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April Jeppson: Joy from being the candy Santa this year

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

 

I’m walking through the aisles of Walmart, grabbing a few groceries for my last-minute trip up north to see my folks. My family had COVID-19 a few weeks ago, so my parents feel safer having us up for a short visit before the holidays. I know they are still pretty isolated in order to keep themselves healthy, so I took the initiative to bring a few groceries with me — bread, ketchup, butter. As I’m walking to get the items on my short list, the holiday candy aisle calls to me. 

I begin to wander down the aisle, not sure exactly what I’m doing here when I see the chocolate-covered oranges. As a child this was one of my favorite Christmas treats. There was something magical about whacking the orange and having it fall apart into little slices. I thought it was so cool how the slices were all printed to look just like real orange slices, and it even tasted like orange! I thought, I need to grab one of these for my folks.

April Jeppson

Then the reality hit me that underneath my parents’ Christmas tree was probably looking bare. Any presents that were under it would more than likely be going home with me. My folks do not buy a ton of gifts for each other, and my extended family keeps their holiday shopping limited to a dice game they all play. So, I had the brilliant idea to buy all the Christmas candy that I grew up on, and then put that under their tree when I arrived. Like a candy Santa. 

I got the orange. Then I saw the chocolate-covered cherries. Oh man, I love those too! I’m pretty sure one of my folks thinks they’re nasty, but I ate them as a kid so one of my folks liked them. Threw in some peanut brittle because who doesn’t like that? My aunt was in the Navy growing up, so she’d always send a Pepperidge Farm care package with various meats, cheeses and crackers, so I had to grab a small one of those. Ferrero Rocher, Lindt Truffles, Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramels —  mmm. The distinctive blue tin of those Danish cookies. I’m not sure what country they originate from, but I call them Danish. I’m pretty sure my great-grandma had them at her house. Then a big box of pecan turtles. 

When I was a kid, I got $20 to go shopping for my family. I would buy my mom a pair of soft socks, my brother would get a pack of baseball cards and I got my dad a small box of Russell Stover chocolates. For three or four years in a row that’s the way I broke down $20. So, seeing a big box of those Forrest Gump chocolates gave me such flashbacks that into the pile they went. My cart was getting full. 

Then it hits me right in the feels. For years I never bought my family gifts because I couldn’t afford it. I barely bought my own children gifts. Between grandparents and extended family, my kids each had enough gifts where they didn’t even realize that none of them were from Brian and me. So, the fact that I was at a point in my life where I could afford to spoil my parents the way they use to spoil me, it brought tears to my eyes.

Not once did I need to price check. Not once did I need to pull out my calculator and make sure that I brought enough money for the purchases I was trying to make. Not once did I have to put something back because I was afraid I couldn’t afford it. Instead, all I could think about was how much fun it would be to put all this stuff under my parents’ tree. They’ve been helping me and surprising me for almost 40 years, it was time I returned the favor a little. They would be able to have a small token of tangible proof of how deeply I love them and how thankful I was to have them. 

Bringing all those treats was as much fun as I imagined. The fastest way to really feel joy and make yourself happy is to make someone else happy. Giving, serving, helping — those are the ways that bring true happiness. They are also the fastest ways to get into the Christmas spirit, with or without snow. 

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.