Sour candy never tasted so sweet


It was your typical scenario for an elementary school dance.

The boys lined up against one side of the gymnasium while the girls huddled in giggly groups on the other side.

It was the annual Valentine’s Day dance, and I was in the fourth grade. Boys no longer had the cooties, and my friends and I were ready dance the night away...until 8 p.m.

My mother bought me a pink dress with red hearts, lined with lace. It may have been on the sale rack from the local Sears store, but I felt like a million bucks. She curled my hair, and even let me wear cotton candy-colored lip gloss.

Like the rest of the girls in my class, we gathered in the corner, waiting for the boy of our dreams to come ask us to dance.

The lights sparkled against a giant disco ball, and the music echoed through the gymnasium as our hearts pounded with excitement.

The boys, however, could care less about our hair and pretty dresses. They lined the other side of the gym, doing what little boys do.

Michael was popping his double-jointed arm in and out.

Mitch was blowing up a Whoopie Cushion.

Patrick looked as he might start licking the punch bowl, and Tommy was trying his hardest to hit on the high school girls who agreed to chaperone.

As Firehouse’s “Love of a Lifetime” blared through the speakers, a few boys worked up enough nerve to come ask a few girls to dance.

Saving room for the Holy Ghost, hands were placed on hips and shoulders. And dance moves consisted of swaying back and forth.

As I watched my friends dance, I remained alone at the wall. No one had asked me to dance yet. But my heart skipped a beat when I saw David walking toward me.

With his hands shoved in his pockets, he shuffled up to me. He was wearing a crooked tie that was too short and almost certainly a clip-on, but I thought he was a dreamboat.

“I don’t dance so I’m not gonna ask you to,” he said, very matter-of-factly. “But do you want to go get something to eat.”

I agreed, and the two of us were off to the food table, filled with cookies, tea sandwiches, fruit cups and cake. But in the far corner of the table was a platter filled with sweets and candies.

“Do you like those Shock Tarts,” David asked, pointing to a bowl.

Shock Tarts are chewy, circular candy pieces that are extremely sour. And, yes, I loved them.

Being a true romantic, David began to grin as he spoke up.

“Hey, you want to see who can put the most Shock Tarts in their mouth without breaking down,” he asked. “They’re sour as all get out, but I bet I can beat you.”

Challenge accepted.

As lovebirds danced behind us, David and I were huddled over the candy bowl, shoving the sour pieces of candy in our mouths.

“You give?” he asked, with tears in his eyes.

I shook my head “no” and added two more to my mouth. I was a sure-win.

Then David began to look really green. He suddenly stopped shoving the sour candies in his mouth.

And then it happened...he got sick right there at the food table.

I was in shock. A silly challenge had crippled my class crush to his knees as he began to look to the sky for relief.

I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to hand it to him.

“No, I’m fine,” he whimpered, grabbing his stomach. “I’m sorry. I should have just danced.”

As the chaperones guided David out of the gymnasium, I stood alone with Shock Tarts in my mouth.

But I was in love.

And the sour candy suddenly tasted really sweet.