01 02 03 Prone to Wander: The Power of Mint 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Power of Mint

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I was trying with all my six-year-old willpower to sit still, but my body and mind rebelled as I wondered when that man in the front of the room would stop talking. We had already been there hours and grammy said something about ice cream after lunch and I couldn’t stop thinking about the cold creamy treat. I was nestled in between my brother, who was five and my baby sister, who was only one or maybe two. I glanced down the row to see my mom and dad and my gramps’ eye twinkled as it caught my own. He winked and dug his hand into his trouser pockets to pull out a roll of peppermint certs. He pulled the wrapper down to expose the next glossy mint and passed it to me. Love poured out of me to my gramps in the form of a grin. He knew what I needed.

“I want one!” my brother exclaimed when he saw the mints. My mom gave us a "be quiet" look. My sister’s pudgy hand reached up to grab at the certs as drool dripped from her mouth onto her smock dress. I pulled the next cert out of the roll and handed it to my brother. “Don’t chew on it,” I said in my responsible big sister voice. My sister was too young for hard candy and would probably choke, or at least that’s what dad had said before. I ignored her hands which were grabbing at the mints and handed them back to my gramps and the church service continued. 

However, the peppermint cert added a bit of focus, a bit of clarity and sweetness to my six-year-old mind and this incident would prove to become a common practice over the coming years. Fast-forward a few years to when I was around 16. Same church. Same family. Same pew. I may have been dozing off from staying up too late the previous night or staring off into space, thinking about a boy I had a crush on when gramps would pass me his roll of certs. I would take one or two and then pass them down the row and each of my siblings and cousins. Gramps’ certs became a ritual.

Since gramps introduced me to certs, all things peppermint have detailed my life over the years. Mint tea in the evenings. Peppermint bark during Christmas season. Peppermint ice cream after dinner. Peppermint patties and mint mochas anytime. Peppermint candy. Eating mint has always said to me, “Here, relax, yet stay focused.” I have used mints through college and grad school and swore that they helped me focus on biology tests and English essay exams. They may not have touched that one algebra test, but that’s another story for another time…

I even give them to my own students before they take a test. Some students love it—and will remind me about “the mints” if I ever forget. Others roll their eyes as I make an exaggerated ritual out of passing them out, two for everyone. “If you feel your clarity and focus start to dwindle, holler and I will bring you another one. Wait, don’t holler. Just raise your hand,” I say.

As typical and mundane, mints are a part of my life and they help me keep gramps’ memory alive. He passed away a year and a half ago and carrying around certs in my purse reminds me of gramps and all he meant to me.  As I’m relishing in the cool sweetness, I can’t help but be taken back to the hard church pew 25 years or so ago…
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