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 38 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 fun, and some are holy. This memory is holy and fun. Those things can and should go together, you know? Don't let anyone lie to you and tell you that holiness is the enemy of fun. Holiness is no more the enemy of fun than Mickey is the archenemy of Pluto. They belong together. In fact, when one exists without the other, we end up sounding like a weary Solomon rather than a rejoicing Siemon in the temple cradling the Messiah or a Mary who knows how to pick the good portion and find a seat close to the Savior.
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 was wearing 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 attempts to recapture. We made our way to the lobby and boarded the elevator. It smelled of bleach and there was sand in our sandals. You know that gritty-Florida-vacation-elevator-feel? It’s as good as Christmas morning or a Friday afternoon in the sun with a good book, friend, or both.
When we arrived on the seventh floor, we took a right, and three doors down was the Early palace for the week. My dad reached into his right pocket and pulled out the key and opened the door. The bone-chilling air conditioning rushed out upon us like the wind of Pentecost. Nobody spoke in tongues and yet, I was standing in the middle a miracle and didn't know it. How do we not know it right then and there? Even the disciples didn't recognize the Savior on the Emmaus road, for goodness sake.
For that brief moment in time, which lasted no longer than any other time a father and son walk through a door, I now believe that moment was filled to the brim with something sacred. As sacred as anything I've ever heard about anyway. Be it Moses and the burning bush or Elijah's calling down fire or whatever other fantastical scenes I fall in and out of love with in the Bible. That fraction of a second in my memory is like a grain of sand under my toes. We were completely still I could not see his eyes. Rather, I saw myself in the reflection of his sunglasses, a shirtless little boy, gazing up like those resurrection-struck-buffoons at the ascension of our Lord.
I looked in his hand and he also had two peach Jolly Ranchers. I’d never seen one. I don’t know how I’d lived nine whole years on God's green earth and never actually come across one of these marvelous little creations. My dad handed one to me and said, “Here. Eat this. It’s peach.” 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 don't think I've had one since I was in high school. I did try grape 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.