What are some of your early memories of candy? I have quite a few. This one goes back to a late summer day, long ago. Fall was tapping on the window, bringing in tow the beginning of a new, exciting, terrifying phase of life: school. I’d heard a lot about it, mostly from one of my older brothers. He had four years on me, a street-wizened, seasoned and weathered fourth grader. Me? I would be joining the lowly ranks of those known as kindergarteners.
My mom had taken me over to James Madison Elementary School in Olympia to meet my kindergarten teacher—the torchbearer leading the long parade of 12 years of math and spelling, history and science, homework and quizzes. My first critical impressions of this whole school business would be set entirely by this one particular teacher. I stood before her, my sweaty hands clutching a small, yellow, plastic box.
“Are these your school supplies?” Miss Morsett asked, nodding at the box. “May I see?”
She had a gentle voice and her smile came not just from her lips but from her eyes, too. My worries melted like the last mound of orange sherbet licked clean off of one of those flat wooden spoons. Solemnly, I handed her my box.
She opened the lid and inspected an assortment of fat wooden pencils, an eraser, and a fresh box of crayons. I slowly let my breath out, as everything seemed to meet with approval. But then she said, “Uh oh.” From within my yellow box she pulled forth a half-eaten roll of LifeSavers. Frowning slightly, she held it up and said, “No candy in class.”
I nodded. My face glowed hot enough to warm my feet. Was I going to have to spend time in the corner? Clean chalkboards during recess? Scrape gum off the underbellies of desks? My mind raced, trying desperately to remember if my brother had mentioned anything about the penalty for criminals getting caught with candy by their kindergarten teachers.
“That means you’d better eat these now, then, doesn’t it,” Miss Morsett said. She handed me the LifeSavers and this time her eyes not only smiled, they laughed.
I decided that Miss Morsett was not actually a teacher at all. She was an angel.
It was a quick visit. The two of them discussed dates for the first parent-teacher conference and then I was trailing after my mom back to the parking lot. “She seems nice,” my mom said.
I nodded, my mouth too busy sucking the life out of a LifeSaver to say much. My mom held out one hand. I peeled back the paper foil that encased the roll of candy, careful to tear off just enough to uncover the next LifeSaver in line. I pried at the miniature ring, gone sticky like the top ones always seemed to go, and it came away from its cocoon with a little tick. I set the deep, blazing, sun-colored candy in her hand, glad because I knew orange was her favorite flavor. And secretly glad because it was also my least, and if I was going to part with one, there was no better sacrifice than the orange. But mostly, glad because I had no doubt that I was going to love being a kindergartener. I tucked the roll of LifeSavers back into my yellow box and reminded myself to eat the rest before the first day of school.