Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The art of deciphering a box of chocolates...

I can remember seeing my mother standing in the kitchen, holding the lid to a box of chocolates in her hand and calling out, "Who's been poking holes in the bottoms of all the chocolates and then returning them to their little brown cups in the box?"

At that moment, every sound in the house fell into abeyance allowing for a clear path for her words to travel from one room to the next. That is, except for my heartbeat which, if it couldn't be heard in the kitchen, would have been visually apparent to anyone looking at me. My heart knew I was guilty of a crime far worse than getting my hands caught in the cookie jar. As much as I wanted at that moment to suggest that a stranger had entered our home and poked holes in the bottoms of the chocolates, leaving behind violated orange and maple creme squares, I remained silent. My face went flush. My head dropped in order to conceal it. My mother's words were echoing in my mind and there was no need for her to repeat them. But it wasn't the best time to share that bit of wisdom with her.

Again, her voice rang from room to room: "I said, who is poking holes in the bottoms of the chocolates and then returning them to their little brown cups in the box?" When I lifted my hand to push the long strands of hair that had fallen forward to wrap them behind my ears, I ever so slowly peeked from the corner of my eye. My brother had stopped snapping pieces of Lego together and my sister had quit watching the television and both were frozen in position staring at me.

Guilt and paranoia combine to produce a reflex with the neck that's very similar to what a hammer does when lightly tapped below one's knee. When my eyes met with my siblings' eyes, my head immediately lifted and turned toward where my mother was standing. Of course, if I wasn't totally innocent by nature, I wouldn't have felt so guilty. But it wasn't the best time to share that bit of wisdom with her. There I was, red-handed and eye-to-eye with my mother who was still holding the lid to the chocolates with one hand while motioning for me to approach the kitchen counter. My mother asked, "Why did you do this?" And then she taught me something I have never forgotten.

She told me I didn't need to damage the chocolates in order to find out what was inside them. All I needed to learn was the art of observing each piece of chocolate's characteristics and become acquainted with the patterns that were visible on their surface. Chocolate covered nuts are pretty easy to find, caramels are usually square versus rectangular, coconut filled are frequently round, mint cremes are round and flat, and covered toffee is square and flat. When I was younger, my mother told me about the squiggles that identified each piece of chocolate in a box that could be used to distinguish orange cremes from the nougats. Industry-wide standardized squiggles have gone with the wind, but every chocolate maker today uses their own consistent patterns of squiggles and drizzles. True and loyal connoisseurs of a chocolate maker know what they're going to get in their box of chocolates.

Something tells me that Forrest Gump's momma knew this because her wisdom about chocolate arrived in two separate sentences. "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

So maybe the question Forrest raises as he stands over Jenny's grave about whether we each have a destiny or are instead floating around accidental-like on a breeze is really about whether we're floating around accidental-like...or instead are moved by something that influences the direction our life takes, while we're fulfilling our destiny.

Forrest Gump, the movie, reveals patterns and storytelling strategies similar, but not identical, to what Chrétien de Troyes used in The Story of the Grail. If Eric Roth was true to Chrétien's work, which emulated Abelard's writing, any questions that are raised should find food for thought within the story that's been provided.


Photo by Danny www.flickr.com

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