Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Big Rock Candy Mountain

I posted this on April 1st last year, and time has not diminished its relevance to my life.

I just did the math, and have determined I have written nearly 300 pages in the last year. I need a little time off. So, as of today, I am going to take off a week from writing anything, and that includes putting up re-runs.

Have a good week, everyone.

Every year, at Halloween, I entertain myself by picking the worst Halloween mendicant. Last year, it would have to have been the adult woman, easily seven months pregnant, dressed in regular clothing shoving a pillowcase under my nose while chortling “Trick or Treat!” (She had no child with her). I must have looked slightly surprised at her costume of a Woman who was too damn old to be doing this, because she patted her stomach and said cheerfully “For the baby!”

So I guess the Ny-Quil she was going to go home and drink was for her.

I respectfully submit that this is the kind of thing that happens when begging is socially sanctioned one night a year.In spite of the above story, I am not whatever the Halloween version of Scrooge would be, nor do I work for the American Dental Association. When Daughter and Consort came home from visiting the houses of friends in the neighborhood, I allowed her to unload her pile of swag on the kitchen table, gaze it at wonderingly and then eat a small bag of candy corn. After putting her to her bed that night, I set upon it to remove the unwanted elements:

1. The gum had to go. Because of an unfortunate incident in my childhood, Daughter doesn’t get to have gum until she is six (What incident, you might be thinking. Did someone get hurt? Did Quinn used to be one of twins? No, not at all. I was six, and standing on my head chewing gum, which I had been specifically enjoined not to do, when the gum fell out of my mouth and into my hair, near the roots. I decided it would be easier on everyone [read: me] if I just cut the section of my hair off. It never occurred to me that my hair would grow, and that an inch-wide piece of hair standing straight up above my forehead might be noticeable. My mother’s punishment was non-physical, creative, and frightening enough that I still cannot chew gum in her presence).

2. The licorice went into a bag for me, because Daughter doesn’t like it and I love it. Since there are relatively few licorice-lovers around, the bag looked scant, so I appropriated some jelly beans as well, because I was in labor with her for 40 hours.

3. I excised any hard candies and jaw-breakers, as Daughter is more confident in her ability to eat those than I am in my ability to perform the Heimlich. Or dental reconstruction.

This still left her with a shocking amount of candy, most of it chocolate-based. Daughter is terribly sensitive to caffeine: if she consumes any after three o’clock in the afternoon, she can’t go to sleep, and NONE OF US WANT THAT. I solved the doling-out-the-candy situation by picking her up from school with one piece of candy every day as a treat. This would have worked if Halloween had lasted one day, but the candy kept arriving.

Candy from an East Coast friend of Consort’s arrived two days later. Grandparents had an open tureen of candy at their house.

Every time I would take her with me into a retail establishment, some sweet sales person who was desperate to stop scarfing mini Milky Ways would shove two or three or seven into Daughter’s hand.

I would let her have one, and the rest would go into the candy drawer, which I was noticing to my horror was growing more densely packed. I started offering her two small pieces of candy on Gymnastics days. I developed a loathing of licensing, and jettisoned any candy that had a picture of Shrek or Donkey on it. That got rid of half of it.

By now it was already December 1st, and the holiday candy started to appear. Some days after school, Daughter got a slightly dented chocolate Jack O’Lantern and a grinning marshmallow snowman. Or a Hanukah chocolate doubloon and a jelly-bean skeleton. All holidays were ending up in the pantheistic candy combine which is my kid’s mouth. We’d visit friends and I’d spy Daughter slinking away from the kitchen chewing furtively. Her hands were never not sticky; she was a pre-school Post-it.

She had come to assume that since candy was a treat, it was also a reward, and began trying to use it as barter. My favorite: “If I do a really good job of brushing my teeth, may I have candy corn as a reward?” One day at the park, Daughter came bouncing up hand-in-hand with an unknown little girl. “May I go to her house? She has candy”.I asked astutely, “Do you know what her name is?” Daughter shrugged indifferently. As far as she was concerned, the kid’s name was Pez.

Her credo had become: All Candy, All the Time.She sprung through January on a sugar high. All the while I was frantically throwing away the most weathered and haggard Halloween candy, because we both knew what was coming; the double-header of sugary delights: Valentine’s Day and Easter.

The red tinfoil hearts were slithering in under doors and flying through open windows before we even reached February. It arrived through the mail in boxes she ripped open before I could secrete them away. The walls were sweating sugar, the ceiling was dripping caramel. It was The Amityville Horror as designed by the Mars Corporation. But this was as nothing compared to Easter, the pinnacle of childhood candy consumption. I tried -- I really did -- to keep it to a reasonable amount. I got her non-candy items for the Easter basket, with a few jelly beans thrown in as a sop to the hard-working candy industry.

The night before Easter, however, Consort arrived home with two grocery bags and that faintly guilty expression I’ve grown to recognize immediately. Inside those bags was every variant of tooth decay. I shrugged and I caved. Daughter will have plenty to discuss with her therapist as an adult, but at least she won’t get any mileage out of “Mommy was an Easter buzzkill”. She might have to cancel a few therapy appointments because of the root canals, but she can take that up with her toothless father.

So, here is the candy drawer now: a few random hangers-on from Halloween, which I have half a mind to give out again this year; some bedraggled Christmas candy with a sprinkle of Hanukah gelt thrown in to keep the conversation in there lively and ecumenical; assorted candy treats from birthday party gift bags (Gummy-bear rat, anyone?); chocolate kisses from Valentine’s Day that have melted together and now form a chocolate map of Michigan, along with some of those chalky, heart-shaped Necco wafers that are better read than eaten. And, topping it all is the Glory of Easter, Peep-ing and jelly-ing its way into every available space.And here is my prediction: the day after we finally clear out the drawer, Daughter will look at me balefully and say “Why do you never let me have any candy?”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In their Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, my children each receive a tooth brush. It makes me feel like I am making a stand!! Yea right.

Enjoy your time off. You deserve it.


6:11 AM  
Blogger marta said...

When my kids returned from trick or treating I told them they had 3 days to eat their candy, then it was going in the trash. I said "eat it till ya puke, cuz it will be gone"...It was always gone.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real question is: You say you've written 300 pages..... is there a book in the works?

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With 5 kids Trick-or-Treating we end up with 3/4 of a king size pillow-case full of candy each halloween. Try diposing of that in short order without the kiddies noticing. We usually end up taking large sums to work and pawning it off on our sngle co-workers.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn--If you are reading this then you are truly NOT taking a real break....shut off the computer, put your feet up and RELAX!

Chris (Ohio Mom)

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, candy lasts that long? In my family, Nov. 1st was "pig out day." Oatmeal for breakfast, and then you can gorge all day long. At at half-an-hour-to-bedtime, the rest is disposed of, in one way or another, by the parental units. Easter was the same: oatmeal for breakfast, and then help yourself, because it's gone at 7:30. :)

9:38 AM  

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