The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Golden Treat

By Virginia L. Kroll © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

When the fruit basket arrived from Aunt Mary for Christmas, we all eagerly laid our claims. Tammy bellowed for the banana, Crystal pounced on the pear, and Heather grabbed the grapes. I, Megan, wasn't too picky; I guess that came from years of practice at being the youngest. This time, at least, there was more than enough fruit for everyone. I didn't have to plead for the plums.

We had never received a fruit basket before, so it was an exciting event, but the novelty wore off soon enough as our "sweet teeth" took over again.

One of the nicest things about the holiday season was the enormous amount of treats at our house. Besides the beautiful gingerbread house my mom always made, there was fruitcake from Aunt Carol, Aunt Dawn's special fudge, and a box of assorted candies from Mom's co-worker, Penny. Mrs. Beitz brought over ribbon candy every year, and we ourselves made cookies galore!

The fruit had dwindled down somehow without our noticing until there was one piece left.

"Anyone want this last apple?! asked Mom after dinner one night.

"Not me," came a triple response from my sisters.

"It's the wrong color," I said. "Who'd want to eat a yellow apple?"

We all started clamoring for cookies. That's when Mom decided to put her foot down - hard.

"That's it. No more sweets. That will be our New Year's resolution. You girls have gotten out of hand with your eating habits," she said.

The new regime was torture. Mom's shopping habits changed to fit the new scheme that she was also enforcing on us. Little boxes of raisins started to appear where cookies used to be. A piece of cheese was considered a "treat."

Too old for tantrums, we moaned and carried on in a reserved sort of manner. We even tried the silent treatment, but our tactics didn't work. Mom pretended she didn't see or hear them. Her Shopping Without Sugar quest continued unchecked.

One morning before her regular shopping night, the list sat on the countertop in its usual place. I tried to sneak on a few items and then I went to school and hoped for the best for later.

That afternoon, it started to snow, which by itself, is not an unusual occurrence where I live. But then it started to blow. After lunch, we were dismissed early. The weathermen were talking about a "lake effect" blizzard. We knew from experience that that wasn't good.

Mom took two hours getting home from work; she normally takes twenty minutes. "It's brutal out there!" she exclaimed, snow-covered and shivering. "And it's supposed to get worse. At least we're all home together now; that always makes me feel more comfortable in a storm."

She hung up her coat and rubbed her hands together. "We'll make omelets tonight. It's too late to start anything else."

The blizzard continued through the night and into the following day. Snow kept falling, and winds gusted up to 55 miles per hour.

Our area was in a state of emergency. Roads were impassable, and people were stranded everywhere. School was closed for four days; so was Mom's office. Our phone was out of order. Many people had no electric power. There was no regular music on any of the radio stations. The announcers kept updating the forecast and issuing pleas for anyone with a snowmobile to do emergency errands. They kept warning everyone about how to dress if you did actually have to go out because you could get frostbitten in a matter of minutes. We had never thought a storm of any kind could be this bad! It was exciting and frightening at the same time.

"Just think of all the people who really do go to bed hungry every night," said Crystal.

We all talked about how awful it would be. "We really are lucky compared to them," declared Tammy, and we began discussing programs we could look into to help hungry people.

By the third day when our food supply had dwindled further, we all felt hungrier than usual, and all we could think about was food. "That's just human nature," Mom said. "Ordinarily you wouldn't even want some of the things we've eaten in the past few days. At this point, anything sounds good."

Suddenly I remembered. I ran to the fruit basket and got out that last yellow apple.

"Megan, I'll split it with you," said Heather when she saw it, as if she'd be doing me a favor.

"That's not fair," Tammy asserted, with Crystal yelling, "Mom!"

The apple that had sat unwanted for weeks in a basket that we had pushed out of sight was suddenly in great demand.

"There's only one fair solution to this problem," said Mom, pretending she was going to eat the apple all by herself. She laughed at our expressions, then took out a knife and cut it into quarters, handing us each one. "You can have my share," she joked. "Enjoy."

That evening, as the wind whistled through the woodwork and shook the sugared treats everywhere on the supermarket shelves, my sisters and I savored the sweetest, most memorable, golden treat we'll probably ever share.