When I was in high school, sometimes lunch would be a visit to the vending machine. I was working at least one job (sometimes 2-3) so spare time was often spent catching up on homework, or sleep. Many days, I recall walking into Algebra 2 carrying a can of Coke Classic and a bag of “Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream” chips. I’d start eating them just before the class bell rang and finish off the Coke during the hour. It gave me some energy, I loved the flavors of the sweet with the salty, and kept me going until I’d start my next work shift after school.
I was young when Ruffles had an ad campaign “Ruffles have rrrriiidddges” the ad went. Today Ridg has Ruffles. In the ad they would roll the R just like we did in Spanish class. But my folks wouldn’t ever buy them for me. So I started doing it for myself in high school.
When I was teaching college, a former student, Joey, brought these to my attention. He was Canadian, living in the U.S., and these were a taste of home. I think he must have shared some with me because I went out and bought my own bag promptly. Ruffles releases these seasonally and the last time I saw them in the store was 20 months ago.
One of the odd things about losing someone you love is the little things that come up after they’re gone. Some of those reminders are regulars and the scary ones are random. “Days” often fall into this regular category.
It was a Monday. It was the 28th. It was October.
His birthday was August 22.
And then every 28th, I’m aware that another month has passed. His next birthday will be the second without him. In October it will be two full years since he died.
Every. Single. One of his siblings’ birthdays reminds me that he’s not physically here to celebrate with us. And he was such a celebrator with a raucous laugh and mirthful eyes.
While the regular category enables me (often) to prepare myself for what’s coming. It’s the random category that I fear the most because I can be anywhere – anytime and like a car with no brakes it will hit me from the periphery, with barely a sideways glance. The really peculiar thing about today is that I thought about it yesterday at the grocery store. I was looking at some ingredients for a chickpea salad and went walking by the chips aisle. I glanced down to the Ruffles to see if “All Dressed” were in stock. They weren’t.
The bag I bought after Joey’s recommendation disappeared soon after I got home with it. I had opened it up, eaten a couple, then folded it up, and put them on top of the cupboard. Gabriel was home at the time and saw the blue and white bag against the light maple cabinet and took it down to try for himself. AND THEN ATE THE WHOLE BAG.
Soon, I went to throw something away, there, at the top of the heap, sat the crumpled Ruffles chip bag. There was nothing for me to do except go back to the store and buy two more bags. And this was how it went for the next couple of years. If I saw that Ruffles had released another “season” of this flavor I’d buy two bags knowing that Gabriel loved them as much as I did and we could sit and eat and bond over this gustatory experience. So every time I’ve gone into a grocery store since he passed, I’ve glanced at the chips aisle to see if they had “All Dressed.” Prior to today, no one had.
Last night before going to bed, I saw a post for “Drunken Spaghetti” and thought, “Some sun-dried tomatoes would go good in that as well as in that Greek Chickpea Salad” and decided to go back to the store. I picked up pasta and rounded the corner to get red wine to finish off my shopping and staring at me from an end cap was Ruffles “All Dressed” chips. And my heart just stopped. “Where the fuck were you yesterday when I had somewhat prepared myself to see you?”
I grabbed a bag, of course, and then completely forgot what I was doing next. I ended up circumnavigating the store twice before getting the remainder of my short list, and even then at the checkout, I could barely hear what the cashier was saying, blood still pounding in my ears.
Safely bicycling back home, I reached for a soda and a bowl and opened up this bag. In typing this entry, I’ve already eaten over half the bag. A fairly atypical response from me, honestly. I’ll buy chips once or twice a month and a bag can last for that duration at times.
But I’m eating for two today, remembering our laughs, and my tears. Sweet and salty.