When I was growing up, my parents had a lot of kids and not a lot of money. I deliberately avoid using the word poor, because that's not at all how I would have described our situation then, and definitely not how I would describe our situation as I look back on it now. I could go on and on about how our life was full and rich with one another and imagination and generosity, (which I will, in time. Stick around. Subscribe.) but for today I really just want to tell you about the day we found candy in the bushes.
It all began on a normal after school day. We caught the bus home and did our homework. We probably fed our bellies by prying open the five-gallon bucket filled with slightly burnt, slightly bent Hilo Creme Cracker, slathered it with good 'ol margarine, sprinkled it with white sugar, and washed it down with a home-made red malolo syrup cool pop. I'm sure I cooked five cups of rice like I did every day, folded a basket full of cloth diapers, then turned to my little brother and sister and said, "Let's go outside and play".
Our backyard was a perfect oasis for childhood shenanigans - lush green grass with no rocks or sleeping grass - it was our dodge ball/kick ball/Red Rover/gymnastics/badminton field (I just had to google how to spell this, because I had spelled it "badmitten").
Toward the back of the property was a Japanese stone garden which was a-freaking-mazing. I can't tell you if the stone garden was man-made or just an incredible lava flow, but it had "stairs" to walk up to it, a fire pit where we burned rubbish, and two-levels of stone garden awesomeness.
There were several different areas to "play house", complete with a section that was like a stone commercial kitchen that even had a rock shaped like a stove with an oven. Omigosh, it was so freaking awesome. In that stone kitchen/restaurant, red rocks (large chunks of cinder) were char siu and black rocks (flat chunks of pahoehoe) were steak. We could never actually afford to eat these things in real life (except when my dad made char siu rabbit, which, really....) so whenever we pretended to eat, we always picked the fancy stuff.
To the back of the rock garden, behind the rock wall was an empty lot overgrown with California grass that must have been over 10 feet tall. This was an awesome place to play hide-and-seek, army, Indiana Jones - all those kinds of things.
To the side of the rock garden was the back of our neighbor's property. They had an incredible natural spring that would bubble up during rainy times, and just behind the natural spring was more California grass bushes. Ordinary, uneventful, California grass bushes.
Until that one magical day..... when my brother and sister discovered...*gasp* a whole entire bag of candy!
This was so, so, SO amazing because not only could we never afford to every really BUY candy, but my dad was also really freaked out about Halloween and hell so you know all that free candy that everyone else in the entire neighborhood had... yep, not us.
NOTE: My dad is now an AVID Halloweener, like, it's totally a thing for him to make sure my mom buys lots of candy, buys the festive Halloween paper baggies with pictures of pumpkins and monsters, stuffs each little baggie with an assortment of treats, and sits on the porch as-soon-as-the-sun-goes-down to dutifully hand out baggies of free candy to children and their adult chaperones (who are just as enthusiastic about getting the candy). My mom also tries to hand out free books to anyone who will take them...that's story for another day...
Back to the bushes. My brother, sister, and I were standing on the precipice of the rock garden gaping and gasping at the sight of an entire bag of perfectly good candy. We divvied up the booty and communicated like soldiers do when storming enemy cities - wide-eyed and using only hand signals. The message was clear.
Don't. Tell. Mom.
Cue the music from Mission Impossible.
We stuffed all that candy manna from heaven under our shirts and tiptoed across the grassy lawn, snuck past my mother who was no doubt in the kitchen cooking us dinner, and into our rooms to stash away the sugary gems. I still remember where I hid mine. In our closet there was a peg, and hanging on the peg was my red cloth stitched Hello Kitty bag. Stuffed. With. Candy. Goodness.
All afternoon and into the evening I would sneak off to the closet to indulge.
Until she caught me. Us. All of us.
She took out the trusty 'ol Avon Superman brush which was her weapon of choice most days and delivered her message to our butts - one syllable at a time - about crazy people who poison kids. I guess we had never really caught on to the whole moral of the story for Hansel and Gretel.
I love this story. When Sister and I hang out, this story always comes up.
Remember the candy in the bushes?
And we laugh and mimic our childhood selves who had been completely perplexed as to why our mom freaked out about perfectly good candy manna from heaven that was obviously left for us Halloween-deprived, char siu bunny-fed, children.
I think this story about finding candy in the bushes reminds me that there is something very sacred about the voids in life. The candyless seasons when we feel a bit deprived. It's a place of possibility.
I think miracles are born out of those empty spaces.
Like technology-free Sundays when my children only have their boredom, their imaginations, and each other to fill the time - something magnificent and curious and miraculous always manifests when we are emptied out.
And I think we find it when we play. I think we find it when we are together. I think we find it unexpectedly in the wild, tangled, bushes of our life and it is more than what we could have even hoped for or imagined.