Chocolate Dipped Cynicism
We were a health-food family when I was growing up. The snacks were made of wheat and dust and the drinks had only the sugar our mouths brought to the cup, sugar left over from holidays and the bitter crystallization of our hope and happiness.
At relatives’ houses, I’d watch as this or that cousin opened their snack cupboard and surveyed the wealth of Fruit Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, Dunkaroos, Handi-Snacks Crackers ‘n Cheese Dip, Butterfinger Jumbosize and Funsize and Minis and Butterfinger BBs, and Ring Pops, Pop Tarts, Warheads, and Nerds. Then the cousin would sigh as if there was nothing good to eat, as if he’d had his tongue removed and food was merely nourishment now, no longer the only reprieve from the agony of life. With horror, I’d watch him close the door, closing it not only for himself but for me too, forgetting about the worthy, faithful, and foaming buddy at his side.
I lived for the occasional windfalls from these cupboards, and the cheats of enforced cupcake parties at school, and birthday parties, and Halloween, the holiday on which Jesus spoiled us best. I dogged sugar scraps in the twilight beneath the tables of life, gnashing my teeth, leaping for more, lapping the floor.
Simmer Boy Finally Boils Over
One day, mom and dad went to a hardware store and brought me along. While dad looked at nuts and bolts, mom said she’d go with me to look at what I wanted to look at, which was hammers, axes, sickles, saws, and machetes.
I wanted one.
“One what?” said mom.
I pointed at all of them.
Mom smiled and said something like, “When you’re old and making your own money, you can buy all the toys you like,” then she led me to the counter where dad was paying.
At pay counters everywhere, they have little shelves of candy. At this store, the shelf was on the face of the counter. Paying adults would have to step back or crouch a little to see the offerings, but children were the perfect height to look the offerings in the eye.
I stood there staring at a wall of delights with names like, Almond Joy, PayDay, LifeSavers, Skor, and Take 5. My field of vision bloomed…