I love Lion Bars – a British candy bar that has chocolate, caramel and crunchy things – close to but better than an American $100,000 bar. I’m sure the Lion Bar wins at least in part because of my associations though.
Three decades ago I studied in London for a semester. I took pride in not being the typical American college student. For one thing, I had little interest in hanging with just Americans. So I didn’t. I looked up my friend David’s friends from his Bankers Trust trading desk and met them one day after work. From the second I walked up the tube stop stairs in my pink and black plaid stirrup pants (yes, classic 1986 attire) and Gerry yelled mockingly “Nice trousers!” the tone was set. I reveled in the curry, cider and irreverence consumed during many nights out with this crew of two Brits and an Aussie.
That semester I made good friends, learned to walk the beloved city, and delighted in foods that to this day bring side-by-side memories of comfort and adventure – curry at Khan’s on Westbourne Grove, cider at pretty much any pub, digestives, especially the chocolate coated ones, and Lion bars, available at most newsagents. Those candy bars still bring me back to hours spent walking and exploring with the freedom of a 19-year-old claiming a new city as home.
Occasionally friends will bring an offering of friendship that returns that feeling. And so I returned from Atlanta, not London, with Lion Bars in tow. Rebecca had obliged my request, tracked down a sizeable lot of candy, hand-picked by her 8-year-old son, and carried the pieces across the ocean to our rabbinic conference.
After a few days away, I came home before bedtime to three tired children. It was soon apparent that one had something to say, urging the others from the kitchen. We sat down, and the tears poured out as if on cue. What rolled off the back earlier in the day hit hard when Mama walked in the door. That long desired prize at school – it didn’t happen, and, worse, it went to someone else so close that daily there was a reminder of disappointment. That disappointment poured out with tears and anger in a clenched body that wanted my presence but would not yet let me hug.
I expected it, and am glad that the tears exploded, for the open flow of emotion is a badge of parenting honor in my book. I endeavored to name and support emotions, The logical responses instantly came to mind, but surely that would not comfort! I knew that this painful situation would foster resilience, but later. At that moment, my child was sad and all I wanted still wanted to make the pain disappear. I responded with the best mothering I could think of, but am certain I fell short.
And then! A break in the tears. I offered to check out the swag brought home from my conference. We walked upstairs together. Siblings were soon asleep and the two of us sat in the hall and dumped my bags. Joy — guitar picks, a thumb drive and a pen with a cool quotation; a new book of Jewish music; and a graphic novel on the March on Washington. And then…the trans-Atlantic chocolate.
I offered a Lion Bar. The response? “I already brushed my teeth.” It was 9.30 or so. Usually by this hour I am the impatient, un-fun mom urging bed and sleep and seeking no distractions. But tonight, well… I offered the chocolate bar again and we alternated bites ‘til it was gone, a private forbidden joy. The disappointment wasn’t gone for good. But, at that moment, there was comfort between the crunches.