The taste of the Past is…

The flavor of Trix brand cereal.

I just realized what it was.

Cheap sweet orange.

All those different colors and different shapes simply added different layers and dimensions to the cheap sweet orange taste. You can replicate that cereal with a cup of lady grey tea, heavy cream, and a touch of whatever vanilla sweet-thing you choice (my discovery drink was an almond-vanilla stevia, hence hitting that cheap bitterish orange flavor right on the head).

I often wondered why on cold winter Pacific Northwest or Virginian nights something almost chest achingly nostalgic happened when I would sit down under the dim lighting of yellow-white string lights, curled up under a fuzzy blanket, with a pot of one of my life-long favorite teas.

It wasn’t just the repetition of this scene. It wasn’t just the comfort of these items and what they meant to me. It wasn’t just the ritual of preparing for yet another long night sitting with characters I needed to get to know better (ever better). There was something distinctly “childhood”, distinctly that mauve tiled kitchen in Simi Valley, distinctly my past about it.

I catch it every once in a while. These sweeping gasps of the past. These breathless little windows into who I once was, sensing like a fifth bundle of receptors the potential in everything I once felt (but had not experienced enough loss to know I’d felt it yet).

It was the Trix trick.

Not even the moment of eating the cereal. That always passed in a kind of reader’s haze where I would read and re-read the labels and ads on the back because the repetition gave me a confidence in language that my school teachers didn’t. And the simplicity of the words, the colors, the funny cartoon characters all said — “It’s okay, little Rei. You can read.”

Only, they didn’t call me that name because I hadn’t happened upon myself yet. So they called me dearie, sweetie pie, and sugar because I refused their name-seeking advances.

It’s the grey milk that I would drink down to fill the last corners of my belly when all was said and done. Grey from all the bled-out food coloring. It tasted like cream because my dad always bought nonfat milk unless I could finagle a half-gallon of whole with a series of pleases and clipped coupons I’d spent the upwards of a Sunday morning/afternoon working on. And the flavor is distinctly vanilla-tinged cheap sweet orange. A little cardboardy, a hint of the crinkly plastic bag, a lot too sweet. It tightens my stomach in nausea, but by this age — I pay it no mind.

I’m deep in the throws of early stage sugar addition. This will in future years equal lots of pain and weird dietary needs. But I, sitting at the table with a cream colored bowl that has a blue pinstripe around the edge, don’t know it yet. I set the bowl down and think I’m content. I’ll get up from this scene and watch TV or train my dog to jump through rings or ride my slightly too-tall mountain bike up the street to my best friend’s house where we’ll play some kind of role playing game like “spies and walkie-talkies” or “plant the garden this summer”.

This moment of child bliss is where I go every time dairy fat mixes with slightly bitter vanilla-tinged orange. Right there. To that moment. The one where I’m walking across plush mauve colored carpet through a bar of southern California sunlight as it pours in from two wide back patio doors. This, the golden-tinted era of my life where I could have become anything. Could have spoken any language. Could have amounted to a veterinarian. Could have become an orchestral singer. Could have become this. Right now.

A young(ish) writer on the way up. Part time barista, part time baker. Full time story teller and world traveler. Never settled. Always seeking. Wings, owl-like, speckled and spread into yet another unknown night. Hunting, hunting, hunting.

I can’t say the regrets I have stack the library against my feelings of assurance that yes — this road. This is it. And this forest of western red cedars, monkey pod trees, and low coffee shrubbery — this is my home. Imaginary, yes. But all the same.

I’m content.

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