I ate an Andes mint today for the first time in about 20 years. As the candy melted in my mouth while I was driving to the store, I took a sensory-filled trip back in time to my grandparents’ condominium in Lauderhill, Florida. For more than 30 years, this modest two-bedroom apartment was my grandparents’ castle, the place where their children came to visit and their grandchildren came to play.
For most of those three decades, Nanny kept a lucite serving dish on their ridiculously heavy and unwieldy glass coffee table. The dish was divided into sections that held all manner of temptation for visitors possessing a sweet tooth. In the beginning, when my grandparents were still relatively young and people were less attuned to healthy eating habits, my grandmother offered an infinite supply of Andes mints, Hershey miniatures and chocolate-covered espresso beans. When one of the lucite sections was empty, her children and grandchildren all knew where she kept her stash. We were more than happy to replenish the dish while simultaneously siphoning off a few pieces for ourselves.
As my grandparents’ health slowly started to deteriorate, and their son (my father) and friends struggled with health issues of their own, Nanny gradually replaced those chocolate treats with smooth and melty mints (the pink, yellow and green variety) and sugar-free sucking candies. I still recall staying at their place after the switchover to the chocolate-free, and therefore manifestly unappetizing, candies, and sifting through the drawers in the buffet desperately hoping to find a stray piece of the good stuff. Because finding residual good stuff would mean that, for a brief moment, my grandparents were no longer getting older.
Sometime during the late 1990s (or maybe just after the turn of the century), the lucite container went the way of other relics from the early 1980s – into the dustbin of nostalgia and memories. Our favorite self-service candy store was permanently closed.
As the fifth anniversary of Nanny’s death approaches, it’s a happy coincidence that the Andes mint fell into my possession. The mere action of unwrapping the candy and lifting it towards my mouth prompted so many vivid memories of her that for a fleeting instant I could almost hear her whispering in my 14-year old ear, “Go ahead and take one, darling. I know you love those candies. I bought them for you.”