Wednesday, December 22, 2010

sweet relief

There is an old fashioned Christmas candy that reminds me of plump pillows. They are even striped like pillow ticking fabric. Old grandma Johnston always had a big bowl of them on her side board and this fact nearly killed me the winter I was five.

Blue River was a beautiful town with a jewel of a lake right at its heart. For several months each year, its surface lay still and smooth, under a thick crust of ice. As winter and spring collided, fickle winds blew, and  dark patches appeared as the ice thinned.
One afternoon, as the little neighbor boy and I played outside in the snow, our thoughts turned to candy. Directly across the lake lay the Johnston home. A course was set, our goal, the candy bowl. Down to the lake we trotted and out onto the ice. I remember water laying on its surface in translucent patches, and I recall stomping to make water bubble out at the edges of darkened circles. In the haphazard fashion of preschoolers, we meandered across the icy lake.
A distant commotion  caught our ears. Yelling from the shore. A cluster of family were waving and shouting. We couldn't hear what they were saying, and since no one came and marched us home we figured all was well. Of course, the ice would never have supported the weight of an adult and our parents watched our tortuously slow progress with pounding hearts and tight throats. Unable to tear their eyes from us until we reached the safety of the distant beach, we remained unaccompanied all the way to the Johnston doorstep. As we had suspected, we were graciously invited in and were just sampling the candy when our breathless families arrived, giddy with relief. Strangely, it's the giddy relief of my parents and the taste of the candy that have remained entwined in my memory, as though the two are somehow one experience. When I asked my mother if she remembered, she shook her head. She thinks it's one of the blessings of age to be free at last from dark recollections of the past, the upside of memory loss.

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