Jelly Beans

Easter morning Momma would wake us, telling my sister and me to get up because the Easter Bunny had come and left behind eggs for us to find. We’d hurriedly get dressed in our new Easter outfit of spring dress and white shoes. Some years the temperature outside felt more like winter than spring, and we would add a sweater or coat; other years were rainy, meaning the eggs had been hidden inside. Then there were the years that were just right – sunny and warm, the air filled with the scent of blooming spring flowers.

Grabbing our Easter baskets filled with green Easter grass, we’d excitedly hurry outside, and begin searching our large yard among the clumps of daffodils, in lower crotches of the apple trees, and beneath the giant oaks whose gnarled, weathered roots protruded from the ground, creating the perfect space to cradle an Easter egg. It didn’t take us long to fill our baskets with hard-boiled eggs, dyed a rainbow of pastel colors, and for the more brightly colored plastic eggs that pulled apart to reveal jelly beans, one of my favorite Easter treats.

I’ve always been more of a chocolate eater when it comes to candy, so I’m not sure why I looked forward to jelly beans. Maybe it was because I didn’t eat them very often. Maybe it was the sweet taste of the different flavors: grape, lemon, orange, lime, and cherry. Perhaps it was the slight crunch of the outer shell that gave way to the jelly center. Whatever the reason, I always looked forward to finding them on Easter morning.

Sometimes I ate them one at a time, slowly savoring the flavors. Other times, I put two of the same flavor in my mouth, creating a stronger flavor. I also experimented with different flavor combinations to see what they would taste like. While my favorites have always been red cherry and green lime and I would save a couple of each to eat last, I enjoyed all of them, gladly taking the black licorice-flavored ones my sister didn’t like.

As my sister and I got older, hunting eggs was replaced by receiving an Easter basket holding a chocolate Easter Bunny and plastic eggs filled with jelly beans. I occasionally ate jelly beans occasionally after that, especially after Jelly Belly jelly beans were introduced in 1976. I was fascinated that jelly beans really could taste like peanut butter, root beer, and buttered popcorn. Smaller than traditional jelly beans, it was easy to put several in your mouth at once, the package even giving flavor combinations to enhance the experience.

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One Sunday in February when I was 28, I woke up with a throbbing, pounding pain above my left eye. Unlike any headache I had ever experienced, the intense pain drained my energy and left my stomach queasy. Aspirin didn’t help, and I could only escape the pain by going to sleep. The next day my doctor diagnosed it as a migraine.

It was the first of many, coming every other month and lasting for three days. After trying several prescriptions, I eventually found that over-the-counter medicines provided enough relief to allow me to work and that keeping food in my stomach eased the queasiness. What I craved most was something sweet, the sugar perhaps giving me some energy when I hurt so badly, and after trying gumdrops, candy corn, M&M’s and other chocolates, I found that traditional jelly beans provided the most relief. And it had to be traditional jelly beans, not Jelly Belly jelly beans, the flavors from my past giving the most relief.

My migraines still come, but with less frequency and intensity. I still find it helps to keep food in my stomach, but no longer crave jelly beans. I am also trying to cut back on sugar, so I rarely buy them, or any candy, these days. But every so often, I walk down the aisle in the grocery store, notice the rows and rows of candy, and see the bags of colorful jelly beans hanging there. I smile, recall enjoying them on Easter mornings, and also finding relief from migraine pain. Maybe it is time for a treat, I think. So I grab a bag, put it in my cart, and look forward to enjoying the sweet taste of jelly beans.

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