Monday, January 30, 2006

The Poptart Man's Last Ride

When I was a young kid, around the holidays, my mom would do a pretty remarkable job decorating for the holidays. This was before she was working and when the idea of sitting red, green and white doilies out was still feasible. We had a couple staple decorations -- a plaster snowman that was covered in sparkles, giving it a rough sandpaper texture; stocking hangers, two of which were bears and the other was a dragon (which led to yearly arguments between me and my brother for dragon dibs); and, as with most families, we sat out candy.

At least I think we did -- the candy was usually gone before the tree was even decorated, so memory might be failing me. I mostly remember the candy because of a not so sweet moment of indulgence I experienced.

God created both chocolate and peanut butter, but it took Reese's to one up the almighty and combine the two with a shitload of sugar and call it "the peanut butter cup." And it was good. Well, around Christmas, we had green and red foil-wrapped Reese's in the candy bowl. To say that I loved these treats is to do a disservice to my appetite.

I didn't simply eat them -- I inhaled them. I devoured them. Only by stuffing three in my mouth at a time did I even taste them, such was my disdain for moderation. It was an unhealthy obsession, but at 8 (or 9, or 17) I lacked the skills to stop myself.

But then I was confronted. Eating such a large amount of a coveted candy is bound to attract attention, especially when they provide such brightly wrapped evidence behind. Soon the candy wrappers surfaced -- rising from the couch cushions, underneath the bed, in my coat pockets. No hiding spot was spared from the guilty twinge of crumpled confections.

But the crowning moment was when I was called into the bathroom -- there, staring up at me, was a wastebasket filled with candy wrappers. No used tissue, no empty paper rolls -- just candy wrappers. A Reese's graveyard.

"Did you eat all of these?"

I did. How could I deny it? And I would have eaten more, had they been available. But the shame of my situation hit full force as I looked down at my dubious accomplishment.

Not only was the candy gone, but I was the one to blame. No matter how much of a pig anyone else had made themselves in the household that holiday, I was the worst. The pie was finished? Must have been Jake. The stuffing is all gone? Jake had at it. You see where this is going. Any food that I had an affection for (and there were few exceptions) would eventually be assigned to me.

To effectively assign guilt for these matters, my dad invented a method second only to the Salem witch trials in accuracy and sensitivity. When the cabinet was empty at breakfast time, he would ask for a count:

"How many poptarts did you eat, Jesse?"






"And I've had 1 as well. Well, Jake, how many did you have?"

"Umm...I guess 1."

"Okay," Dad would say. "Let's count. That makes 3 poptarts eaten, and 6 come in a box. So I suppose the other three were eaten by some invisible stranger? So phantom man who enjoys rectangular breakfast pastries. A poptart man, if you will."

And so it began. Everytime a food supply came up short, the sarcastic anthem would be heard: "It must have been the poptart man! What won't he eat, that scoundrel!"

But the injustice of it! I was obviously the poptart man; it was title I could not divorce myself from. Like a blazing letter "A" the scarlet tint of a strawberry poptart stained my reputation.

Eventually, as these things happen, my sensitivity to the issue lessened and the joke became universal. The "poptart man" label at some point became a invisible persona within the house, like the ghostly "Not Me" imp of a godawful Family Circus comic. I have lessened my addiction to sweets, especially poptarts, and live a happy existence free of that poptart personification.

But yesterday I opened a care package from my grandma, completely unexpected and wholeheartedly accepted. Within its contents: a daily bread calendar, some hamburger helper, a note about grandpa putting together jigsaw puzzles and, to my horror, strawberry milkshake poptarts. Almost immediately I tore into them -- I tend to put off grocery shopping and since poptarts have a prep time of .02 seconds, I could hardly resist.

Now, a short while later, the box is empty because I am a weak man and far too lazy to make breakfast in the morning. But the best part, the part sweeter than the gooey strawberry filling -- when the empty box hits the garbage can tonight, there will be no counting.

The poptart man has struck again, and for the last time.


Anonymous dad said...

How many, Jake?
Eight, Dad. Eight pop-tarts and I'm OK with that.
Now that, my son, is a healthy attitude.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Haha. Great story. Well crafted. I guess that's why we usually had our own stuff when we lived together, although I did usually find a condom or two missing. I guess the poptart man was getting busy quite often. (To Jake's parents, I'm just kidding. You raised a lovely young man who did not use sexual protection).

As I told a while ago on my old blog, my dad would either accuse a mysterious "somebody" of all the injustices, or just blame the dog.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Lanbeast said...

If I remember correctly: I admitted to eating one of the pop-tarts, and didn't help myself by holding up two fingers while making the statement.

While we have the pop-tart man, don't forget the brown bomber. Nothing like blaming every unhealthy habit in the house on non-existant people.

2:07 PM  

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