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Telling stories over gummy bears, the way Grandma used to

, Arizona Republic
Published 10:00 a.m. MT July 25, 2019

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I’m eating a bag a day of gummy bears. I wasn’t sure why. It can’t be good for me.

They were my grandmother’s favorites. When I went to her house in Green Valley, she had gummy bears in a bowl. When she came to visit, I bought bags of them.

I was eating gummy bears with my grandma, the bag of candy between us, when she told me how she left home at 14 and crossed the state line to marry the boy she loved without her parents’ permission.

To get to the courthouse, she had to walk by the jail, dressed in Sunday clothes. Inmates yelled at my future grandfather from between the window bars: “Don’t do it!” and “Make a run for it!”

But Irma Stackhouse married Virgil Bland and had three kids; my dad was the one in the middle.

My grandmother was 4-foot-11 and scrappy. She used spray starch instead of hair spray because it was cheaper, and she swore it held better.

When Grandma earned her GED at 65, I gave her Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and a 2-pound bag of gummy bears. She opened them right there in the restaurant and gave me a handful.

Once, we debated why green gummy bears, which we assumed would taste like apple, are strawberry flavored instead. (It makes no sense. The red is raspberry.)

And once, I asked Grandma if she thought my cousin Theresa was a lesbian.

“I think so,” she said, though Theresa had not said so at that time.

“Do you care?” I asked. No, Grandma said, “As long as she is happy.”

I traded Grandma a red gummy bear for a green.

My grandmother died of cancer in 1999 at 81. I didn’t eat gummy bears after that.

I realize that I’m eating them now, as I write, telling stories like the ones Grandma told me.

Reach Bland at karina.bland@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8614. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KarinaBland.

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