Next to unsalted rice cakes (reserved for special occasions) my favorite snack is an unsalted pretzel rod. (No, you can’t buy them unsalted, but a vegetable peeler does wonders to knock off the salt.)
But pretzel rods aren’t something I can eat fast. They’re a slow nibble. Something you hold between your lips and yes, even in your late-twenties, pretend is a cigar.
Because of this, I’ll sometimes have a pretzel rod sitting across the top of my tea mug while I work.
A few weeks ago, when my mug was filled with regular water, I reached for my pretzel and knocked it into the cup. I retrieved it quickly and when I went to bite into the soggy end of the pretzel my mind was hit with this rush of memories I hadn’t experienced in years.
I am 6-years-old at my neighbor’s house. We’ve been swimming in their pool. We race out of the water and wrap ourselves in towels, being extra dramatic with our chattering teeth. Our mother’s pay no mind as we dig our chlorine saturated hands into a bag of pretzels and the salty snack crumbles at our fingertips.
I am 13-years-old in my friend’s backyard. We are celebrating the end of another school year. After a game of Marco Polo, I jump on the trampoline and feel my wet ponytail slap across my back with each bounce. There is a bowl of pretzels that have been moistened by cannon balls.
I feel myself snap back to today. I am 27-years-old and fishing a half-eaten pretzel out of my mug. I am stunned by the memories attached to it.
I think about writing about this. Why is this memory so strong? But it must be a fluke. Perhaps I need more sleep. There is no story to be made out of watery pretzels.
And then it happens again, a week or so later.
And my mind goes on a journey through bunched swimsuits and watermelon seed spitting contests and backflip dares and I am laughing and I am crying and this is life.
I don’t know why this sensation has such a grip on me. I don’t why this association is so strong. I don’t know how to pull a story out of it. I don’t know what the life lesson is here. But I know that for a brief moment in the middle of a busy work day, I was transported back to another time and cloaked in the comfort of laughter and friendship and joy.
I don’t recommend soaking pretzel rods in water. But I do recommend finding something that connects you to those you love and incorporating that into your life as often as possible.
And while you’re at it, call those pool party friends from years long past. Tell them the memories of their companionship still mean the world to you, even decades later. And then, dive in.