Another Day in the Country
Stocking and stalking the candy drawer
© Another Day in the Country
When my sister was a toddler, my Kansas grandparents moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. They were now city dwellers — an abrupt change for me. My parents were living in Kansas City, so city living was nothing new. But one of the reasons I’d always loved visiting my grandparents was that they lived on a farm.
A farm, for some reason, always had been such an interesting place to visit — partly because it was a familiar spot and mostly because it was filled with animals and wide open spaces. But Lincoln? What do you do in a back yard?
Ironically, a railroad track ran along the back side of this housing development. Waiting for that train to go rumbling by, blowing its whistle, was the one thing that felt somewhat familiar to me. Watching for the train to go through the field at the farm or walking into the Ramona crossing to put pennies on the tracks was something I’d always done with my cousins.
Maybe because I was now a restless teenager — or maybe it was just for their own convenience in their newly built tract house with a more modern kitchen and the first built-in cupboards Gramm had ever owned — she christened one of her many drawers, in a corner of the kitchen, “the candy drawer.”
It wasn’t a big drawer, but it was a mysterious and wonderful drawer. If I asked, after dinner, she’d give me free range of the candy drawer. In it she kept Snickers, Butterfinger, and Baby Ruth candy bars, which always had a mint tinge smell because she also kept Doublemint gum in that drawer.
My sister remembers the candy drawer, but looming larger in her memory is eating her first green grapes — frosty, cold, and sweet, pre-washed and straight from the refrigerator on a sultry hot day in Nebraska — as being one of the most magical treats at Grandma’s house.
Gramm also bought Welch’s grape juice in single-portion bottles just for Jess.
“It was lots better than pop,” Jess enthuses, remembering how it made her taste buds dance.
I think Gramm started catering to my mother’s more stringent health rules by supplying these fruit alternatives to candy.
When my kids were growing up, I definitely didn’t have a candy drawer. I figured it was just too tempting for all of us.
My mother, who was always very careful with what she ate, didn’t have a candy drawer, either. My father, who was always looking for sweets in the kitchen, wished that she had. Instead, Mom hid any candy or cookies that she’d found on sale and brought them out in limited supply on special occasions.
Many years later, I found myself moving into Mom’s house in Ramona. She was still stashing goodies here and there in her cupboards — I’m guessing, to keep herself from being tempted to eat them.
We were at her home a lot — every time there was a group meal or company was coming, Mom’s house was the place we gathered because it had so much room.
Most treats resided in her pantry, which was lined with well-stocked shelves. To this day, Mom’s pantry suffices as the local food store, and I pride myself on keeping it that way.
I must admit that over the years the ratio of “home canned” and “store bought” has shifted.
I did christen a candy drawer when I moved into Mom’s kitchen — partly to house my collection of different flavors of licorice, which I’m always hunting to find, and partly for Kristina’s kids when they come visit. I get a kick out of them running in my door and heading straight for the kitchen and that candy drawer.
I learned, early on, to buy smaller candy bars more suited to their body size and I also assured their mother that I’d include some healthier snacks like peanuts, those fish-shaped crackers, and small bags of flavored cereal.
Today, I decided to straighten up the candy drawer. For the past several months, I’ve rarely opened it myself. There were gummy bears in the drawer that had been there so long they’d solidified! I tried eating one and couldn’t chew it.
Later, I found one in the laundry as I was putting clothes in the dryer. Now, after completing a whole wash cycle in a pocket of my jeans, it was finally soft enough to eat, but I didn’t!
I’ve learned, for myself as well as the kids, to break down treats into small portion bags instead of just tossing in a whole box of something.
I could tell that I’d been neglectful and put a whole box of Junior Mints in there. They weren’t a hit, evidently. Once opened, mini-mints were running loose in the bottom of the drawer along with a candy orange slice with one bite missing.
The licorice was abandoned, too.
I grinned as I straightened up the drawer, adding a couple of new surprises, anticipating when the kids would come by again to visit, say, “Hi, Pat,” and head straight for the candy drawer, on another day in the country.