Strawberry Consent

My Grandma had this little white mailbox next to her rocking chair. It was adorned with a little red cardinal. And it was full to the brim with little strawberry candies. You know the ones? You'll find them sometimes buried deep in a dish at the front of a restaurant.

I knew if I went over when the flag on the mailbox was up and gave her a kiss, she'd open the box and I'd get a candy. I love those candies. But what I loved more was her warmth. And her smell. And her face pressed against mine when she kissed me.

"Times have changed."

After former Vice President Joe Biden uttered those words the other day, I've been thinking. I've been thinking about growing up in the 80's in a European family. It was a sign of respect to kiss the elder in your family and ask for their blessing every time you greeted them. Touching and kissing were part of our Portuguese culture. I was thinking how sad it would be to lose that if times, in fact, have actually changed.

In the middle of all these nostalgic memories, and me regaling them to my husband, I stopped myself. These weren't all good memories. My brain only remembered the touches and kisses and the moments that were good. The kisses from my grandmother. The hugs from my dad. Somehow it blocked out the countless times I didn't want to kiss someone or ask for their blessing. How, even as a child, I knew I didn't want that kind of affection from everyone. No, not everyone.

What I wouldn't give to get one more kiss from my Grandma. Whenever I'm paying my bill at a restaurant counter, I always dig through the candy dish to see if I'll find a silver and red wrapped strawberry. The taste makes me remember her face pressed against mine. And I can picture that little flag up on the mailbox letting me know that there was a kiss waiting - if I wanted one.

Chris Farias