23: My Grandmother’s Candy Dish

23: My Grandmother’s Candy Dish

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

My Grandmother’s Candy Dish

Some people can’t believe in themselves until someone else believes in them first.

~From the movie Good Will Hunting

My grandmother had a small, two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a building in Youngstown, Ohio. Her face lit up when we arrived, tired from hours of driving. I remember her soft, lilac-scented lap, smooth dusting powder, tightly curled white hair and low-heeled beige shoes.

My parents would stay the night and then leave me for a longer visit. Grandma Myers and I would spend several days, just the two of us. We usually visited Fellows Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park. My grandmother loved walking through the extensive flower gardens. From her, I learned the names of roses, lilacs, impatiens, petunias and daisies.

Each visit, I would perch on one of her two couches and look through old, loose photographs, older generations of our family intermingling with newer ones in the disorganized drawer of her breakfront. She would sit beside me, naming people, so that I learned my family’s faces without ever meeting most of them. After several years, I knew who they all were. I loved looking through those photographs, most of them black and white, seeing my mother as she grew up. My mother had passed away when I was four, and we were each other’s only remaining connection to her.

On Grandma’s coffee table was a leaf-shaped candy dish, full of colorful, hard candies. Some were in clear wrappers, and some had wrappers that resembled strawberries. I would eye her candy dish, but she never invited me to have one. One day, when we were talking about going to visit her sister, she noticed me eying her candy dish.

“I always keep candy here,” she said, smelling sweetly of Lily of the Valley talcum powder and wearing a belted dress. “I told your mother that the candy was for guests, and she never touched a single piece. I was very proud of her for resisting the candy.” My grandmother fixed her hazel eyes on me behind their cat-shaped, rhinestone glasses. She looked at me a while in silence to see if I understood what she was saying.

I thought over her words. She was not inviting me to eat the candy. Rather, she was suggesting I should not eat any of it at all. I thought this was a bit cruel, and I was sad at first. But I realized that my not eating the candy was very important to her, and so I did not eat one piece. We dropped the subject, and I never asked her for any.

When my grandmother’s niece came for a visit, she offered her and her daughter Becky a piece of candy. Becky was near my age, and she happily unwrapped one and popped it in her mouth. I was jealous at first. But then I was proud. I realized that I was not a guest in Grandma’s house. I was family; I belonged.

After a while, I hardly noticed the candy dish, and I did not feel tempted by it. Her eyes gleamed with approval in the evenings, when she would look at it and notice it was still full.

Looking back over the long years, I realize she taught me will-power. I would not have believed I could be in the room with candy and not eat a single bit. My stepmother used to hide Snickers bars, not trusting any of us, but I knew from the clink of the good flatware that she had hidden them in the dining-room buffet. My grandmother left candy out in plain sight, and there it stayed. She believed in me, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I still look at that hard candy in stores, knowing it’s not for me. I can live without it.

I take my kids to botanical gardens, and I teach them the names of flowers: salvia, hydrangeas, lupine, and foxglove. These are the scents of my grandmother, and it makes me feel close to her.

~Brenda Davis Harsham

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