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?"

"None."

"Sara?"

"1"

"Anne?"

"None."

"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.

3 Comments:

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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