Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Belated Valentine's Gift

Every-so-often a writer touches on something so wise, so true, that we all stand up and notice. One such writer is Winston Groom. He wrote the book Forrest Gump. His line of truth is often quoted, but seldom fully considered.

“My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'”

Truer words were never spoken... by a fictional character in a book later turned into a blockbuster movie starring Tom Hanks.

Of course, in my experience, you need to get that box for yourself 'cuz no one is going to give it to you. Not even on Valentine's Day. I've gotten flowers, cards, and, long ago, a slinky pair of underwear, but never chocolate. That says something, doesn't it?

So, in order to get a life/box of chocolates, I need to go to a store. A store filled with people who ignore me except for the occasional and totally insincere “sorry” if their cart is blocking my way down the aisle. Once I get to the candy section, my eyes flit from one red, cellophane-covered box to the next. There are too many choices. Lining the top shelves are huge, dual-level ones of fine Belgian goodness that I can't afford. My gaze drifts downwards to micro-mini boxes filled with cheap and probably stale chunks of brown that resemble something made from what comes out of the end of a cow rather than her utter. The latter is the only type I'm comfortable spending money on. I mean, it's just for me, and is therefore not really important.

I didn't mention the guilt that goes along with even standing in that aisle. Glancing both directions with my arms tightly crossed in front of my chest, I'm embarrassed. Sure, it's somewhat humiliating to have to buy your own Valentine's Day gift. But I can brush that off - I have my excuse all prepared. If someone looks at me funny, I'll just shrug and say, “I never know what to get him.” No one knows that the “him” I'm referring to is my cat who doesn't like chocolate. But I'll “help” him enjoy his gift by polishing off the box while he and I watch a romantic comedy. No, the embarrassing part is that I'm in the candy aisle. Period. It's a law from the female handbook. I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist is: Thou shalt not buy sweets without feeling mucho guilt.

So, after sneaking up to the cash register, avoiding any judgmental eyes, I ask for my forbidden fruit with no fruit (I take my chocolate straight, thank you very much) to be double-bagged for privacy's sake. Porn, chocolate – it's all the same. Back at my lair, after queuing up the film, I unwrap my heart-shaped prize and settle back onto the couch with my cat beside me. I like to think he's happy because it's the thought that counts.

While finer chocolates have the guide as to which chocolate has coconut-filling and which has nuts in it, the cheap ones do not. As in the rest of my life, I have to guess. I force myself to take a tiny bite when what I really want to do is shove them one-by-one without chewing into my mouth. But, in this and, sadly, in only this, I have learned patience.

This oval one is...raspberry. Eww. Like I said, fruit and chocolate - not good. I put the rest of that one back in its little spot.
This one with the swirl of white chocolate is...oh god, I don't even know what that is. Sugar-flavored? Yeah, I'll eat that one.

One by one I go through them, tasting and disliking. It doesn't take long because I couldn't rationalize buying the big, ridiculously-cheap one. But there is one shape I recognize – the square. Regardless of size of box or quality of chocolate, they always include that one, and it always has the same interior. You know which one I mean. I keep that one for last. Until then, I taste each one, decide I hate most of them, put them down, and then go back and finish them off anyway.

And finally, the square. The perfect closure to a life experience of humiliation, nervousness, and filling myself with almost-good-but-not-good-enough. The square - sweet caramel enveloped by milk chocolate. It may be hard and difficult to swallow, but I love it as I love my family – totally and completely.

So, is life like a box of chocolates? Let's consider. No one is going to give me a life. I have to get it on my own. Life is full of embarrassment and, occasionally, shame. I hide myself behind at least two layers of baggage. Patience has its rewards; even mistakes sometimes have their rewards. I push myself to try new things, but they never seem to satisfy me. And, most importantly, I keep the knowledge that, someday, I will have something that, though it may be hard and difficult to swallow, will be bring me the joy and fulfillment I long for.

Life...if only it came in a pretty, red, cellophane-covered box.


  1. Great post! Most days you're stuck with innocent looking chocolate the turns out to be filled with a disturbing mix of hard pseudo carmel, nut bits and chunks of dried mystery fruit. There just never seem to be enough square chocolate filled with luscious soft caramel days. :)

  2. Yeah. And you never know what lies beneath. Not until you've sunk your teeth in and have some hope invested. Then it's too late - you've got a mouthful of something revolting.