(Please note: Editing for clarity/grammar until this message disappears)
Isn't it funny to think back to the brain you had as a child, where your perception of the world was at face-value? A good example of this would be taking a song's lyrics literally. Didn't you do that as a kid? Ha, I remember listening to Madonna's "Burning Up" and actually thinking her body felt like it was on fire—obviously this confused me on the ways of love. Then there's the overt sexual innuendos that flew over my basic brain, like Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." The opening guitar riff is one of the first that young players learn, and I was no exception. It's kind of weird to think of 9-year-old me bopping my head and keeping time to a song whose literal meaning would have caused me far greater confusion than Madonna bursting into flames.
Now that I live with a 5-year-old I find myself reflecting on my childhood, like so many of us do. Just the other day I gave Hudson a JoJo, Trader Joe's answer to Oreos, and he gave me that confused face that kids shoot you when they feel blindsided; I myself had that look when I was given my first Hydrox chocolate sandwich cookie. Considering that you learn shapes in nursery school, it's not surprising that I was soon able to spot Hydrox's spirit-wilting flower design. Oh, and if you're reading this, Kiera: Hudson totally knows the difference between regular goldfish and the whole grain kind. They're both crap, so why not stick to the delicious original?
I remember accidentally walking into a Jon's grocery store thinking it was a Von's, surely not the first to do so. But anyhoo, this particular one catered to a Russian community, something I realized when standing next to the candy aisle. Unfamiliar packaging showcased candy bars I had trouble identifying, and it never occurred to me to buy one and try it...because I had already closed the book on candy from behind the Iron Curtain. But Liz, Communism fell back in '91...yeah, yeah I'm getting there: during the 1980s my dad was a criminal lawyer in Queens, and lemme tell you, there was no shortage of people who needed a lawyer. Less than 10% of cases go to trial, often resulting in lawyers riding a legal merry-go-round with the same clients. Most of these guys weren't bright; they'd get caught with ganja bricks in their trunk because they got pulled over for expired tags, but Dad also occasionally had a more sinister demographic, like the don't-take-no-shit-Russian gangstas working in the Diamond District, the kind that swapped gems for cubic zirconias. One evening my sister Julie and I were playing with our Barbies in the living room when Dad came home. He looked at us with a glint in his eyes and held up a small brown paper sack (no, it wasn't heroin, but close).
"Daddy brought home candy!" This was news to our little ears, since we didn't keep much candy in the house. He dumped it out onto the floor, creating a small pile of wrapped chocolates that didn't look even remotely familiar. I picked up a light blue one since it had a nice drawing of bears in a forest on it. We looked up at Dad, who couldn't wait to tell us that the candy was from Russia.
"They have candy, too," he clarified, given the only exposure I had to the culture were American textbooks, the Russian Orthodox in Brooklyn, and just about every movie villain ever. I began opening the waxy paper inside, as Dad said they were "like Kit-Kats" due to wafers and chocolate. My sister and I took a bite as Dad looked on (I noticed he didn't try one)...and yup, you guessed it. We hated it! If you would have told me there was no milk or sugar in that chocolate I would have believed it. You may as well have handed us a handful of espresso beans and a dixie cup of chartreuse to wash 'em down with. Now why did I think this? Because my refined pallet loved Hershey's as a kid, so even though Clumsy Bears probably taste awesome to me now, back then they seemed bitter. I wonder if they improved once the Wall fell?
"This is like a Reese's peanut butter cup," he claimed, popping the whole thing in his mouth. My dad loves food, so as soon as his face wrinkled up like a Shar Pei I knew another bitter disappointment was on the horizon.
I tried a new one. This time it was mushy, but still very unappealing taste-wise. My sister and I didn't want to be rude because Dad was so excited to share food with us: a few nights ago he called me while driving home from an event and gave me a play-by-play of every single food item present. He's always quick to brag of his skipping dessert but after admitting to inhaling three dinners, who's that supposed to impress? That's my dad though, much more of a fan of food than he is of sweets, which is why even he couldn't bluff his way out of this one.
"These one tastes like shit," he said to his 7-year-old twin daughters, his nose still wrinkled up. That didn't deter him from grabbing another one, only to meet the same result: no thanks. This wouldn't be the first time I expected chocolate only to receive dirt.
When you have an older sibling you tend to notice what they're involved in. After all, their lives are going to grow in leaps and bounds, with you as the spectator, always savoring the day when you're big enough to use the toaster, ya know? But with age comes responsibility, and that toaster is capable of burning you right to the core.
I remember being so excited to join Brownies, the junior program preceding Girl Scouts. My older sister had done it, and I absolutely loved Thin Mints; I figured joining the Girl Scouts meant badges and cookies, which I was fine with. I walked into my elementary school lunch room, the smell of soapy chemicals and soggy tater tots burning my nose hairs. I scanned over the volunteer moms as they arranged kids to sit at a long lunch table. I didn't see any cookies, but that was okay, because we were going to make brownies.
I think you know where this is going. On the table were styrofoam egg cartons and a bag of lima beans. I freaked.
"We're eating eggs and lima beans?!"
"Oh no, sweetie, we're planting lima beans today, and after a few days they'll sprout," one of the moms said, leaving me confused as she put spoonfuls of soil into one of the egg slots.
"But we're gonna eat brownies later, right?" I asked, my question met with good-natured laughter.
"Oh, that's so cute!" they remarked as they continued their instructions, much to my annoyance. I brought the lima bean home only to accidentally drown it through over-watering; I was too busy planning their demise to pay attention to that part of the lesson. Predictably enough, I never went back, but no hard feelings, for Brownies are simply Cookie Crack Dealers in the making. Long Live Girl Scouts!