Written by Tony Vanderwarker
“What? Are you crazy?” my wife said when I put the Pops in the cart. “You’re not eleven anymore, why in the world would you want to eat sugared cereal?”
I didn’t have a ready answer to her question so I just shrugged. Maybe it was a Proustian thing and Sugar Corn Pops were my answer to madeleines? Just as the taste of a madeleine made by his aunt took Marcel Proust, the French novelist, back to his early years. Was this a belated attempt to return to my youth?
As Annie started to return the box to the shelf, I grabbed it and said, “These are my madeleines.”
“You know, Proust, he went for madeleines and they took him back to his childhood,” I said, taking the box out of her hands.
“C’mon, you’re no Marcel Proust and these are no madeleines, these are little sugared pebbles kids eat.”
I turned my back to her so she couldn’t get the box and that was when she realized people were staring at us. Two adults fighting over a box of Sugar Pops in the supermarket while talking about madeleines and Marcel Proust.
Seeing her drop her guard, I slipped the box into our open bag.
“You can’t let anyone see you doing this,” she huffed, stuffing the box down into the bottom.
The next morning, I went for the Sugar Pops and poured myself a bowl. Getting the milk out of the fridge, I saw a box of blueberries. Hmm, that might be tasty, I thought, shaking some berries on top of the Pops. I set the box on the counter and admired the front. I noticed “Sugar” was gone from the name but the box was as campy as ever. Big POPS in cherry red letters against a sunny yellow background, outlines around the letters so they seemed to shake and a big bowl of Pops below with waves of milk lapping over them. Andy Warhol would have been proud.
“So, Mr. Proust, we feeling eleven again?” my wife sneered as she came in and saw me chowing down.
“Not yet, just passing into thirteen, but by the time I’ve finished, maybe I’ll make it there.”
“I can’t believe you’re eating this,” she said, picking up the box and thumping it down on the counter. “Nine grams of sugar—this is crap.”
“With blueberries, its actually pretty tasty,” I said.
Now I’d gathered information in defense of my breakfast choice, so reading off my iPad, I said, “Listen to this–as Proust wrote, ‘No sooner had the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent on the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me—this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence.’”
“Precious essence—my ass, you’re getting a damn sugar rush from eating junk food.”
“Actually I did get a vision of the kitchen of our house where I grew up.”
“Right, and if you’re having visions I think you should see someone,” she said, with just the slightest tone of contempt.
Annie has given up now that I’m on my fourth box and am a regular Sugar Pops abuser. But just to minimize marital disruption, I stalk the cereal aisle by myself now, keep the box behind my back and quickly sneak it into the bag when she’s not looking. We do the auto checkout so she doesn’t notice the box until we get home and its too late. As she says, “As long as no one sees you, I guess it’s alright.”
And if you see Annie on the street, do me a favor and don’t tell her you know Tony eats Sugar Corn Pops. Things will be far better off that way.