I am a hypocrite in my food choices for the span of time each spring that it takes me to eat one four pack of Just Born (always the yellow ones) Peeps. I succumb to this guilty pleasure to remember and honour Mrs Dwyer.
Argh, sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and various food dyes – but I don’t care (though I wish I KNEW IF the sugar was GMO-free).
Mrs. Dwyer was my 1st grade teacher.
Easter-time 1967, I was 6 years old and had a stabbing pain in my right side and a slight fever. Mrs. Dwyer sent me down to the nurses’ office. I remember hobbling the seemingly endless distance over the terrazzo floors, wincing with every step. Within the hour I was in the Emergency Room and headed for surgery to remove my appendix which they later told me had nearly ruptured. When I woke up Mrs. Dwyer had sent a bouquet of flowers – peppermint striped and white carnations, a couple of red and white paper straws bent to ‘take a sip’ all served up to resemble an ice cream soda. It was the first time (and obviously memorable) I had received flowers! I remember that they smelled like cinnamon, and to this day I can’t see red and white striped carnations without having my heart clench, getting a lump in my throat and thinking of Mrs. Dwyer. I have a chair that I reclaimed and refinished in my early twenties that I finally recognised years later was a tribute to her love – I am about to sell it after living with it since 1983 – but what is in my heart and head ties this to her and who she helped make me.
In retrospect there is no doubt in my mind that I was one of her favourites (after all the woman also came to my wedding and rushed the altar to bestow her blessings and kisses and hugs when I was pronounced a married woman at 23) but then, I was a scared little kid with a huge bloody incision laced with cat gut who had just been soothed and affirmed as special by someone I thought (still do) extraordinary.
When I came home from the hospital three or four days later Mrs Dwyer magically appeared with an enormous (to me, at the time) Easter basket and amidst the floss grass were speckled eggs, jelly beans, a chocolate bunny and PEEPS! I am pretty sure she had taken the Peeps out of their cello wrapper because I remember their being just a little crunchy on the outside. The yellow sugar coating and the evaporating moisture of the gooey middle forming a crust. It is still the only way I can eat them – poke a hole in the package wait 24 hours and devour! Each one makes me 6 again and knowing fully and completely that someone (outside of my family) loved me. I was (and still am) the single yellow Peep in the sea of pink, purple and blue Peeps, utterly unique and special because Mrs. Dwyer made me so!
Our childhoods are filled with such sweet pleasures that we rarely recognise for just how special they are at the time (or later) and whilst I don’t live in the past, sometimes these extraordinary moments appear like a rainbow with all the associate blessings and I am so very grateful.
Recently another iconic brand of my childhood has been making quite a bit of social media noise for its “Wholesome” ad campaign launched a month ago (today). Honey Maid Snacks produces the ubiquitous graham cracker used for S’Mores and cheesecake crusts (like my Aunt Wanda Novak made) and made so famous (for a certain generation of us) by Bill Cosby in his routine on Kindergarten (timestamp 2:00). And, like many of the nearly 6 million people who have watched the commercial on YouTube and witnessed the ‘haters’ response to it, I applauded and cheered (and yes, Tweeted) when their response to the ugliness of a (very loud) but narrow minded minority hit the circuit about a week ago – entitled LOVE. But to the two artists whose efforts turned all the comments on the Wholesome ad into art – a special shout out. I noticed that the ugly comments you rolled inward, while the beautiful responses you rolled outward, yeah, I noticed. Love, should always be radiated outward and (though it pains me) let the ugliness destroy itself in its own shadows. We are one, and your art united all of our hearts – thank you.
I know it seems like I got off track from Mrs. Dwyer and Peeps – I have not, I assure you. Because while I have been thinking about graham crackers and Peeps, and the joys of childhood and nostalgic longings for what ‘was simpler’ I found a S’Mores recipe – made with Peeps! Coined S’meeps! And I thought OMG that is SO COOL – so I Tweeted that out as well! Now, a tower of smushed, melty chocolate and Peeps is a far cry from Bill Cosby’s Kindergarten but truly, emotionally anyway, as intrinsically innocent and perfect as my long ago Easter basket.
I wish you beauty in everything that touches your life, and hope that today (and every day) you will find a way to bring some memorable sweetness to your own and someone’s life who least expects such. Go forth and Peep!
Sending you love in Heaven Mrs. Dwyer, and an enormous heart filled with gratitude.
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