Memory Madeleines

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Proust, in In Search of Lost Time, uses the madeleine cake as a symbol of memory. For me, one item like that happens to be Lime Tootsie Flavor Roll Twisties.

In the early 1990s or late 1980s, I remember spending one Halloween in Sidney, Ohio with my grandparents. I don’t recall why we went there instead of going door to door in my hometown, Shaker Heights, but I was happy to spend time with them.

Sidney, Ohio

Sidney, Ohio

My mom’s father wasn’t immobile, but he preferred the confines of his La-Z-Boy with his pipe, newspaper, books and yellow legal pads to moving around a lot, especially getting up 40 or 50 times to dole out candy and exchange pleasantries to little kids seeking handouts.

So, Grandma and my mother took Betsy and I out to go beg for candy. I don’t remember what I was — it was one of those years maybe your memory decides to forget on purpose, but remembers all the silly costumes. What I do remember, is grandma grabbed a metal bowl, put it on a chair, filled it with Tootsie Flavor Roll Twisties, and tacked a note “Please be kind — Only take a few.”

It was foreign to me that people could, or should, be trusted to take the appropriate amount of candy responsibly. I asked whether she really believed people would honor her request. She told me that she didn’t know, but for her, God was to be the judge of them.

I surely thought the first miscreant and deadbeat parent combo to saunter to the porch would take all the candy, maybe even the bowl. Yet, as we returned from the Halloween festivities, the bowl (and some candy) remained. Maybe her instincts to trust her neighbors was right. Or maybe the candy wasn’t all that good.

As an adult, I’m not sure I would be so trusting. (As an adolescent, I used this tactic to set up a perfect opportunity to scare the shit out of teenagers by hiding in camouflage with my friends.)

Today, as I picked through the office candy bowl at the office, what did I find?

Lime-flavored tootsie rolls and a memory of my late grandmother.

Some day, a few years or decades from now, or even soon, this candy will disappear from the world. What won’t go with it, I hope, is this memory of my kind and trusting grandmother.bsig

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