Do you remember your first Jolly Rancher? The candy that could make your day or break your teeth is one that I’ll never forget. It's funny being 36 years old and a father of two that somehow lately memories that have been tucked away in the outskirts of my mind are being dislodged. Some are painful, some are beautiful, and some are just plain fun. This one’s fun.
I remember being about 9 years old in Panama City Beach on our family vacation. We loaded up in my mom’s Aero Star minivan and made the 6 or so hour trek down to what some call the “Redneck Riviera.” Maybe I was too young to notice or care for the snarky comment about where we went on vacation. My mom and brother were on the beach and my dad and I were to go grab something from our condo. My dad had the 80s vibe down. He had his short green swimming trunks, a white v-neck, and his flip flops. He also donned his aviators with the kind of swag that American Apparel today dreams about. We made our way to the lobby and boarded the elevator. It smelled of bleach and there was sand under our sandals. You know that gritty elevator feel? It’s great.
We got to the seventh floor, took a right, and three doors down was the palace of the Early’s for the week. My dad reached into his right pocket and pulled out the key and opened the door. The air conditioning rushed out upon us like the wind of Pentecost. I looked in his hand and he also had two peach Jolly Ranchers. I’d never seen one. I don’t know how on earth I’d lived nine whole years and never actually seen one of these marvelous little creations. My dad handed one to me and said, “Here. Eat this. Don’t tell your mother. You’ll love it! It’s peach. You’re from Georgia... so you know…” I took it, opened it up, and popped it in my mouth. He said, “Don’t bite down! It’ll break your teeth!” I listened. For maybe the first time in my life, I listened to my dad and I’m glad I did.
To this day that was the best Jolly Rancher I ever had. I haven’t had one since I was in high school, I guess. And I did try grape (or whatever that flavor actually is!), and watermelon, and all the others. But the peach one… in the doorway… with the ghost of Pentecost blowing… and my reflection in his aviators…. peach is the best Jolly Rancher.