I enjoy the fresh feel of January when stark coldness freezes the bad stuff—germs, jaywalking, poor posture—and encourages new beginnings. I contemplate ways to better myself. I could be more intellectual, seek consistency with my grooming, sew without profanity.
I like such thoughts; they make me feel virtuous. But, I haven’t formalized a New Year’s resolution since 1955; and I suggest you resist resolving, as well.
I was 11 that year, and I vowed to quit eating candy for 12 months. When family and friends questioned my sanity, I quoted a line from church: “Sacrifice is good for your soul.”
I knew folks would be appalled if I told the truth. I was going to give up eating candy so I could save it. Then, next Christmas, I would have more candy than any child in the entire world.
No self-sacrificing saint, I was planning an orgy.
I pursued my objective with vigor and immediacy. I cleaned out the bottom drawer of my dresser, lined it with waxed paper, and made my first donation—a partially eaten candy cane I had been enjoying when struck by the wisdom of amassing bonbons for a binge.
For 12 months, I saved every sweet that came my way. Boxes of small pastel hearts reading “4 you” and “be mine” nestled next to puffy marshmallow bunnies and chocolate eggs. Pieces of licorice Mr. Ralphs passed out on the last day of school stuck to cotton candy from the Fourth of July. Kraft caramels, a couple handfuls of loose candy corn, and miniature Snickers bars marked Halloween.
I threw in the gumdrops that formed the tail feathers of the apple turkey I made for Thanksgiving, the anchoring toothpicks still attached.
I bought candy as always, but rather than chowing down, I added the purchases to my burgeoning stash. I reserved one drawer corner for the treats mom made: divinity, fudge, taffy, peanut brittle. The fudge hardened to jawbreaker status and the divinity developed green spots, but I thought they’d still be edible.
In my frenzy to fill the drawer as Christmas neared, I began to save cookies, as well. Once as I headed for my room with a layer of caramel frosting from my piece of dad’s birthday cake, mom stopped me with three grimly-spoken words: “Don’t you dare.”
Each night, while other children enjoyed bedtime stories or kneeled to say their prayers, I opened my drawer, inhaled the mixed odors of chocolate, peppermint, and cinnamon, then counted. I made my younger sister, Barbara, watch as I added the day’s take to the running total I gouged into the wood on the side of the drawer. She knew if ever my count didn’t match that tally, her life was on the line.
In the final months, the count took longer, so we got little sleep and began to do poorly in school.
On Christmas Eve, after the party at grandma’s, I dumped the drawer on my bed and began to chew. Christmas day, after Santa and a holiday breakfast, the binge continued.
One day later, I began to share with Barbara. Two days later, I looked away when she sneaked more.
Three days later, as I sprawled on my bed among mounds of crumbs and candy wrappers, Barbara told me I looked like Anderson’s cow that time it got the bloat. Chocolate smears smudged my yellow complexion, my tongue swelled until it protruded, and sugar crusted my lips.
I gasped and burped and moaned. I gave up.
“Be careful what you wish for,” we caution one another. Amen and amen.
I never made another New Year’s resolution. I was afraid I would keep it.
This column originally appeared in the Denver Post on December 27, 2009.