The family pitch game that ensues when the kids have finally gone to bed at Googie's was well underway. Engrossed in tricks and trumps, no one paid much attention to the first tiny sounds of shuffling and bumping coming from upstairs.
Eventually, my daughter Cookie imagined she heard a small voice. Then another, this time louder. Two voices. More shuffling and bumping. Finally, between hands, Cookie headed up the steps to investigate. After all, Sooby and Pooh had gone to bed over an hour ago.
The look on Cookie's face when she returned to the pitch circle was beyond incredulous. "Do you know what they were doing?" she asked, and I thought maybe she was directing this at me. "They were eating PEZ!"
I looked away, cleared my throat, and tried to think how I was going to get out of this one. Truth is, I had found two PEZ dispensers among the kids' stash of "tiny toys" that I keep in a tall kitchen waste basket that doubles as a toy box up in their room. Spiderman and Tow-Mater, the tow truck from Cars.
I don't even know where they originally came from, but it occurred to me how much fun it might be to fill them up and wait for the kids to discover them. I just hadn't counted on the discovery occurring some night at midnight. More importantly, I hadn't realized I might get caught plying my grandchildren with tiny pink bricks of compressed sugar when their mama had plans for them that did not mix well with a sugar high.
It takes 3,000 pounds of pressure to make one of these cute, yummy little candy pieces. I ingested this, along with a bunch of other equally intellectual bites of trivia, from the official PEZ website. Introduced in 1927 as a breath mint and smoking substitute for grown-ups, PEZ expanded its appeal to include children with the fruity flavors the company introduced in the 1950s. This is also when the popular character-head dispensers replaced the "regulars," those original (read "boring") dispensers designed to mimic cigarette lighters.
The website touts PEZ as "the pioneer of 'interactive candy.'" (This is a fun notion. Before now, I had never thought about any type of food being "interactive," except maybe beans.) It takes its name from an abbreviated version of the German word pfefferminz, meaning "peppermint."
The popularity of PEZ is nothing short of phenomenal. Americans consume over 3 billion pieces annually, and the candy is sold in over eighty countries worldwide. Collectors of PEZ dispensers now have their own yearly convention. The best-selling dispenser of all time is Santa Claus.
Of those 3 billion PEZ consumed this year in the U.S., I am proud to say that my grandchildren, on the aforementioned night, are already responsible for twenty-four of those. They will enhance their contribution this weekend, when they test-drive their brand new jack-o-lantern dispensers fueled with rolls of lemon and cherry candy.
I will be more careful with the timing, though. No more midnight dispensing. This time, I am thinking maybe we might embellish our Saturday morning breakfast with, well, a little PEZ-azz.