The Minty Middle

Many storytellers have been taught that the skeletal sustenance of plot is what guides and shapes a story; plot builds character development; plot moves like the waves within a tide, builds climax, finds resolution and voila! Reader satisfaction – if the story is the desired cup of tea that is. Not every cup of tea is good, even if there is a quote on the tea bag telling you your soulmate is only a sip away; neither all tea is good nor is every soulmate. John Hughes, birthday cakes on glass tables and mediocre pink dresses are now being dissected like a high school frog – we can no longer or should no longer love Jake or root for the passive aggressive nerd. Whatever. I loved Jake, he was like the Pickle Guy, just not the Jewish kind. 

I digress; however, we all know that many of these stories are forever embedded in our brains because we will never forget the titles. My point – the title of this little ditty came first; not the other essential ingredients that make up a story. May this be my 16 Candles without the Jake.

I love the minty middle.

A little over a month ago I went out to a very fancy place for dinner to celebrate a special birthday girl and friend. This was a place one only goes with a gift certificate or once a year, MAYBE. The appetizers and drink order became a novella in itself, and there was a bit of pressure to remember every bite, chew and swallow of our meal to help justify the price tag. As we left the restaurant saying goodbye to a line of employees, one of whom helped put my coat back on, I saw a bowl of Andes Candies. I shrieked, grabbed a handful like a five year old on Halloween and plopped an unforgivable amount in my coat pocket. I am sure the restaurant employees were all thrilled to have me as a patron; my “oohs and ahhs” over roast duck no longer resembled a reasonable palette. Had I not just eaten a banana that had a hairdo of flames only moments prior? No matter! I plopped a candy in my mouth and let the chocolate edges slowly dissolve in my mouth; this time I would get it perfect! I would so very gently and systematically use the exact amount of pressure and saliva to melt the chocolate in order to leave the slither of mint intact. – and then, eat it!

I first met Mr. Andes Candies at Marshall Fields – in the china department to be exact.  I spent a lot of hours in Marshall Fields as a kid. My Grandma Mickey brought me with her to work with some frequency while she delicately talked a poor engaged couple or savvy housewife into buying a plate that possibly cost more than a year’s salary. Sometimes my grandpa would pick me up at the bottom of the escalator that went to the Junior, mens and dress departments and sometimes I would stay at the department store until her shift was over. What’s a girl to do once every manikin has their head turned backwards and wearing a different outfit?!! What was I supposed to do after putting pants in the skirt section and undies in the bra section?? I got BORED!! This is when and where I learned the skill of not only catapulting my body into a potential diabetic state, but also when and where I learned how to melt down and swallow the creamiest of milk chocolate every so gently so that there was only the thin sliver of mint green  left on my tongue. I was a professional! Hours and hours were spent sitting in tucked away corners finding the perfect mix of spit and cheek/tongue pressure. I won the bronze medal for best minty middle in the bedding department, the silver medal in the make-up department and the gold medal in the china department; because, that is where I had to end up at the end of my grandma’s shift or she would lose her ever loving mind and I would hear over the intercom, “Jessie Kniaz,” please report back to the china department immediately!” Ahhhh, those were the days…

I spent so much of my childhood waiting for adults; waiting for them to stop talking, stop saying goodbye (saying hello), stop eating, stop working, stop fighting, stop shopping, stop telling me to wait a minute and start paying attention. On the other hand, because so many of those adults sacrificed everything to keep me safe and happy and functioning, I needed to meet them… in the middle. 

The phrase “Old Soul” is something in which I truly believe. I do not necessarily believe it means spectacularly bright beyond years (says the girl who put boxer briefs on a manikin baby), but I do believe it means there is a knowledge somewhere deep that comes from pain, experience and/or resilience of some kind. I always knew that the adults in my life were working overtime to take care of me while they also had to navigate through their own grief and busy lives. That did not mean I stopped running off, making a mess, telling a white lie or two; I always came back, cleaned up and told the real truth (when I was ready!).

It is okay to meet our kids in the middle. We are in charge because we are adults and we know better, but our kids know more than we may think they do. So when you find your granddaughter, grandson, son, daughter, niece or nephew covered in the fall season’s full palette of rouge, lipstick and eyeshadow and balancing every vintage painter hat he or she could find on top of his or her head……find an Andes candies and a corner!

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