When I was growing up, my mother loved to decorate for various holidays. When December rolled around, she would do an installation-like piece of wall art composed entirely of holiday cards forming a giant Christmas tree. Valentine’s brought with it a multitude of cut-out hearts for mobiles, not just in the de rigueur crimsons and fuchsias, but in unexpected color combinations of pale mist green and neon orange. Birthdays were an extravaganza all their own with balloons, banners, and enough confetti to make a cruise ship proud.
Is it any wonder that we gobbled up the special edibles of the seasons, too? Cookies decorated like flags, pumpkin cupcakes loaded with candy-corn-dotted icing, cakes resembling Santa’s reindeer, mini-pies shaped like four-leaf clovers. My sister Oakley and I eagerly turned the pages of our Holly Hobby calendar looking for the next holiday, the next candy fix.
Ah, there it was: Easter.
One year I remember helping my mom get all the bunny decorations out of a big musty box that was stored in the closet of the catch-all guest bedroom. My heart soared as I saw the painted eggs, luminescent green plastic grass, and our hand-woven baskets. My mom smiled and said aloud, but more as a reminder to herself, “Oh, I need to put out the jellybeans—I bought several large bags yesterday.”
I gleefully followed her to the kitchen to retrieve the colorful chewy jewels. My mom had an intricate hand-cut crystal bowl that my grandmother had given her, and she deemed this a Worthy Enough Occasion to get it out. Oh, the excitement! Oh, the anticipation! As she expertly cut the plastic bags open with a small pair of kitchen scissors and began to fill the giant bowl, one thought dominated my brain: can-I-have-some-candy-right-now-please-please-please?
He mind-reading skills coming into play, my mom offered, “MOVee, do you want a jellybean right now? You like the licorice ones, right?”
“Yes! Can I have three?” It was more a statement of fact than a question as I was already busy dipping my grubby paws in the bowl, sifting for the elusive onyx-colored ones.
“Sure, but really, you don’t need to touch them all. Try not to get germs on every last one of them.” Her critique didn’t faze me, it just meant I would have to eat all the ones in the way, too. Small price to pay for licorice.
My mother (wisely) lured me away with lunch, and I soon forgot about the sugarfest that sat waiting on the living room coffee table. Oakley, about four-years-old at the time, had just woken up from a nap. She wandered into the living room and was playing contently with the stuffed rabbit decorations for a good twenty minutes.
It was painfully quiet. My mother went to retrieve my sister for lunch but there was no need: Oakley wasn’t hungry anymore. Instead, her little mouth was ringed with unnaturally bright streaks of pink and green and orange and blue and purple. She had eaten all the jellybeans in the bowl. Every. Last. One.
Clearly in denial, my mom looked near the heavy bowl, which was overturned at this point. “Oak?” she began softly, “Did you spill the bowl and then, uh, kick all the jellybeans under the couch?” Then my mom actually got on her knees and bent down to look under the couch. Even at the I-still-believe-in-Santa age of nine, I knew there would be no jellybeans under the couch, unless a half-eaten one had possibly rolled out of Oakley’s mouth during her gorging.
“Yesh, Mommy,” said the terrible-liar-with-teeth-the-color-of-rainbows, “they mostly fell somewhere.” And then, “I don’t feel very good. I feel kind of…… sick.” She clutched her bloated tummy while I shook my head in a cocktail of disbelief with a schadenfreude chaser.
“I didn’t eat them all, Mom,” I gloated, ever the competitor (or in this case, the non-competitor), “I only had four or five, like you said I could.” Why not get in a quick moment of kissing-up to help secure whatever the Next Great Prize would be in my 4th grade life?
“Yes, I know,” she uttered, swatting me out of the way like an annoying fly, “I think your sister is going to throw up.”
“No, I won’t throw up, I don’t feel that—” following this tumble of words was a torrent of Easter vomit, both pretty and ugly at the same time, all sparkly fluorescent colors of undigested shiny little pebbles. The sticky mess coated the front of Oakley’s floral dress as well as my mom’s unfortunate left sleeve. Now when we see the image of Christ suffering on the cross, my sister wonders if jellybeans were involved.
After that fateful day, she couldn't bear to look at jellybeans, let alone eat one. Well-meaning friends, neighbors, and clueless teachers would provide them, and not wanting to revisit this lovely piece of her personal history, she would wordlessly turn a whiter shade of pale.
A decade later, when Oakley was fourteen and I was nineteen, we were engaged in some sort of teen angst/ drama. She had “borrowed” and ruined one of my favorite outfits and I was set on revenge. I didn’t have to look far. There was a boy from school that she had a huge crush on. The phone rang one afternoon while Oakley was at swim practice and I answered it.
“Is Oakley there?” said The Crush.
“No, this is her sister though, do you want me to give her a message?”
“Oh, actually, can I ask you a question then, if you don't mind?” he began, his nervousness practically seeping through the phone wires. “I, uh, I……. I sorta want to get her a little, uh, a small gift...... for Easter, and uh, do you know what she might like?”
Without hesitation, I replied, “She adores jellybeans.”
(“Malnourished Over-sugared Vixen”)