Easter morning Momma woke us, telling us to get up because the Easter Bunny had left eggs for my sister and me to find. We’d hurry to put on our new Easter outfits of spring dress and white shoes. Some years the temperature outside felt more like winter than spring, so we would add a sweater or coat. Other years were rainy, so we would hunt for eggs hidden inside. Then there were the years that were just right – sunny and warm, the scent of blooming flowers filling the air.
Grabbing our baskets filled with green Easter grass, we’d hurry outside. We searched among the clumps of daffodils and irises that filled our large yard, and in lower crotches of the apple trees. We looked beneath the giant oaks whose gnarled, weathered roots protruded from the ground, creating the perfect space to cradle an Easter egg. Before long, our baskets were full of eggs, both hard-boiled eggs, dyed a rainbow of pastel colors, and the brightly colored plastic eggs that pulled apart to reveal one of my favorite Easter treats, jelly beans.
I’ve always preferred chocolate over other candy, so I’m not sure why I anticipated jelly beans on Easter morning. 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 was happy finding them on Easter morning.
Sometimes I ate them one at a time, savoring each distinct flavor. Other times, I put two of the same flavor in my mouth, creating a stronger taste. I also experimented with different combinations to see what they would taste like. While my favorites have always been red cherry and green lime, I enjoyed them all, happy to take the black licorice-flavored ones my sister didn’t like.
I still ate jelly beans as I got older, and was excited to try Jelly Belly® jelly beans when introduced in 1976, fascinated that they could taste like peanut butter, root beer, and buttered popcorn. Smaller than traditional jelly beans, it was hard to eat them one at a time. The package printed combinations to try, such as peanut butter and jelly, and green apple and caramel.
Jelly beans took on a different role in my late 20s. I woke up one Sunday morning with a throbbing, pounding pain above my left eye. Unlike any headache I had experienced, the intense pain drained my energy and left me queasy. Aspirin didn’t help, and I could only escape the pain by sleeping. 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. I tried several prescription medications before discovering the over-the-counter medicines that provided enough relief to allow me to work. I also found 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. After trying gumdrops, candy corn, M&M’s and other chocolates, I found that jelly beans helped the most.
I still get migraines, but they are less frequent and intense. Keeping food in my stomach continues to help the queasiness, but I no longer crave jelly beans. Since I am cutting back on sugar, 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. I smile, recall enjoying them in my past and think to myself that maybe it is time to enjoy them again. I grab a bag, put it in my cart, and anticipate enjoying the sweet taste of jelly beans.