One of my most vivid memories as a boy is Granny’s candy. Not only may her candy be some of the greatest candy ever made, it is tied to Christmas, giving it perhaps the strongest synapse connection that could possibly exist in a young boys mind. While my parents were creative thinkers when it came to surprising us at Christmas time, showing a willingness to buck tradition for the sake of childhood excitement, one thing that would be unchanging throughout my childhood is Granny’s candy.
Granny’s candy is actually three different kinds of candy. Divinity, Date Nut Loaf and Aunt Bill’s Brown Candy. Aunt Bill’s Brown Candy. That sentence right there, in the words of Augustus McCrae, says itself with no explanation needed. You either know it or you don’t. If you don’t know it, woe to you, you are bereft of the ultimate goodness. If you know it, it says so many things, and the memories that flood your mind are as the candy itself, which floods your mouth with slobber producing ooey, gooey sweetness. Aunt Bill’s Brown Candy must be experienced to be understood. It is the “beyond words” kind of good. If, like me, you don’t mind, and actually kind of enjoy, a good fart, it is also a physical good feeling generator. Few are the fart stimulating foods in this world more effective than Aunt Bill’s.
If Aunt Bill’s seems to have crowded out Divinity and Date Nut Loaf above, it is not due to their lack of admirers, or their like goodness. It’s just hard, really hard, for anything that goes into your mouth to beat out Aunt Bill’s.
So, there is the setup. Two boys conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to respond with gastro delight to even the idea of Granny’s candy, especially Aunt Bill’s.
My mother’s parents, my grandparents, Granny and 2-Daddy, lived in McAllen, near the border with Mexico in the valley. It was not uncommon for them to travel to Houston and, as is often the case with young boys, regularly my brother and I would be surprised to find them in the house upon our arrival from school. Such was the occasion on the afternoon of “Granny’s Candy”.
On this deliciously fateful afternoon my brother Barb and I came into the house accompanied by Tommy, our lifelong childhood friend.
A bit of an aside is called for here I believe …
As a child, every family I was aware of was something. Either Protestant, Catholic, or suspect. Our house was fairly representative of our neighborhood in that we were Episcopalian and the neighbors on each side were Catholic. Our house included five children, the house on the left nine, and the house on the right thirteen. Tommy was older than me, but younger than Barb. He was best friend to us both. The three of us would go on to do great things together, much to the chagrin of our mamas. Tommy was well acquainted with Granny’s candy.
So, Barb, Tommy and I came into the kitchen through the garage door to be greeted by Granny, who was, as was common for her, busily washing dishes at the sink.
“Hello boys!”, Granny greeted us.
The surprise at finding her there, the air filled with wafting goodness, the love glowing within Granny’s countenance, all spurred Barb and me to jump to Granny, throwing ourselves in her welcoming arms.
“We didn’t know you were here?!” we cried with excitement.
It’s hard to remember why Granny and 2-Daddy elicited the level of excitement from us that they did. Granny didn’t play with us. 2-Daddy seemed always to be on the golf course, reading a book, or watching sports on TV. They did however provide a great distraction to our parents, freeing me and Barb up for doing things our parents otherwise would not have tolerated. I simply don’t remember much direct interaction with them. What I do remember is their love. The manner in which they did interact was, well … loving. My most cherished memory of my Granny was her calling me to her side so she might rub my warts. You see, Granny was a witch. Not the ugly kind, but rather the good, and pretty kind. The kind that can make camp fire smoke turn away, and the kind that can make warts go away by rubbing them.
“You boys want some candy?”, Granny asked.
“Sure!”, we all cried in unison.
Turning to the kitchen counter, Granny lifted a tray of candies offering it to us with a smile of pure sweetness, as was the promise from the candy!
Looking back on this event, I cannot say with any level of certainty, but at least in my mind’s eye, she wore a witches smile at that moment. Imagining the anticipation and humorous excitement that must have been raging to explode within her mind, knowing how “set up” these three boys were by the memories of Granny’s Candies past, she had to be ready to burst! She pulled it off though! Red Skelton could not have pulled it off any better! Her timing was impeccable. For me, this will ever remain the most surprising thing any adult would ever do.
Like gluttonous pigs we reached for pieces of ultimate goodness. Of course, Barb and I grabbed a piece of Divinity. Tommy grabbed a piece of brown candy that looked like a coconut ball.
Barb and I had intuitively grabbed for the Divinity, for its inherent and known goodness, and likely avoided the coconut candy due to unfamiliarity. In hind sight, that should have been our clue that something was amiss. A tray of candy from Granny that included something other than Divinity, Date Nut Loaf and Aunt Bill’s, is suspect under any scenario.
Each little piggy tossed candy into maws and set to ruminating.
Barb and I immediately ran to the garbage can and began spitting! “Good God! Mother of all things good! It was not Divinity! It was Dove soap!”, my mind screamed!
In between spits, Barb hollered at Tommy, whose face reflected total confusion and disgust, “Spit it out! It’s not real!”
Tommy, incredulous as he was, seemed unable to understand what was happening and continued delicately chewing on his cotton ball, which had been rolled in some kind of coconuty melted sugary kind of stuff. I can only imagine, as I did not venture a taste myself, that the coconut balls did not so much taste bad, as they felt … just wrong! Chewing a cotton ball must scream at the mind, “spit it out!”
Finally, sheepishly moving to the garbage can, Tommy shamefacedly began spitting out his “candy”.
Meanwhile, back at Eastwick and the witch’s lair, Granny was about to split a gut laughing, laughing and laughing. She was not laughing at us though. She was seemingly laughing at something unseen, and with such delight as though to discount our very presence. It was like a laugh from a demon in your dreams, except this one was filled with delight and happiness. Probably it touched on something from her past, tickling her funny bone in a very unique way that only she had the possibility of recognizing. Something like residue from an earlier life episode.
“My God!”, I thought. “This is not my Granny! My Granny couldn’t do this. Wouldn’t do this! Who … what … uh … why … what just happened?!”
Barb and I discovered something magically new about our Granny that day. Granny had a deviously funny side to her that we never suspected! She was an absolute hoot! She was the very definition of “hootness”! This episode lives as residue within my soul, and will forever, long as I draw breath.
To the end of my days I am blessed by this occasion in my life. If a person had only this one memory, their remembrance would be rich with goodness, humor and love. Yes, our Granny loved us and delighted in our presence.
Oh, Granny, I miss you so.