Today on Easter Sunday, I watched my two adult children, Lexi and Dylan, prepare a lovely meal for our family. I wandered in-and-out of the kitchen, working through my mundane chores, as they prattled on about nothing and everything, and prepped the asparagus and deviled the eggs and God knows what else to get the meal ready and on the table.
Lex, now thirty, Dylan not far behind at twenty-three… happily sharing the space together and if any outsider had stumbled onto the scene, they would have believed that these two peas in a pod always got along… just splendidly.
Yes, to unsuspecting eyes… all would seem well in the proverbial “sibling” kitchen… but they would be wrong. Very wrong. Because if they had been standing with me in the kitchen just several short months ago… they would have seen Lexi licking the candy and known… that appearances can be deceiving.
It was Halloween, the only traditional holiday I seem to like these days… and we had bought a ton of candy.
I had grown-up following in my mom’s footsteps and buying two types of candy: the good candy; Snickers, Three Musketeers, Butterfingers, the upper echelon of chocolate treats which my mom gave to her “favorite” trick-or-treaters, or children who’s costumes amused her, or a child who was charismatic enough to win her over therefore… receiving a coveted A-list treat. And… the other candy: the bag of mixed mini-tootsie rolls and lollipops that she gave to high-schoolers she felt were too old to be begging candy off of neighbors or, as back-up candy on particularly busy Halloweens when she rather stay up and give each child at least ONE tootsie roll, instead of having to concede defeat and turn off the porch light.
It was a candy code I had learned and mastered.
It was a candy code we lived by.
And if we had EXTRA candy after Halloween… my brothers and I of course always fought over the “good” bowl of candy… fought to the point of fist-a-cuffs and beyond. Blood would be spilled and it was well worth it.
Believe it or not, I never realized that Lex and Dylan had any arguments over the candy. Their fighting was so tame compared to the scenes me and my brothers created that I really didn’t notice it.
My two off-spring had never picked up a knife and threatened to stab a sibling over a Baby Ruth.
My two precious lambs had never tried to drown each other in the pool in hopes of stealing a sibiling’s pillowcase full of Halloween spoils.
No… I had not witnessed this type of brutality… but what I found last Halloween was that their war was much more strategic… diabolical in design.
It was the day after the big event. It was a lucky year for the siblings. Halloween had fallen on a week night and so we had been left with two full bowls: one of A-list candy and one of B-list candy.
I figured my kids were too old to really care if candy was sitting around the house so I made a mental note to take both bowls of candy to school and give them to my 11th graders as a fun surprise. But when I woke that morning, I found the A-list bowl was gone… and the pathetic B-list bowl was left behind.
I imagine I made a face at this moment. I thought of what my Juniors would think if I showed up with a bowl of B-list candy. I would be the “cheap” teacher… the one who didn’t go “all out” for her students… the one that skimped on trick-or-treaters and next thing you know… I would be the old lady who gave out demerits for wearing flip flops and referrals for cussing. No… that wasn’t going to be me. So, I left the B-list candy behind and went to school empty-handed.
I forgot about the candy until I was back home in the afternoon but, as soon as I walked in and saw the pathetic group of tootsie rolls sitting in the bowl on the counter, my inner child became incensed and wanted to know just WHO in the HELL had taken all of the A-list candy?
I went upstairs and checked the children’s bedrooms: no tell-tale wrappers strewn across the beds… no bowl stashed beneath. They were clean.
I went back downstairs and looked around the living room: nothing. No sign of the chocolate.
I dug through every cupboard in the kitchen thinking their grandma, Nana, had hidden it. She was a known candy hoarder but… once again… nothing.
I grabbed my keys and headed out the back door. There was one room I hadn’t checked… the recording studio where Dylan practiced his drums and worked on his music. Maybe the candy was hidden there.
I put the key in the lock, jimmied the door a bit, gave it a push, then opened it wide to find an almost empty candy bowl on the floor and candy wrappers strewn everywhere.
“Dylan.” I whispered in an accusatory rasp. “You little bastard.”
I grabbed what was left of the candy and brought it back in the house.
When Dylan arrived home later that afternoon I read him the riot act for eating the candy.
“What does it matter?” he shouted back. “Why do you care if I ate the candy? Did you want it?”
“Yes,” I shouted. “Yes, I did! I wanted to take it to my students.”
