Walking in the front door of home with my parents and brother who is older by a year and a half, I am maybe four. My favorite Grandma and Grandpa are staying with us from out of state. This time was especially interesting: my brother and I got to each pick out a candy bar at the grocery store we are just returning from. I cradled my very first own whole Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup package lovingly in my hands as I stepped over the threshold.
We all removed our shoes, lining them up on the braided rag rug against the paneled wall. Dad and Grandpa padded off down the hallway’s wood floor to do Mysterious Guy Stuff with my brother in tow, while Mom and Grandma headed to the kitchen’s large red and black tiled squares to make supper. Mom held out her hand for My Candy Bar. She wished to hold onto it until after supper so that I wouldn’t spoil my meal. Instinctively turning my hunched shoulders away to safely protect my hard-earned prize, I promised I wouldn’t eat it until after supper and could I please be in charge of it?
My Grandma looked at my Mom and suggested that if I was old enough to have a whole candy bar to myself, then perhaps I was old enough to manage that responsibility. My Mom, who knew and loved me well, commandeered my eyes as she smiled and said that she wanted me to wait to eat it until after our meal–could I do that? Grandma, advocating for me, supportively said of course, but Mom held my gaze. I promised that I would save my treasure for dessert, and also that I would eat a good supper.
I was allowed to be in charge of myself and my first very own candy bar, and I was excused for the half-hour until suppertime. Yesss! I ran back down the hallway toward the front door, turned up the warm, dark boards of the stairs, followed the grain to the right at the top into my room, and hesitated on the tan, fuzzy rug by my bed. I slowly uncurled my fingers from around the orange- and brown-wrapped responsibility I held, and soaked up its glory.
As I gazed at my chocolatey-peanut butter treasure, I realized I wanted to look at the actual candy I held, maybe just one cup with its zig-zagged dark brown paper that peeled off with so much fun. Are you eating your candy bar? my brother hollered out of nowhere as the wrapper crinkled. No way, I replied, are you?! I thought crawling under my bed would be a safer place to pre-investigate my after-dinner extravagance, he wouldn’t understand anyway, and then I could revel in my very first whole candy bar to myself and all that it implied, in private.
The smooth, dark floorboards slid easily underneath my polyester pants and shirt and warmly embraced me on this warm and steamy summer evening. Elbows out to each side, I held my solitary cup in front of my eyes. Remembering how much fun slowly peeling the paper away truly was, I giddily realized that today I got to do that twice! With the paper removed I found I had no place to safely set the chocolatey peanut butter until after supper, so the only thing that made sense in my childhood wisdom was to enjoy it now.
I felt sorry for that lonely remaining second cup. Besides, where would I securely set the remaining candy now? I wasn’t supposed to eat it yet, but leaving the second half set aside confused me. I decided quickly the only thing to do was to eat the evidence. I marveled at how much fun it was to peel the zig-zags of a second dark paper in a row, and licked the melted remains from the bottom of both wrappers after finishing the final candy cup.
There, as darkness fell on me way up against the wall under my bed, I felt the floor’s warm cuddle turn into a cold, hard, clutch of accusation. As the chocolate and peanut butter headiness melted away, I looked at the empty orange packaging and the two pleated dark brown paper cups,and slowly realized I had not kept my word. The weight of my failed integrity in my hands added friction and heavily I slid again across the floorboards, emerging into the twilight of my room as Mom called me down to supper.
Thinking to keep my lack of responsibility private, I hid the wrappers under my pillow to return for them at dessert-time, when I could legitimately toss my private discards into the public household garbage. None would be the wiser about my transgression, I would have a future opportunity to personally redeem myself, and I would retain my newly administered Big Girl status. The plan was foolproof.
Trotting downstairs and skipping into the dining room my feet skidded to a sudden stop. Everyone was seated at the table and the piercing eyes of my Mom, Dad, brother, Grandpa, and Grandma were all aimed at me. Why were they staring? How could they possibly know? My guilty conscience skittered around nervously inside, looking for safety. Suddenly, the entire group detonated into laughter.
Melted chocolate and peanut butter were smeared all across my lips.
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