In the last few years, research has suggested that addiction involves many of the same brain pathways that govern learning and memory.

Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, July 2004

I’m one of those people who really doesn’t have many childhood memories to speak of. The years just blur together, bound by images, places, feelings. But the memories I do have—the clear ones—are about candy.

Four years old, birthday party. We played this game where you tie a Life Saver on the end of a string, put the other end in your mouth, and then chew the string upwards until you finally got to the Life Saver. Mine was cherry. I won. I wanted to play again. And again. And again.

Five years old, Air Force base housing. One day I stood and watched some uniformed worker fill up the vending machine in the concrete basement of our building. I put on my best “I am but a poor, neglected child” face, and it worked: he reluctantly handed me a bag of M&Ms. I grabbed it and took off running, then ate the entire bag while crouched behind a dumpster.

Six years old, family vacation. We stayed in a cabin on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota. Every day I got a quarter for candy at the resort store, and every day I bought the same thing: Sixlets. I’d bite off the end of the wrapper, then squeeze three or four of the candy-coated chocolate balls right into my mouth. Apparently, I also fished and tried water skiing for the first time. Or so I’m told.

Seven years old, living in Edmond, Oklahoma. My grandparents were coming to visit, and I knew three things: my grandfather liked candy, my mother had bought some, and she’d hidden it from me. Of course, I looked until I found it: black licorice jelly beans, neatly emptied into a green glass bowl. I hid a handful in my pocket and ate them while locked in the bathroom. Shortly thereafter, it occurred to me that perhaps they weren’t actual jelly beans, but something medicinal for my grandfather. Otherwise, why would my mother hide them so far back in the very top cupboard? I broke down and ran to my parents, certain I’d inadvertently poisoned myself. I hadn’t. They were just jelly beans.

You know, when someone talks about their “drug of choice,” I can’t relate to the “choice” part. Some things you’re just born with.


Candygrams are odes to candy by guest authors during the month of October.

Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson owns Brain Traffic and wrote Content Strategy for the Web. Are you going to eat that last piece of candy?


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