To say that my sweet Mack adored candy would seriously disrespect the intensity and commitment of her devotion to refined sugar. Candy was a way of life for that kid. Mack was a sugar fiend and a candy monster. If something was sweet and sticky or dusted with glistening sugar, she was all about it. Better yet, if it was sweet and painfully sour, she gobbled it up with glee. She was a shameless consumer of sugar and never apologized for her lack of self-restraint when candy was within her reach. She always said, “I’m that kid in the candy store that people are talking about when they say ‘like a kid in a candy store!’”
Mack loved candy, but her sweet tooth was not sophisticated by any means. She eschewed fine confections like Belgian chocolates and French pate de fruit in favor of sugary candies packaged and marketed for American children. Warheads, Sour Punch Straws, sour gummy bears, Airheads, Skittles, Nerds, Twizzlers, Runtz, and Laffy Taffy were some of her favorites at the age of ten. And they were still her favorites at the age of twenty. Her preferences did not improve with age and, in fact, I think she may well have consumed far more of her childhood favorites after she went away to college. Whenever Mack was home from Truman State, she almost daily visited the little bodega across the street from our loft in order to purchase candy. The week before she left the United States for her study-abroad program, she ate two huge bags of Warheads, because she feared they would be unavailable in Spain. For that indulgence she paid the price, destroying the roof of her mouth. She had to admit then that perhaps she had finally eaten way too much candy. But that was a very rare confession, and she was not really all that sorry about it anyway.
While doing my household shopping over the past few weekends, the bright Easter candy displays have triggered my tears. The yellow marshmallow chicks, the purple jelly beans (her favorite), and the gummy bunnies swathed in sparkling sugar hurt my heart. They are salty reminders of the sweets I can no longer bestow on my candy-crazed kid. Mack enjoyed candy-centric holidays like Easter; and I delighted in showering my sweet girl with her favorites. It was a pleasure for me to collect interesting and colorful versions of all the candy she loved and then present it to her in an overflowing basket. Mack’s reaction to the Easter candy abundance I presented her every year never disappointed: she always bugged out her eyes, sucked in her breath with excitement, and dove into the candy cornucopia with zeal.
Seeing all the beautiful and delicious Easter candy this year has been bittersweet for me. It is sad to know that I will never again fill an Easter basket to maximum capacity for my little candy monster; and it is unbearable to accept the fact that Mack will never again enjoy her favorite candies. But all of that pastel-colored candy and all of those sugary bunnies remind me of my happy girl and her voracious appetite for sugar. She was such a sweet kid, and I suppose it was quite fitting that she loved sugary sweets so well and consumed such large quantities of them. Maybe all of that sugar is what made her so sweet in the first place. Or maybe it is true that the sweetest souls among us are the ones who love candy with the passion and pure delight that Mack did.