I like a little bubbly as much as the next gal, but this New Year’s, it wasn’t on my shopping list.
I was craving something a little different.
“Could it be wine?” I wondered.
Nope, that wasn’t it.
“How about beer?” I thought to myself.
Nah, that wasn’t it either.
No, definitely not.
What I wanted couldn’t be found at the liquor store or a bar.
It wasn’t until I stopped at my local supermarket that I found what I was looking for.
The moment I saw it I was transported back to 1996.
It was as if I was dropped in aisle 7 of the Bel Air Giant Food store wearing a Grey Taz sweater, Tigger jacket and my Tweetie converse.
I was tugging on my mom’s blue cardigan as I begged her to buy the most coveted drink of all 10-year-olds...
“Pleeeeaaassssseee, Mom,” I said.
“No, Jennifer, it’s got tons of sugar.”
“But Lindsay’s mom bought it for her to bring to school.”
“That’s very nice but I am not buying it for you.”
I gave her an exaggerated eye roll, which made me feel better momentarily.
But then I had a grand idea.
As she went to go find a bag for the Red Delicious apples, I snuck it under a bag of baby carrots and navel oranges.
Because it was orange too.
So when we got to the counter, my mom asked me to put the items on the belt. As I hurriedly put the 8-pack of Sunny D’s up there, I heard her say my name in a drawn-out, disappointed tone.
I turned in fear but I decided to give her an innocent smirk, which to my surprise, caused her to say, “Oh, go ahead.”
When I bought Sunny D this time, I didn’t have to hide it under the oranges or carrots.
As I put it in the cart, I couldn’t wait to pull that strip around the top, open the pliable plastic cap and pour it in a glass.
Because the last time I drank it I didn’t have a care in the world.
I also had a mother who was alive and well.
When I placed it on the belt, I would have given anything to fight with her about buying it.
But when the cashier asked me if I had a Bonus Card, I snapped back to reality...
The reality I now must face every morning when I wake up...
The reality without my mother.
But then I grinned as I watched the cashier put it in my bag.
I thought to myself...
Just like Frosty the Snowman can come to life every Christmas with a little “Christmas snow,” my mom can come to life the moment I crack open that tiny bottle.
Like champagne, I saved it for a nice occasion.
When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I made myself French toast with the mouth-watering maple syrup my boyfriend bought me from Maine, a pair of turkey sausage patties and a bunch of fresh strawberries.
And, of course, I washed it all down with Sunny D.
The second the familiar orange-flavored drink touched my lips, I laughed.
Because my mother was right.
It tasted like liquid sugar.
It had zero nutritional value...
It had a thick syrupy aftertaste...
But I drank every last drop.
Because with each sip, she came alive to me.
I only wish that I could have jumped in that glass and done freestyle all the back to that grocery store and tell her how much I love her, but I have a feeling she already knows.
And she knows that this New Year’s I am toasting her...
But I’m doing it with Sunny D.
And you should too.
If you’re missing a loved one, find the most nostalgic drink on the planet that reminds you of them and go buy a glass or a case, even.
Then, come home and nurse it.
The memories will flood back to you, I promise.
And then you will feel renewed in your love for your lost sweet someone, just as if they were drinking it alongside you.