Yes, in my faraway kid hood, are many memories. It is quite a thing, when you think about it. Our memories. The filing cabinets of our minds. From time to time, one of the drawers slide open, and out pops a memory from its little manila folder, filed under the letter “V” for Uncle Vick. Or the letter “J” for Jelly Beans. It could be from any time or any where.
The long-ago memory that hit me this morning is the floor of our pantry. Yes, in the back hallway, off our kitchen, was a coat closet. At some point, Dad added a few shelves, and this became our makeshift pantry. It had sliding, fabricated wood doors. The left half was the pantry part, and the door on that side was always open.
The storage area mostly housed can goods. A few boxes of jello, or corn bread mix. Beans. Noodles. Those sorts of things. But there were two places which were off limits. The very upper top shelves, that only the tall people could reach. Or, a short, blonde-headed girl who had pushed a kitchen chair into the proximity. This was the “snack” haven. There would be a box of pretzel sticks there, or maybe some Cheese-Its. Sometimes a jar of Dry Roasted Peanuts. These snacks were not for us kids. At all.
On the bottom of the pantry was the other “off limits” site. This is where the six pack of Coca-Cola bottles lived. We weren’t allowed to have it very often, but when we did, it was always Coca-Cola. Never Pepsi. The Coke-Drinking typically happened on a weekend night. And it somehow involved a pan of popcorn. It didn’t happen regularly, but when it did, we were like the Orangutans, when the Banana Truck pulled up at the zoo.
The guy who made me think of all this was a wounded veteran of the Civil War. As this day, July 8th, is his birthday, from the year 1831. It is George Pemberton. Yes, wounded in battle, he invented Coca-Cola as an intended substitute to morphine. I knew I liked that drink for a reason. Pemberton sold the rights to the drink shortly before his death at age 57. He died of stomach cancer, by the way, which doesn’t bode well for Coke-drinking.
His life was a little sad. John was a brilliant guy. He earned his medical degree by the time he was 19, and he went on to be a Pharmacist. Being from Georgia, he went to fight during the Civil War, for the Confederate side of things. It was there, that he took a saber to the chest. He became highly addicted to morphine and that ruled the rest of his life.
The condensed version? Coke started out as a pain killer, sans all the morphine. It later evolved into a fountain drink. Right after Coca-Cola hit the market, Dr. Pemberton fell ill. He was also nearly bankrupt, due to his morphine habit. He was desperate for money, so he sold all his rights to Coke. He died bankrupt. And addicted.
Today, Coca-Cola is one of the wealthiest brands on the planet.
And there it was, in its early formative years, on the floor of our pantry, in green glass bottles that fetched a nickel for deposit. We had a bottle opener anchored to a wall in our kitchen. There was always a big smile at the end of the arm, holding that bottle, when the cap popped off.
That’s another thing, then. That came out of our pantry. Those pleasures. And a reminder. We can find every day joys in the little things. Our lives can light up in little moments, if we let it. Not every piece of our time may be cheerful and bright. But we have those occasions when we can find sparks of gladness and bliss. For all the moments before and after. For the everything that led up to that instance of good.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
― Marianne Williamson
“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
― Oscar Wilde