I recently was in a gas station (my favorite gas station chain in the continental US, actually, which isn’t yet found in Kentucky), and couldn’t resist purchasing a bag of these:
That, my friends, is a Swedish fish. When I saw a bag of them hanging at the gas station, I impulsively grabbed one for the road. I had to buy it.
If you know me slightly well, you will find this odd, as it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing I would eat. But if you know me really well, you might know that I have sentimental memories attached to Swedish fish. I even remember the exact time I last had Swedish fish–fall of 2000, Homecoming weekend at my smaller-than-small-town college. We had a prospective student staying in our dorm room with us that weekend. One of J’s roommates got a box of Swedish fish sent to him as part of a care package. Yes, that’s how much I love this stick-in-your-teeth-goodness.
When I was a kid, my grandfather owned a campground up in the Northeast, and we’d go there a few times a year, always over my birthday it seems, and I’d always forget it was my birthday and somehow manage to be surprised when a party was thrown. But that’s not the point of the story.
The point is that at this campground, there was a ‘rec hall,’ and in the rec hall, there was a candy counter, and under this glass counter, there was an open box of Swedish fish, sold for 2 cents each (we got them for 1 cent each, since we were family). Because the box was open, and the fish were slightly stale, even now I prefer them to be hard, rather than fresh and gummy. I remember the small white paper bags, and I remember waiting as the worker counted out the twenty-five or fifty or one hundred or however many I had ordered, one-by-one, into the bag.
When I tore open the bag of Swedish fish the other day and chomped down on one, I was suddenly feeling the cool cement floor on my bare feet, dripping wet with chlorine water from the pool with a damp towel around my waist, listening to the ping-pong table snapping in the background. And then I started thinking about the red polo shirts that the staff at this campground wore, the golf carts they drove, the CB voices I’d hear from the one hanging from my grandfather’s waist and the mysterious codes they’d use to communicate. Then I started thinking about the seasonal campers who were there year after year when we would drive up to visit. The kids who grew up as we grew up, the parents with the thick Massachusetts accents. And I wonder what these people are up to.
These are communities I haven’t thought about for at least a decade.
And today, just from this candy… amazing.