I’m difficult to buy for. Jim says that every time he asks me what I want for Christmas or my birthday or any other gift-giving holiday because it feels reckless to recite a list of impractical things I want when there’s an electric bill waiting on my desk. Years of narrowly navigating an often negative debt-to-income ratio will do that to you.
Jim does alright without my help, though. Over the years, he’s gifted me both practical and impractical things, like an automatic starter for my Jeep, new tires, an electric blanket, a watch, a dragon bracelet, and a pair of heart-shaped diamond earrings that I threw out the window driving home after he said he needed a break, which I assumed was forever. That was years ago and the break lasted only a few days, but I’ll never find those earrings and honestly, I wouldn’t mind another pair.
I might have hinted recently about earrings, but last week, while he lay on the couch, he set down his phone and announced that he just bought my Valentine’s gift and that I could open the FedEx box when it arrived. Probably not diamonds, I thought, and really, I can’t blame him. Once bit, twice shy and all that.
Zuzu didn’t bark a warning when the FedEx truck pulled up, and it was hours later when I spotted the box blown over in the flower bed. I fished it out and felt the contents rolling around. I opened it carefully, wondering if I could return the broken whatever-it-was.
Inside were twenty four Pearson’s Nut Goodie candy bars.
The first time Jim saw a Nut Goodie, we were in line at the checkout of a Holiday gas station somewhere outside St. Paul, Minnesota, in the summer of 2015 while on our way to Stillwater with my brother and sister-in-law. When I saw the red and green packages in the display stand, I grabbed two.
“People are so lucky here!” I waved them in front of Jim. “They can buy these anytime they want!”
Unless you cut a Nut Goodie into pieces – and really, who does that? – they are impossible to eat without shards of chocolate and bits of peanuts falling in your lap, and you’d think, given how I crave order and things tidy, this would be an issue, but it’s not. Brush the crumbs on the floor and keep eating, I say, even if I was in my own car, which I wasn’t.
It’s not like Nut Goodies would win a prize for outstanding candy. They’re just lumps of peanuts and “maple” nougat wrapped in mediocre milk chocolate. In an attempt to look homemade, they are unevenly round, like my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. And while “maple” isn’t listed in the ingredients, fake maple isn’t a sin. I use sugar-free “maple” syrup on my waffles sometimes.
Sitting in the back seat, I let the chocolate and nougat melt on my tongue and the sides of my mouth, just like when I was a kid.
“God, this tastes like home,” I said, chewing the peanuts.
I can’t find Nut Goodies in Pennsylvania, at least nowhere I’ve been, and if I could, it would have made seeing them no more interesting than M&Ms or Snickers. Nut Goodies are Minnesota, same as Old Dutch potato chips, lutefisk, lefse, and pickled pigs feet on Krispy crackers. They are Sunday evenings in the winter when the electric has gone out and Dad’s making Campbell’s chicken noodle soup on the wood burning stove in the basement while Mom makes cold Velveeta sandwiches with butter. Later, we’ll play Rook and Battleship before I take a flashlight back to my bedroom and crawl under the covers, wearing a double layer of long underwear and turtlenecks. I’ll read another few chapters in the latest Trixie Belden mystery before falling asleep to the wind and the snow slapping my windows.
It’s going to take a while and some sharing to get through twenty four (now twenty one) Nut Goodies, but that Jim remembered that moment in time at the Holiday gas station means more to me than diamond earrings ever could.