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Along the hardwood floor, pitter patter. My small, barefoot, childish feet take me to the kitchen. The house I have come to know, not my own but similar. I stand in the kitchen, behind the screen of a sliding door. My gaze is set across the lawn and through the slatted fence to my own home. A house, much like the other ones in my somewhat grand but cookie-cutter-esque neighborhood. It is pale olive green and it is encircled by trimmed hedges and seasonal Home Depot flowers. The rope swing that I so loved swayed gently, its red disc seat spinning slowly in spring's gusts. I thought of being on the swing, how I always kept my feet out to push off the towering tree, being frightened every time I twirled, losing sight of the trunk. Waiting for its hard bark to hit me in the back or scratch my elbow. It was a captivating thing, I thought, staring into your own yard, seeing how a passerby might view your life and all that surrounds it.
From behind me, I heard the sound of another child running down the hallway. Though it was loud enough to be an adult, I knew it wasn’t. Couldn’t be an adult, they didn’t skip and bobble and bounce like we did. They only walked slow and in long strides, their head slightly tilted to the floor, like an elephant that lost its herd. “Ewwa!” The sound of a tot that had just awaken from a nap, and didn’t know how to pronounce L’s. We sat at the granite counter and waited for Susan, the mother, to produce a snack for us. From the cabinet, she grabbed three little cups, the size of clementines, and set them before us. One blue, one pink, and one green. What she took from the cabinet next was what made me smile. Goldfish. The best snack in the entire world, universe, galaxy to me at the time. Salty and crunchy and artificially orange in all their glory.
Since I could write I would scribble, in my newly learned lowercase letters 'goldfish' on the grocery list. Though my mom would've bought them regardless, knowing my little self well. Wherever we would travel, whether hours or minutes, I would always have a handful, the bag sitting somewhere nearby. Except for when my older brother came along. Then it was usually in his grasp. He would hold the bag and I would cup my hands, holding my arms out, begging for a handful of the crunchy snack. He would take one single fish out of the bag, holding it between his thumb and pointer finger, and drop it in my hand from an absurd height. And then I would eat it and repeat the begging. This was the most evil thing he could do, deprive me of my beloved snacks. The most innocent and evil thing. I always think of these moments. A yearning to just take the bag and do the same to him as he did to me, one fish at a time. Slow and painful in the softest form of the phrase. As much as they were small and fleeting, these moments were lessons, I now see. An attempt for patience, which I have still not yet attained, an attempt for moderation, which I still do not understand.
Not only do they remind me of fond days, and summer at the beach and marsh air, but they are relative with my personality. Covered with salt. Much like my attitude. Not that I am mean or rude, but I use sarcasm as a layer. Like Pepperidge Farm uses salt. For taste or for protection of the fake cheese blandness or just because that's how they should be, that's what gives them their flavor. If I didn't have this kick of sharp humor on my tongue, I would be bland. I'd be an unsalted almond, and I'm allergic to those, much like I'm allergic to people with no sense of humor.
This snack is a memory. Each goldfish is a minute and with each one, I fly back in time. To my childhood and to lessons and learning and running. They remind me of childhood friends and current friends, my parents, my brother, and car rides. Most of all, they keep me young, because every time I see them I think of how young I was and still am, and how I wish I could be forever. To say that a food can keep you young is an odd thing, but it’s the mind that keeps young with them, even if the body withers. It is a powerful thing, to be taken to a different place with a song or a smell or a taste. I learn something new every time I go back. That items can’t keep you company. Money doesn’t buy happiness. A big house with lots of stuff doesn’t make you feel full. Good days last only as long as you hold onto them. And the little things in life are what make everything worth it. These memories are what I live for, and the hope that I will always have them is what keeps me making more. Goldfish are life, in a sense. They keep me fed, keep me happy, keep me remembering, keep me grateful. That is why I am what I eat.