and by-the-book of a kid I was and am, I’ve never regretted the small lies required to sustain our vitamin hiding spot. Nor do I regret any of the sneaky plans I pulled off with my siblings throughout the years. It’s so rare for us to trust and depend on each other so completely, even now, that I actually treasure these small acts of rebellion for creating some of my favorite memories of us. But I especially treasure the ploys we completed so artfully that they were never discovered by the yearly vacuuming beneath the couch cushions, causing our mom to yell through the house, “What are all these vitamins doing in the couch!?”