I don’t know if it’s specifically because of the coffee candy or if it’s time spent with my grandma that makes me cherish my youth, but from the moment I discovered her NIPS, the two were intertwined. I remember her red house on the lake, where I’d play in the seaweed and mud when the water levels were low, and how I’d strut my stuff along the shoreline in a two-piece. Ok, so that ended with the diapers, but as a kid, grandma’s house was a sanctuary; her lake the biggest and best on earth!
There was a secret passageway to another world in her garage, where us kiddos would go exploring. (Apparent it’s, technically, called a crawl space, and you couldn’t get me into one again now no matter how hard you’d try, but it was glorious then.)
Even as an “old lady” like I saw her at the time (nearly 40 years ago) I was impressed that grandma was still capable of mowing her own lawn, polyester tank top and all. As I recall, I’d help in any way I could so as to shorten the length of time passed before getting back into the water. Not that I actually did anything productive. I think that consisted of sneaking a can of Diet Pepsi and watching TV.
One of the coolest things about grandma’s place was that she had a REAL inner tube – you know, the kind from an old truck tire. The kind that would leave black smudges along our legs as my cousins and I jumped through it off the dock. These days, people say they’re unsafe, and probably deemed illegal, though it didn’t take any of us too many times of getting poked in the rear to learn how to properly position ourselves on the tube. If we got scraped up while playing, our parents knew it meant we were having fun. Oh, how times have changed!
The best part of being at grandma’s, however, was her supply of coffee candies. Pathetic, I know. Even with the orange shag carpet and warm-water toilet (though I never did like the steam on my bum!), the brown sofa my Malamute eventually ate, and the little dusty pink fancy soaps on display, those treats were the thing to write home about.
I’d sneak most of my candies (yes, plural) in the car, as we’d head into town (me, unsure if she should still be driving). She had a pea-green rubber garbage can between the front seats, which saddled the center console thing. Even as a child in the 70’s I knew it was ugly. But, it was all good, because it was dangerously close to “my” candy. And, behind that was the box of 8-tracks!
See, after Grammy convinced me to give my below-ground treasure hunting a rest, we’d hop into her Topaz and cruise across the fishing bridge with the windows down, blasting Born Free, with me sucking on yet another coffee candy. Well, until she saw all my candy wrappers in that hideous trash bin.
At some point she started hiding the mini delights in the glove box, but it didn’t take me long to repossess them. I’m still not quite sure why they mattered that much since, at the time, I thought everything about coffee was an abomination.
Looking back it all makes sense, because that’s something that was unique and special to grandma’s house. It’s like coffee candy was my little special bond with her. Nobody else I knew had those.
With her memory fading, it’s tough to visit grandma now. Sitting in the nursing home, I put lotion on her dry, fragile skin, as she looks through my eyes, beyond me, to a place unknown to me. Most of the time she nods off as I sit beside her, looking out the window, her hand in mine.
On a good day, I can get a slight nod of recognition from her. One time I even got a laugh as I read a magazine to her, pointing out the men’s underwear ads. I mean, our connections do change over time, right? Memories, whether recalled in the moment or not, remain.
I just can’t help but wonder…what would happen if I snuck in a box of coffee candy?