Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Secret Stashes of Circus Peanuts

On July 13, 2015 my mother passed away. Now, don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those kind of posts. Yes, it was hard. Excruciating. Fortunately for me, I really had no unfinished business with my mom. We were good. But the grieving process got me thinking about a whole raft of things. Some linked to her directly and others just far away thoughts that would come rushing into the vacuum created by the loss. Some I had predicted would show up, others were little surprises. Still others -- earthquakes.

But life is like that, right? Sometimes in the middle of a perfectly perfect Southern California day there's an earthquake followed by some aftershocks. Then, all better, back to perfectly perfect.

After my mom's death, my brothers and I set about "getting her affairs in order." And while I remember little about what transpired over the course of those few days, I do remember one thing in particular -- and vividly. In what my mom referred to as her "computer room" was a desk. It had four drawers. As I opened the bottom most of those drawers I was shocked to discover...her secret candy stash. My 87 year old mom had candy hidden away. My audible laughter turned into sobbing. So much so that one of my brothers came rushing in to check on my state of being. This drawer contained two boxes of Dots, a bag of Cinnamon Bears, and two large unopened bags of possibly one of the most inexplicable candies in the world of confections -- Circus Peanuts. The fact that she squirreled them away like a teenager's porn collection just struck me as profound.

I cannot for the life of me figure these things out. They look like peanuts, but are made of some kind of strange marshmallow only not really marshmallow. And, if we are to believe Wikipedia, they are banana flavored. Right. Okay. Who thought that shit up?  Who makes a banana flavored marshmallow peanut? That's craaaazeeee! I love 'em!

Forrest Gump was wrong. Life is nothing like a box of chocolates. Life is like a bag of Circus Peanuts. Looks like one thing, tastes like another and is made out of something not quite what it should be. Our stroll through this life is littered with these bizarre little candies. People and events that make no sense in any way except the one way that matters most. The heart way.

We all have certain friends that continually disappoint or drive us insane. Family that embarrasses us or angers us with their small mindedness or opinions. But if we ever really needed someone to help us fix a flat in the middle of the Mojave Desert, they'd drive half way across the country with a brand new jack and a spare tire. We may hide them from the world like my mom's candy bags, but they'll always be right there if we need them.

Long lost friends, forgotten lovers, distant relatives, former classmates. People passing through your life that you may not have heard from in years. Memories that have been effectively sunken at the bottom of our muddy brain seem to bubble up out of nowhere (how they find our cell number is still a mystery) and we laugh through the whole hour long catch-up session like we had never been apart. Opening yet another bag of familiar sweetness and pushing the silly thing into our mouth like an orca eating a seal.

Every once in awhile, on an inexplicable whim, I'll buy a bag of Circus Peanuts. (They're only a couple bucks at Target.) Not because they are delicious. Not because of the health benefits of Yellow 5 and Red 40. Certainly not because they are gluten free. (Which they are, BTW.) My motivation for supporting this ridiculous treat is purely because that first bite releases a flood of memories. All of them good. It's hard to remember sad things when you're eating a Circus Peanut.

No one should live in the past. But it's totally okay, to taste it now and again. If for no other reason than to remember how delicious things can be if you only open the bag. Thanks, Mom.

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