Of grieving and marshmallows

Theodore Roosevelt wrote this on his diary after losing his mother and his wife on Valentine’s Day, 1884. Photo credit: Library of Congress

My mom’s apple salad was, still is, legendary.

I never tried it growing up, because I found the combination of marshmallow and apples to be, well, gross. But everyone always raved about it, how good it was, and it always disappeared from the bowl in minutes.

My mom made it for the last time for our 2014 Christmas dinner, almost two years ago. She was fragile and tired from a brutal round of chemo, but she insisted that we had to stick to tradition, so she got out of bed and started preparing the salad.

She was halfway through it when she realized that my aunt forgot to buy the marshmallows for the salad. My mom always used a particular kind and brand of marshmallows, and we all knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find them at a Mexican grocery store on Christmas Eve. However, I grabbed the minivan’s keys, took one of my sisters with me, and we went on a search mission for those marshmallows.

We ended up finding very similar ones after visiting several stores, and mom’s smile when she saw them lit up the room, the world. I sat down to watch her prepare the salad (she refused help), and I told her I’d try it. She looked at me in shock, because she knew I had never wanted to try it before. But she smiled some more and said, “Well, I have to make sure it’s extra delicious this time.”

It was. I immediately regretted all those years during which I refused to eat it, because wow, it was tasty. We joked about the marshmallows and how we avoided a tragedy later that night, while mom took her chemo pills.

Today, marshmallows make me cry. Whenever I walk down a grocery store aisle and I notice the marshmallow section, I have to look away. My throat shuts down, and my eyes sting with tears, and I have to look away.

Grief creeps on you like that, when you’re least expecting it.

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