You could tell the season by what kind of sweets filled my grandmother’s candy dish, the cut-glass footed number that sat on her coffee table in the formal living room,
You could tell the season by what kind of sweets filled my grandmother’s candy dish, the cut-glass footed number that sat on her coffee table in the formal living room, catching the sunlight like a prism. In the spring, I remember lemon drops and soft buttermints in pastel pinks and greens. In the summer, she set out sour balls, tart and puckery, and multicolored jelly beans. In the winter, for Christmas, the dish held chocolate Starlight mints swirled with green. And in February, of course: those pink and purple and yellow candy conversation hearts, imprinted with “Kiss Me,” “Be Mine,” “True Love.”
In the pews at church, my grandmother slipped me Brach’s cinnamon hard candies from her coat pocket, along with the whispered instruction to not open it until the organist started to play, so that the music would drown out the crinkling of the wrapper. And while I don’t recall ever ordering dessert at a restaurant as a child, I do remember my grandfather buying those individually wrapped Andes mints from a box beside the cash register — 10 cents apiece — with his leftover change after he paid the bill, an elegant treat to eat in the car on the way home. For years, I saved those candy wrappers, smoothed them out with the heel of my hand, and pressed them into whatever book I was reading the way you might a violet, mementos of evenings out with my grandparents. The simplest souvenir.
My dad had a sweet tooth, too. He favored the candies of his childhood — milk chocolate Mallo cups, Zagnut bars — and I remember that my great-aunt Hazel always wrapped a box of Cella’s chocolate-covered cherries for his birthday.
At home, he kept candy tucked in all sorts of places. In the drawer of a table in the den, he stored theater-size boxes of Raisinets, nervously shaking out handfuls of the candy to eat during Duke-Carolina games on television. In the kitchen, he kept a pottery bowl filled with miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He stockpiled Tootsie Roll Midgees in the glove compartment of his truck and, years later, long after that truck had been sold, in the center console of his Subaru. After my dad died and my mom cleaned out his car to sell, she discovered his little cache of candy in the console and laughed out loud, a welcome moment of relief amid her grief. The smallest pleasure.
Recently, I was thrilled to learn that my mom had kept several of my grandmother’s candy bowls — including that cut-glass one I remember so well — and the rediscovery of those heirlooms has inspired me to take up the tradition myself. I’ve now filled the dish with Red Bird peppermint puffs and placed it in the center of my dining table. I can already see how the light catches the glass, a prism of joy. The sweetest delight.
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