True happiness is a cold Coke

“Whaaat, huh? I wanna hear you scream! In the jungle, welcome to the jungle…” My cell phone is cut off mid-Axle Rose as I flip it open to see who’s calling. It’s Sean. Again.

“Hey Sean, what’s up?”

“Hey Sarah. Listen, I think we’re going to have some problems with the front page layout.”

I concentrate on breathing and pretend that I am not already frustrated by deadlines with classes that constitute my 17 credit hours. I continue cruising the Krogers parking lot looking for a parking space, when an old man in an old-man car chooses that moment to pull out of his parking space-directly in front of me. I slam on my brakes, and say something uncomplimentary under my breath while waiting. I blink, then realize that Sean is still talking.

“…and she didn’t even let me know.”

“Er…Sean? Sorry, I’m kinda caught up in something. What was that?”

“I said that Nicole wasn’t able to get our dominant image taken because her battery ran out on her digital. She couldn’t make it to the office to replace the batteries on time, and she didn’t even let me know.”

I sigh. Great, that’s just what I need. I swing into the recently vacated parking space and shove the car into park when the other line starts beeping.

“Hey, Sean? I’ve got another call coming in, let me get back to you on that.”

“Alright. I’ll do what I can and we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

I switch over to the other line while stuffing my keys into my purse and locking the doors. It’s my husband.

“Hey honey, were you able to pick up some groceries?” he asks.

“I’m at Krogers now. I’ll pick up a few things and meet you at home.”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you there. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

I drop the phone into my purse, hoping that it’ll stay silent for a while longer and march into Krogers.

I’ve got 30 minutes max before I need to head home, start dinner, throw some laundry in and hopefully read a couple of chapters of Jane Eyre while dinner is cooking. I’m throwing random items of food into the cart hurriedly and swerving around small children when I happen to glance up at the bakery section.

They’ve got a little refrigerator on the counter with glass-bottle Cokes in it. I haven’t seen those in forever. I stand there for a moment, then grab one and toss it in the basket of the cart.

When I’m done, I throw all of my items on the belt at the cashier’s station quickly and hand over my Krogers card. She hold up my little glass-bottle Coke and asks me if I want to leave it out. Sure, I say. I drop it into my enormous purse, then sign the credit card slip and race back out to the car.

When I’ve unloaded everything in the trunk, I get back into the car and sit down heavily when I suddenly remember my little Coke.

I fish it out and look at it. It sure doesn’t look they way that it did when I was a kid, I thought wistfully. This Coke was a squat little 10 oz. The ones that I remembered were tall 16 oz. bottles that were hourglass-shaped.

I shrug the thought away and take a big swig. The glass from the bottle clinks against my teeth and I get that familiar burning at the back of my throat. The Coke is so cold that it brings tears to my eyes. I can’t help saying “Ahhh” out loud and smiling.

That taste, that singular taste of Coke in a glass bottle took me back-way back. Back to 1986 and Sulpher Springs, Indiana. I was 6 years old then, and my brother Justin was about 4 years old.

Sulpher Springs is what most people now would call a hick town. Life moved a little slower there. Everyone knew everyone, and Jay’s Corner Store was where we did our grocery shopping. Jay carried Cokes in glass bottles-they were nestled together in a red carton with a handle and would clink together when carried.

Every Saturday my mom would give Justin and I those cartons filled with the empty bottles and we would carry them down the road and around the corner to Jay’s. On the way to the store, we didn’t dawdle. These bottles were kinda heavy, and plus-we were on a mission.

Each one of those bottles was worth five cents, and we were allowed to use that money to buy candy. Mom had an agreement with Jay-if we spent more than our refund was worth (which was invariably the case) then he would just add it to her grocery tab the next visit.

Justin and I were blissfully unaware of this arrangement, though. We would wander through the small store agonizing cheerfully over our purchases. We would spin a rack that had paperback books on it and yell, “Money, money!” and pretend that we were on “Wheel of Fortune.” We would stand wide-eyed in front of the butcher’s window and watch Jay cut meat and wrap it in wax paper. We would look at all the colorful pictures in the few magazines that Jay carried.

Then finally we’d gather up our fistfuls of candy and begin walking home while we glutted ourselves on it. Sometimes I would read the Laffy Taffy jokes to Justin on the way home. We’d stick our green and purple colored tongues out at each other and laugh.

In the evenings-those amazing Indiana summer evenings that were filled with the rasp of the cicadas and the smell of freshly-cut hay, Mom and Dad would relax on the porch, their glass-bottle Cokes making rings on the wood. They would let Justin and I split one, and watch us as we danced barefoot around the front yard, catching fireflies in Mason jars. Justin always caught more than I did.

We would spin around in dizzy circles until we collapsed on the grass, laughing so hard that no sound would come out.

We’d watch the stars spin around our heads until the dizziness melted away, and Dad would point out the constellations with his bottle. Mom would always blow into the top of her Coke bottle, making neat sounds that we always tried to imitate and couldn’t.

These memories flashed through my mind in an instant and washed away all of the frustration that I had been feeling. I twisted the cap back on the coke and sat it down, thinking.

Before my cell phone could start ringing again, I turned it off and started for home. They say that these things happen when you get older-that a certain taste or smell will take you back.

I say that if this is what getting older is all about, then maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe I’ll start buying my cokes in glass bottles from now on.