There are times in our lives when something happens that knocks the whole cart off its wheels. Some of those times we feel safest tucking them away deep within our hearts and allowing them to heal over time. Other times, they are situations that leave us so tainted we must alert all others to the possible, irrevocable danger lurking beyond. During one sultry summer in my youth, one such occurrence reared it’s ugly head, leaving us all traumatized.
Mom had the practice of placing certain restrictions on our eating habits at various times throughout our childhood. She would restrict anything from soft drinks to chips to pizza. You’re probably noticing that it wasn’t anything that “shouldn’t” be eliminated from our diets anyway. None the less, we felt it was an unnecessary restriction of our unalienable rights as human beings. The aforementioned summer was indeed one to be noted in the record books as one of those exact moments.
After reading the book, Sugar Blues, Mom ransacked the kitchen ridding it of anything containing even a gram of sugar, proclaiming the house to be sugar free. This sent us all into a tailspin; especially Dad, who typically ate his nightly serving of Blue Bell Praline Pecan ice cream from a mixing bowl. Sheer terror erupted within each of our souls, except Mom’s. Dr. Burger, the author, had effectively brainwashed our dear Mama, who generally had a sweet tooth as bad as an army of ants on a dessert table, into drinking his Kool-Aid. We depended on her for all of the delicacies she whipped up in that kitchen; including cookies, cakes, and pies. She was a master with the sugar spoon. And now….with a snap of the fingers….it was all gone.
To say we suffered would be an inaccuracy. We didn’t only suffer. We went through straight up withdrawals the magnitude of what could be expected in any rehabilitation center across this great country of ours, except it wasn’t drugs or alcohol we were shakin’ from. Our blank stares, angry outbursts, and cold sweats where all the result of the absence of the beautiful white crystals of pure cane sugar.
That summer dragged on like Blackstrap molasses being drizzled from its can, until the most opportune situation presented itself. Both Mom and Dad were scheduled to be gone for an entire week, leaving our sitter with a wad of cash and no concept of who Dr. Burger was or what he represented. Oh the heavens had surely opened up and angels could be heard singing from on high.
I’m pretty sure the latch on the door didn’t even have a chance to connect before we had poor Nancy, who was not much older than us, out the door and headed to the market. We were on a mission and nothing was going to stand in our way. We were focused with a gluttonous fever driving our instinctive impulses to the aisles specifically targeted to calm the jittery nerves of the sugar depleted. We were once again in pure sugar cane heaven.
That was by far one of the best weeks of my life. We ate freely and without reservation. We sat by the pool eating frozen Snickers bars and sipping milkshakes thick enough to cause hyperventilation and throbbing headaches, loving every single minute of it. Till this day Nancy still holds a special place in my heart. She did more than veer us off of our regulated diet plan, she nurtured us with music, stories, and laughter in the absence of our typically, ever present parents. She took such wonderful care of us so as to not overload us with sugar, but to allow just enough to suffice and then supplemented our little lonely hearts with love.
We didn’t see much of Nancy after that; but the memory of her kind spirit, gentle manner, and sweet smile always stayed with me. So when my eyes fell upon her face at Mama’s funeral, there was no denying who she was. She was still just as beautiful and serene as I remembered her. We took time to reminisce and laugh about that long ago summer. We told her of all the things we remembered and most importantly how much we had all come to love her during that one solitary week. Mom had a way of instinctively recognizing good people and Nancy was most definitely one of them. I know that Mama would have loved seeing her again and would have been humbled to know she came to pay her respects and to say one final “goodbye” to her.