Valentine's Day

When I was a little girl, I loved Valentine's Day for one reason and one reason only: CANDY.  It was a very special occasion because we only had candy in our house three times a year: Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween.  (Which, now that I think about it, left quite a dearth from April through October.  It's a miracle I survived it.  But I digress.)

On February 14th, I couldn't wait for my dad to get home from work.  I knew when he walked through the door he would have his briefcase in one hand and 4 boxes of candy in the other - 3 little red heart-shaped boxes for the three daughters, and 1 great big huge double-layer box for Mom.  (If ever there was an incentive to become a mother, that was mine.)

Our Valentine boxes were always filled with assorted chocolates; I always polished mine off by bedtime, and I always felt sick afterwards.  My sisters managed to save a few pieces for the following day, but I'm convinced the only reason they did this was so they could rub my nose in it when I wanted more and didn't have any left.

The problem with assorted chocolates was... well... the assortment.  I'd labor over which piece to take; trying to guess what might be inside.  It was a very important decision because once it was made, there was no turning back.  This was because of Mom's Candy-Eating Rule Number One: You Touch It, You Take It.

Finally, after much deliberation, I'd choose a piece and hesitantly take a bite. What luck!  Pink stuff!  Yum!  I summoned the courage to try another piece.  Yuk! Coconut.  I wanted to spit it out, but this was not permitted due to Mom's Candy-Eating Rule Number Two: You Bite It, You Eat It.  I hoped I'd have better luck with the third piece...  Sadly, no.  I'm not sure what that weird red stuff was, but it tasted suspiciously like cough syrup.  What was Fanny Farmer thinking?!

Because the four of us were all in search of the pieces we loved the most, we were constantly negotiating trades.  "I'll give you this one for that one."  My mother, infuriatingly, always managed to select the caramels from my box - my most prized possessions.  (Unfortunately for me, she shared my passion.)  It was maddening.

"Mom, how come you always pick the good ones and I always pick the bad ones? It's not fair!  How do you do it?"  Clearly she was the only person in the world who knew this secret and, with my hands on my hips, I demanded to know what it was. This proved to be a tactical error.

"Stop your whining.  You're lucky you have any candy at all."  She was right, of course, and I felt properly admonished (and more than a little alarmed I was about to have my candy taken away).  Then she softened a bit and added, "Honey, you just have to take a bite to find out what's inside.  It's always a surprise and that's the fun of it!  It's like a present.  You never know what you're going to get."
Wow!  Mom may have had a few too many rules, but I had to admit, she was brilliant.  (So brilliant, in fact, that Forrest Gump later stole this line and made six hundred million dollars.)

As I was mulling over my mother's words of wisdom, my big sister - my infinitely wiser, infinitely older, big sister (she was, after all, 13 - a teenager) pulled me aside and said, "You dope.  I'll show you how to tell what's inside if you give me two pieces of candy."

My first thought was, "AHA!  I knew it!  I knew there was a way!"  My second thought was, "Two pieces?  You want TWO pieces?  Are you insane?"   I thought long and hard, and decided this singular event would shape all my Valentine's Days to come - so I reluctantly agreed.

Kris ceremoniously brought me to stand before Mom's candy box and I was trembling with excitement - I was about to be let in on the most important secret of my life EVER.

I took a piece of chocolate from my mother's box and looked at it quizzically.  I still couldn't see the magic.  Kris let out an impatient sigh, "Look at the bottom."  I examined one piece, then another, then another...  How could this be?  There appeared to be a dent in the bottom of each piece, exposing a little bit of the filling inside.  Why, it was almost as though someone had intentionally...   Hey...  wait a minute!!!  I whirled around to confront Mom.  All she did was smile a sheepish little smile and shrug her shoulders.

Initially I was shocked, of course, but my shock quickly turned to admiration.  I couldn't help but be impressed by my mother's obvious genius.  I ran to my own box of chocolates and dumped them out onto the counter so I could immediately begin the indentation process, when I suddenly stopped short.  I was stunned to see my chocolates had already been defiled.

Now, some children might have been mad, and I'll admit at first I was a little upset, but it was pretty hard to stay that way.  I mean, let's be realistic - we were dealing with candy, here.  CANDY.  Where's the downside?

After I plopped a caramel into my mouth, I got to thinking.  Wasn't this practice in direct violation of Mom's Candy-Eating Rule Number One?  After all, you were definitely touching it and then putting it back.  I was about to pose this question to my mom, but instinctively thought better of it.  I came to the conclusion if it's done for the express purpose of discerning the contents of the candy and, more importantly, if no one catches you doing it, then it's okay.  Besides, if my mother did it, it must be alright.  Hence, the birth of Mom's Candy-Eating First Amendment. 

As I was pondering this life-altering newfound knowledge (much, I suspect, in the same way Newton did when he discovered gravity) my other sister came into the room.  I was about to start gleefully chanting, "I know something you don't know," in that annoying, taunting, sing-song voice every little sister uses whenever humanly possible, but it suddenly dawned on me this was the perfect opportunity for a parlor trick.  Ooh!  This was going to be good!

"Look, Karen!  I'm going to guess this piece of chocolate is filled with marshmallow." I took a bite and (undoubtedly, very convincingly) feigned surprise as I showed her the inside.  "Oh my gosh!  I was right!  See?!"  I stole a sideways glance at my mother and smiled - we shared a knowing look.

I sat back expectantly, waiting for the accolades Karen was sure to heap upon me after witnessing my astonishing display of psychic ability.  Instead, she looked at me with pity and disdain, and started to walk away; casually calling back over her shoulder, "Duh.  All you have to do is squish the bottom first and you can see what's in there."

She knew.

Disillusioned, I realized this well-guarded secret was neither well-guarded nor secret - and I was the last to know.  I was always the last to know everything.  I may have only been five, but I was old enough to recognize a gross miscarriage of justice when I saw one.  So, after dinner, I sneaked back into the kitchen and transferred everyone's caramels to my Valentine box.  Sweet revenge!

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