[Caramel] Kisses

{Disclaimer: this post is a rather feminine concoction of nostalgia, honesty and chocolate.}

February 2005: natural disasters, terrorism, European Union drama, center-stage swagger from Vladimir Putin. (What else is new?) YouTube was launched. (Wow.) I was 16. It was my senior year of high school. Aaaand…it was the last time a boy brought me Valentine’s candy* (*all subsequent ventures out of the friend zone either taking place outside the month of February, or not being formalized enough to warrant the observance of the 14th).

The following year brought a lot of changes to my life, and Valentine’s Day 2006 found me working the closing shift at our local mom-and-pop pharmacy, with no prospect of the pleasantries of the occasion. On break and feeling rather sorry for myself, I bought my own chocolate – my first bag of Hershey’s caramel kisses. My dear friends, why pay more when heaven is to be found in a bag for $3.50 at your local drugstore? My self-pity evaporated. (Seriously. They’re that good.)

Times have changed; my preference for caramel kisses has not. (Add “cheap date” to the list of my better qualities.) I only buy them at Valentine’s because – the gluttony! – I can clean out a “sharing size” bag in a day. While the candy never gets old, though, the annual purchase most definitely has. Four years of college…first one job, and then another…and just like that, I’ve spent a decade under the BYOC policy. At best, this is lamesauce; at other times, it drips with melancholy symbolism. (Hello, Josie Geller.)

A line from one of those stuck-in-my-head, wish-I-never-heard Mariah Carey songs says “though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.” True dat. Every holiday, every momentous occasion that passes whispers “things will be different next year…” I wish I could say that contentment in this area of my life was something I didn’t need to work on quite as much as I do. But years’ worth of journals bear testament to the fact that this, THIS, is the Achilles heel, the thing that can make me question everything I believe, the thing that has to be tearfully handed back to God time and time again.

I remember an anecdote about a famed horticulturalist who had been invited to visit the private gardens of a vast estate. On the day of his visit he was accompanied by his small daughter. The horticulturalist was most anxious to see a rare species that had been cultivated by the estate gardener; his daughter was there simply to enjoy the day. The horticulturalist’s anticipation grew throughout a lengthy tour, but he was bitterly disappointed at last to find that the rare plant was no longer housed on the estate grounds. When they departed, the horticulturalist was roused by the happy chatter of his little girl. As she prattled on about all she had seen, all the colors and blooms, the horticulturalist realized that he had been blinded to most of the many beauties of the day by his relentless focus on one single plant.

Unchecked, hope really can become that stubborn poison weed that chokes out all the paternal, fraternal, and platonic relationships I can choose to celebrate this time of year. A thoughtful mom and dad…the memory of that year that my parents were away and my two brothers went a little overboard with flowers and candy…the annual, laughter-filled cookie baking-and-delivery party with my sister…sweet visits with some precious elderly ladies that have long lost their sweethearts…the many years of girls’ nights with very dear friends…oh yes, I am rich, rich, RICH in love, though it may not look exactly like I want it to. And therein lies the choice we are all given – to nurture the sting of disappointment, or trust “every good and perfect gift” as it comes from a Father who cannot be anything less than good.

So open your heart, friend. Whatever it is, don’t allow the letdowns of yesterday to embitter you or the expectation of someday to rob you of all the holy joys of “now”. Sometimes the kisses come in caramel…that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. ❤