A Taste of Childhood
Willy Wonka had nothing on the sugar buffet that stood before me. The main table housed two cascading chocolate fondue waterfalls. There were marshmallows; pretzels of many shapes; cookies with sprinkles, chocolate chips, and nuts; petite frosted cakes; and fruits of all kinds. The cavity-inducing offering was an invitation back to my youth. But as a child of the '50s, I was no longer a child.
My niece's wedding had gone well and I was about to leave when sliding doors leading to an adjacent room opened to reveal this bonanza of confections. The room was a sweet tooth's dream and a diabetic's nightmare. Unfortunately, I fit both descriptions.
My brother-in-law raised an arm to silence the room. "Today, my daughter and son-in-law became adults," he told the guests. "Let's help them celebrate with a final fling into childhood!"
No one needed persuasion. Arms and legs pumped in the direction of dessert. I took the flowered plate a wedding attendant handed me and approached the nearest table hesitantly. Nostalgic for a youth too far in my past, I wanted to fill my mouth until my cheeks bulged. I had to decide: Would I be an adult, or would I allow myself this last foray into adolescence?
From the first table, I picked up two chocolate-covered pretzel sticks and two pieces of licorice. They were just like those from the candy store near my elementary school. For just one penny, I could buy snacks there that would last the long walk home.
The next station housed miniature candy bars—Snickers, Kit-Kats, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups like I had savored each Halloween. Now, with the youngest of my four children almost 23, the trick-or-treating had stopped. I took one of each.
The following table was a throwback to the summer carnivals I attended as a teenager. I could taste the fried Oreos, funnel cakes, and bags of popcorn. I added a candied apple to the pile on my plate.
My last stop was the fondue station, with myriad items I had enjoyed at birthday parties and school dances, and on movie dates with boys I liked. I rested my plate on the table so I could use both hands, until my plate could fit no more treasures.
I stared a long moment. My favorite treats sat heaped atop one another, waiting to be eaten. And they would be eaten. But not by me. I brought the feast to my husband and children and asked them to sample my memories. I didn't even have a taste.
It was an easy choice, in the end, to stay an adult. While I'm nostalgic for my past, I'm looking forward even more to my future.
Sharon S. Epstein is a social worker in Suffolk County, N.Y., who has had type 2 diabetes for nearly 15 years. She is the author of Visiting the Sick: The Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. Epstein is married and has four children.