Dylan pointed at the bowl of tootsie rolls and pops. “Well take that,” he said. “There’s a full bowl of candy right there.”
I snatched the bowl from the kitchen bar and held it up to his face. “I can’t take this candy,” I screeched. “This is the cheap candy. I don’t want my kids thinking I’m the cheap teacher that gives out bad Halloween candy.”
“Well, exactly,” Dylan said. “That’s why I took the other bowl and ate it. I’m not gonna eat the secondary candy when I can eat the good ones.”
I had to fight not to smile.
It was a real struggle.
I knew he was right.
I totally understood his logic.
But as most parents know… there is a time when you just cannot back down and this was one of those times.
I gave him my most vicious mother glance and said, “Go outside now. And don’t you dare eat any more of this candy.”
He sauntered off. His big pom of curly hair bouncing about as he tried to walk away without a smirk.
I leaned over the bowl of candy and sighed.
I knew I would have done the same thing.
I knew years ago I HAD done the same thing.
But it didn’t calm me down in the least.
I walked away from the candy and went to lie down on the bed.
Several days went by without event.
The A-list candy: just sitting on the bar.
No one touching it.
Not Dylan of course… but Nana and Lexi didn’t touch it either.
I started to wonder if something was going on each time I walked past it.
I examined it: It looked like the same amount of pieces were in there since the day I had scolded Dylan.
So, I finally asked Lex.
“Oh, I ate a couple,” she said. “But Dylan is the one that really wants it,” she dug through the bowl looking for a favorite . “But he told me you wouldn’t allow him to have anymore. Can you believe him?” she picked up a candy, unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth.
“I mean, he ate almost the whole bowl.” She swallowed the candy she had and went to unwrap another one. “The WHOLE bowl,” she repeated as she popped the second one in her mouth. “What a little asshole. I didn’t even really want any this year. But he was being such a jerk, it made me want to take them all. Do you know that he actually took the whole bowl out into the recording studio, locked the door and wouldn’t share it with me?”
“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I wouldn’t let him have any more.”
“Yeah,” Lex said. “That’s what I thought. You know, he comes in here every day and if he sees me touching it… he gets all bent out of shape and says that I’m leaving my germs all over the candy… and that no one wants to pick a piece of candy that’s been touched by a bunch of germy people but in particular, me with my germy hands.”
And just then… I watched as Lex’s face registered some brilliant diabolical idea. It was fascinating to watch. It was just a moment… a brief second…. and before I could stop her, she snatched all of the remaining candy bars up out of the bowl and licked the entire package of each and everyone of them with a dramatic flair. Yes: Each and EVERYONE.
I watched as her tongue circled the wrappers and left a thick film of saliva from end-to-end. It was absolutely disgusting.
Then, I watched as she sat each one back in the bowl, walked to the fridge and grabbed some apple juice, and then wandered off to her bedroom as if I hadn’t been watching at all.
I stood there… stunned… wondering why I had never thought to do something so insidious when I was at war with my brothers over the Halloween candy. I guess that’s the difference between fighting at seven and fighting at thirty: more brain power.
Just then, Dylan walked in the back door and when he saw me standing by the candy bowl, came over and stood across from me as he eyed the leftover Halloween treats.
“May I have one of these now?” He asked sweetly.
I pushed the bowl towards him. “Yes, of course, go ahead.”
I watched as he fingered through the selection before making his choice.
“Lex was touching all of these,” he said with disgust. “I told her no one wants candy with her germs all over it.”
Then he ripped open the end of a Snicker’s bar with his teeth and began to eat it.
I tried not to smile.
“What?” he said.
I shook my head as if to say no.
“What, Mom?” he said again.
“Nothing,” I said. “Take them all.”
He looked at me suspiciously. “Did you do something to this candy?” He asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “I’m your mother.”
He picked up the bowl and headed out to the recording studio. “Good,” he said. “Cause I don’t want Lexi getting her germs on any of it. I’m taking it back out with me so she can’t touch it.”
I heard the back door slam and then a quiet little laugh come from the top of the stairs.
I craned my neck and looked up the stairwell to see Lex, lying on the floor, just as she had done as a small child, head pressed against the carpet, giggling with glee.
“YES!” she said as she held her fist up with triumphant joy before sliding back into her bedroom, shutting the door, and disappearing from my view.