I love candy. When I say candy, I don’t mean chocolate. Chocolate is a grown up treat if you ask me, it’s sophisticated, and hell if you get the right percentage of cacao, it’s downright healthy! No, I’m talking CANDY! The stuff made from the nasty demon, high fructose corn syrup. The candy makers have created a million disguises for their addictive elixer, all brightly colored, shiny packages with clever names. I love it. This stuff is like crack , but for kids, I guess it’s ok to have spazz attacks in public. Luckily, if it does become a problem, there is always ritalin. As an adult, I think of it as a ridiculously sinful treat, with a negative nutritional value, but as a child it was a staple in my diet, a necessary nutrient .
A few weeks ago I received an invitation to a writing workshop at a candy store, the workshop would center itself around candy and childhood memories. Eat this candy, let it pull you back into your sweet childhood , write it down, share it, that kinda thing. I was excited to go, I even switched up my work schedule to fit in a sugar coated trip down memory lane.
Smeeks is a very cute, very hip, candy and novelty shop, located in a cozy little cluster of one of a kind stores right off of Camelback, just west of Central. Smeeks is owned by the same lovely lady that owns Frances boutique ( also located in this cluster) , Frances is a jazzy place full of unique, funky, and beautiful clothes, jewelry, and accessories. They also sell wonderful gifts, maybe I’ve given you a crazy thread doll ? I got it at Frances.
I got to Smeeks a bit early, and was greeted by the owner, a truly warm and SWEET woman I recognized from Frances. She asked me if I was a writer, and if I had a blog. I said I was, and yes I did. I didn’t say I was a good writer, or that anyone read my blog, cause she didn’t ask. I popped a complimentary bright red cherry gumball into my mouth and walked around her amazing store, overwhelmed by the goods, this woman is a retail genius. Not only is there every kind of candy in this joint, gourmet and nostalgic, but where else can you buy a mustache comb and a mini Jesus statue for your favorite ex-boyfriend’s Valentines Day gift? I also bought him a pack of Lah-Dee-Dahs, 3 hand made spirals of salty caramel, nougat, and dark chocolate that Miss Smeeks claims are “very special.” This ex-boyfriend is impossible to shop for, but I think he will enjoy his new grooming tool and pocket diety. The Lah-Dee-Dah’s are really for me.
The others arrived and we commenced our journey into the psyche of our inner child. We sat down at a low table covered by a white and red polka dotted table cloth. We each had a place setting made of various candies set on a red napkin . We were lead by two well known local writers. Gracious and generous were they to come spend two hours with us, guiding us, listening to our stories, sharing theirs, and giving supportive feed back. Thanks ladies. I couldn’t help wondering what their collective motivation was for this workshop, it wasn’t money, as the workshop was a mere ten dollars, and we got free candy and soda pop. A part of me thought maybe they were looking for interesting new writing talent. They would be blown away by my depth and ability to express the deepest of thoughts on the shallowest of things. They would pick me and give me my own column in their new rag devoted to all things cool, and good, and right.
They both rattled off their long list of credentials while we all sat listening and waiting for our turn to sound much less impressive. At least I did, and of course I did, ” I’m a nurse, and I like to write. I am currently creating a writing and yoga workshop coming soon to a studio near you, and I have 2 blogs, for which I have no explanation, they are read by a few, and sometimes they even make sense.” Impressive.
We were asked to look at the candy on the table, and allow any memories to bubble up, and then to write about them. I let my mind rub against the candy cigarettes for a while and jotted down a little story about a girl gang , it’s 2 members named Cherry Pie, and Juicy Fruit. It’s silly and a bit angry, infused with bad ass grrrllllll power. I pop a cherry zot(s) in my mouth and write about my expectation before biting, and then I share what it’s actually like to have the zots center spill into my mouth. It’s a journey to the center of my os with a strange pink, fizzy, hard candy as your guide. These writing exercises last about 10 minutes, and then we share. I love to listen to the others, ( almost as much as I love to share) their stories centering themselves around childhood memories, while mine aren’t at all related to memories. One is fantasy and the other is present tense experience. After I shared my Zots experience, one of our guides tells us that no one had ever done that before, written as they were eating the subject. I didn’t follow the directions, luckily, we were keeping things loose.
After this sharing, I expressed my feelings about the kind of candy that was sitting on the table. It didn’t really stir up anything for me. I didn’t have any memories around zots, or pixie sticks, or fudge. Not really. Nothing that was calling me to write about it. Writing Diva number one assures the group that she did not rehearse this with me before the class, before she explains that the next exercise was to get up and walk around the shop and find some candy that triggers a strong memory for you. They gave us twenty minutes to write a more structured piece of sweetness.
I got up and went straight to the Fundip. I picked up the packet , 3 colored sugars, and 2 white candy sticks. Yes, I felt my mind dipping back to the fifth grade, Gulfside Elementary, Miss PacMan, and Mr. Licorice. I sat down and started to write. I wrote about the one dollar lunch allowance I would get each day, and how I would never spend it on tater tots and grilled cheese. I saved it for my afterschool Fundip and Miss PacMan escape at the 7eleven. Then I had to stop. I stopped writing. I had come up against my childhood. Places I didn’t want to go, I started and then I stopped. I watched the others crafting their gems full of carefree childhood memories. I was done. It came time to share, again I listened to the others, stories full of sunshine and mischief, tummy aches and Brownie dues squandered. Finally everyone had shared except for me. I thought I would get off easy, after all, it’s not required to share. But it is recommended. ” Are you sure, Kate?” I make up some excuses for myself, how my writing doesn’t make sense, how no one want’s to hear it, yada yada yada. I read. I don’t read it all. I stop. I am ashamed. I’m ashamed that my childhood memories took me into darkness. This isn’t supposed to happen in a brightly colored candy store full of happy people sharing happy memories. My childhood wasn’t happy, and it seems I’m barely ready to write about it. I will someday be ready to share it with strangers, but not today. Today I will stay with the sound of my breath moving in and out through my nose, and the Dandy Warhols piped through speakers at a coffee house I rarely visit. my fingers caressing black keys. Just this. Just NOW.