When I was a kid, my grandmother lived just up the street from my family’s house and my aunt’s house. Our veritable family compound laid claim to a rather isolated, wooded parcel of rural land and often made it feel as if we were the only ones in the world. On most days, when me and my cousins got home from school, while the parents were still off at work, we would get together at our grandparents’ house for carousing. On the days when we weren’t taking turns at Air Zonk or Keith Courage on the Turbo Grafx 16, we were usually outside, sweating through the sticky afternoons. We played basketball, one-on-one kickball (a modified form of soccer played with an under-inflated, smaller-than-soccer ball) and ragball (it’s a baseball that is made of rags stuffed inside of a sewed rag shell, perfect for not hurting each other or the house). The formula of life then was so elegantly simple: play ourselves into a sweaty lather, retire inside to sit in front of fan, find some drink and sugar to refuel our engines, repeat.
This thing would thump against the house's siding with great regularity.
A lot of the time, we drank huge plastic glasses full of RC Cola on ice, the lifeblood of my grandmother, who was never then without her 32-ounce Rubbermaid mug, replete with bendy straw. To this day, I have had no other cola that has quite the fizz and bite of RC poured directly over ice. The effervescent, almost painful first gulp of an RC crackling over ice is a vivid, cherished memory of my youth.
On some days, though, RC was not enough to rally us. On such days, another go-to solution was to invade the stand-alone freezer off in the back room. Sometimes, there were fudge sickles or ice pops, and of course, on hot summer days, those were hard to resist. More often, though, we had only the default option to sate our need for sweet: milk chocolate holiday idols. At any time of year, no matter the date – no matter the date – there were giant milk chocolate Easter bunnies or Santas to eat. Our family came from modest roots, and whenever there was a deal to be had, my grandmother eagerly stockpiled provisions for us in the freezer. Seemingly endless roasts, packages of hamburger meat and chickens sat alongside bags and bags of half pound chocolates, emblazoned with bright orange “$0.25” clearance stickers. The chocolate was so ubiquitous that we were often tired of it. If you thawed one bunny or Santa, you had days of eating ahead, and if you put it back into the freezer to keep it from melting, it would often get freezer bite and turn into that chalky, white thing that chocolate does.
I would have sworn that sometimes these things were reproducing in the freezer.
I remember this time of life not only because I have been missing my grandmother recently, but also because today, I think she would be proud. On this day after Valentine’s Day, I went out and hit 4 different locations, stocking up on over 10 pounds of discounted candy. For months hence, when people visit my home, they can raid my larder, like we kids did the freezer, and find for themselves the fuel they need to go out for another round of whatever game they are playing. They will just have to deal with the fact that, for the time being, it is all heart-shaped.