Friday, January 2, 2015


I have to confess I have an addiction that rears its ugly head every holiday season. I’m hooked on Christmas candy.

When I was a kid, I loved something called ribbon candy, which was hard candy flattened into thin ribbons with razor-sharp edges that could amputate your tongue if you weren't careful. But as I got older, I switched to regular hard Christmas candies that come in a can.
The problem with hard candy and me, however, is I’ve always been in the habit of crunching it instead of allowing it to slowly dissolve in my mouth.  My mother spent just about every Christmas season shouting at me to stop crunching or I’d end up with no teeth by the time I was 16.  And I after I got married, my husband took over the anti-crunching nagging.

This year, the week before Christmas, I spotted cans of my favorite Christmas candy, “Washburn’s Old-Fashioned Hard Candy – since 1856,” in the local Family Dollar Store. I bought three cans.

The rest of that week, I savored the flavors – cherry, orange, lime, peppermint, spearmint, clove, lemon, grape, cinnamon and a few flavors I couldn’t identify. I even behaved myself, allowing the candies to slowly dissolve in my mouth.

But alas, one night I lost control and crunched. The minute I did, I knew I was in trouble.

I ran to the bathroom to look into the mirror. One of my bottom teeth, right in front, looked as if it had been struck by lightning and splintered. 

“Oh nooooo!” I groaned. “I’m going to have to go through Christmas looking like an upside-down version of the guy on the cover of Mad Magazine!”

Even worse, when the air hit my tooth, the sharp, stabbing pain made my eyes water. The next morning, I called my dentist. The only available appointment was in three days.

Those three days turned out to be the longest of my life.  And to add to the torture, the whole time I was suffering I kept hearing my mother’s voice (and my husband’s) saying from somewhere up above, “That’s what you get for crunching the candy! We told you not to! Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to us?”

I stayed in the house until the morning of my dental appointment, mainly because I was too embarrassed to go out in public while looking like an extra from the movie, “Deliverance.”

Finally, my appointment arrived.  I expected the worst – a root canal, a crown, a post, a 14K-gold inlay with diamond accents – a second mortgage on my house. But the dentist was able to make the tooth look as good as new without much effort. Even better, I didn’t have to sell any of my body parts to pay for it.

“You broke the tooth really close to the nerve,” she said, “so it might be sensitive for a day or two. But if it turns into a bad toothache or there is any swelling, call me right away.”

I prayed I wouldn’t need to call her because I was pretty sure no dentist on earth, other than Dr. Scrooge, would appreciate being disturbed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I was afraid she might retaliate by putting a hex on me that would cause all of my teeth to ache and throb…and then fall out.

The dentist hadn’t been kidding about the tooth being sensitive. After I brushed my teeth that night and rinsed my mouth with cold water, I made some moves that would have qualified me to be a finalist on the TV program, “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Still, I’d been invited to a party on Christmas Eve, and I was determined to go. But the night before, my tooth reminded me it still was there – and that it was a distant relative of the Marquis de Sade. I spent hours tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep. Desperate, I finally got up and searched through the bathroom cabinet for something to take the edge off the pain. I found a bottle of some painkillers called darvo-something-or-other I’d been given the year before when I’d had oral surgery – but I hadn’t taken any. The expiration date still was a few months away, so I popped two of the pills.

I woke up at 6:30 the next evening.  Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the party. Even worse, I was so drowsy, I went back to bed right after I had something to eat and drink…and slept through most of Christmas Day.

So when people ask me how my Christmas was and I say, “I don’t remember,” they give me a knowing smile, as if they’re thinking I dipped one too many cups into the bowl of eggnog.

But my tooth feels great now.

The day after Christmas, I headed over to Family Dollar for the half-price sale on holiday items. When I passed by the shelf of Washburn’s Old-Fashioned Hard Christmas Candy, I swear I heard a little voice calling out to me, “Pssst! Sally!  Buy me!  I’m your favorite candy, and I’m half-price!  Stock up on me now, for the rest of the year – it’s your only chance! I’m about to disappear again for 11 months!”

Before I knew it, I was flinging cans of candy into my basket.

And as I did, I was certain both my mother and husband were rolling over in their urns.

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