Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Gummi Bear Story

Years ago...

Gran was in the hospital.

My cousin Krissy has always been able to read me like an open book. For an introvert like me, (or, as a friend once called me, "an extrovert trapped in an introvert's body") this is a big deal. She could tell I was worried, so she abducted me after dinner. She proclaimed that we were going to see the chocolate fountain at a candy factory that had opened recently.

I had never seen a chocolate fountain before. Moreover, I could not imagine a chocolate fountain that went from the floor to the ceiling with gurgley deliciousness, and I may have imagined the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and pictured myself filling a cup with molten chocolate and drinking it.

I swore that I would never let the Oompa Loompas out of my sight (they're secretly evil and plotting to kill us all, because they are all rhymey and they use poetry to disguise their evil ways. They knew what was going to happen to all those kids. They knew and they let it happen.) Krissy said there were no Oompa Loompas, but I knew the truth. Just because you don't SEE any Oompa Loompas, doesn't mean they don't exist. That just makes them sneaky, like serial killers in iambic pentameter.

Sadly, I did not get my chance to take down the mass-murdering, child-endangering Oompa Loompas. But the candy factory was basically heaven on earth. Not only did the chocolate fountain go all the way to the ceiling, it was also MILK CHOCOLATE, which is the best kind. The fountain was so high, we couldn't drink the chocolate, but there was a ton of chocolate you could eat, and they gave out free samples.

If the chocolate wasn't enough, I spied bins of brightly colored gummi bears.

I have always loved gummi bears. They are fun AND delicious. What was great (and slightly racist) about these gummi bears was that they were divided by flavor. It was gummi bear segregation. The whole thing was sad, until I realized this was my chance to get rid of the gross citrus flavored gummi bears and go right for the good stuff. That was when I saw the pineapple bin. Pineapple gummi bears are easy to confuse with lemon ones, but there is a big difference. Mainly, lemon is gross and pineapple is delicious. Also, there is no evil and potentially deadly red dye number 40 in them.*

"Pineapple gummi bears are the best ones," I told my cousin. "They taste like summertime. And the gummi bear people undervalue them, because they only ever give you one or two in a gummi bear package. Or maybe they know how wonderful the pineapple ones are, and they're messing with us."

My poor cousin is used to this sort of thing from me. She was eight when I was born, so she knows how my brain works and somehow manages to put up with me. She's basically a saint.

Then I saw a giant Pez dispenser complete with giant Pez, and I became distracted.

Did I mention they roast nuts at that factory? They do. Plus, my cousin is allergic to nuts. Plus she is diabetic. And we were in a candy factory. But Krissy had just switched the shots she took around, and for the first time, she could have candy (in moderation). That meant that the novelty of a chocolate fountain was, to Krissy, the same as to me. And my joy was the same as a small child's, because I have never quite managed to grow up. And I don't care to.

The nuts, though, meant we had only about 15 minutes in the candy store, because if we stayed too long, Krissy might get sick without needing to actually eat any of the nuts.

I bought chocolate. When we went out to the car, I noticed Krissy's giant bag. She'd wanted peach rings. But when she reached into the bag, she didn't pull out peach rings. She pulled out a giant bag of pineapple gummi bears. A pound of them. Triumphantly, she handed me the bag, while my eyes swam with visions of dancing gummi bears, taken directly from the 1980s children's cartoon.

I will spare you my response. Let's just say it involved loads of thank-yous. And maybe a short description of the virtues of the pineapple gummi bear.

Late that evening, back at Gran and Grandpa's house, I curled up in the guest room alone, because Mom had taken Grandpa to the hospital to say goodnight to Gran. I started worrying again, so to distract myself, I turned on the television. There was a That 70's Show marathon, and I started watching it. Then I kept watching, but broke open the bag of pineapple gummi bears.

Never think that your eating habits are the same when you're emotional as they are at any other time. They aren't.

At first, the gummi bears tasted glorious, the way gummi bears are supposed to taste, all fresh and lovely. They were such delicious gummi bears, because they were fresh and new, made right there at the factory, not stale and dry and gross like some gummi bears are. After a while, though, I started to notice the taste of that stuff they put on gummi things to keep them from congealing into a giant block of gummi-ness, and it was not so nice.

I mean, that stuff is bitter, and powdery, and weird. I really thought it was gross. And it was all I could taste. It overwhelmed even the perfect taste of the delicious delicious gummi bears.

I decided this meant I'd had enough bears. I picked up the bag and went to seal it, only to notice that a meager eight or nine bears lined the bottom of the bag. I'd eaten nearly the whole bag of gummi bears in one sitting.

This could not be good.

I waited and waited, certain my evening would end in violent stomach revolt, but it didn't. I felt gross, sure, but I never threw up. The gummi bears, it seemed, loved me almost as much as I loved them.

When I thought of this story over the weekend, I realized something. I just THOUGHT the gummi bears loved me. But I think now I know what their game was all along.

I think, when I ate the gummi bears, my body hit its gummi bear threshold, and there was no way it could accept more. But I kept eating them. I think what happed is that my gummi-filled digestive system overflowed gummi bears into various places. I think my gallbladder filled to capacity with gummi bears. Pineapple ones. I think that then, the undigested bears became fossilized like this lady I read about who should have had a baby but didn't, and they discovered she had a fossilized fetus inside her for years. I think the gummi bears went hard like chunks of glass or plastic, they crystalized inside me, which made them stick inside my gallbladder until they started to irritate it, and that is why I had to have my gallbladder removed.

I also think it must have been hard for the Mayo Clinic to know what to do.

For the record, lots of stuff that doctors pull out of me gets sent to the Mayo Clinic, because apparently, I am a freak. Also, that the Mayo Clinic people know me better than I know myself, because they've seen the worst parts of me, pulled out and dissected and under microscopes.

It must have been complicated, when they found the gummi bears in my gallbladder. They must have stared at the bears for a long time, turning them over under magnification while they tried to figure out how on Earth the bears had gotten into my gallbladder in the first place.

But I think, in the end, the doctors decided it would be better if I stayed in the dark. What good would it have done, they thought, had I known the dangers of gummi bear consumption? I could go on with my life feeling safe and comfortable, eating all manner of candies without fear of biological retribution.

Now I know better. Gummi bears are dangerous. And also, I want a chocolate fountain to go in the entrance of my house. And there will be cups, and you can scoop up chocolate when you visit me.

*At least, I hope not. They haven't made me suffer the way some things do. I don't have food allergies, but I do have "food intolerances," mostly to foods laced with chemicals to increase their shelf lives. I try to buy foods with the smallest ingredient lists possible to avoid migraines, throwing up, and all manner of other unpleasant things.