When I was growing up, every once in awhile, when we were driving through town, Mom would stop at the gas station, smile and say, “Want to split a candy bar?”
I swear, she’d smile so mischievously, you’d think she’d suggested we split a joint, not a candy bar.
I’d hop out of the car and go grab one for us, our mutual choice almost always a Milky Way Dark. (At some point when I was in high school, Milky Way Dark became Milky Way Midnight, but by this time we weren’t too concerned with splitting candy bars.) When I got back to the car, candy bar in hand, usually I’d just break it in half, study the two halves for a second to make sure they were even, and then hand Mom her share. Sometimes, though, if we were on our way home, we'd wait until we got home, when Mom would cut it with a knife, which I found really entertaining.
“This is what we did when we were girls,” she’d say, looking serious.
At least, this is how my memory tells me this goes. I can never remember if my brother was involved in any of this candy bar splitting, exactly, but my memory stubbornly gives me this image of Mom standing in our kitchen, cutting a candy bar for us to share.
When we weren’t splitting our candy bars, it was still a special treat to stop for a candy bar, but I’d opt for a 3 Musketeers, and Mom, a Zero bar. I used to think her Zero candy bars were disgusting—White chocolate? Almond nougat? Gross—and refused to even try it.
The first time I recall finally trying the Zero bar, I was driving either to or from Bloomington, on one of my weekend trips home. My mother was no longer alive; there was no one in the car with me at all. But when I stopped at the gas station I felt like I had to get one. I got back in my little Neon Sport, and took a bite.
And then I busted out laughing. I loved it! Mom was right! Who would have thought?
The next time I had one, I was really upset about something—what, I don’t remember. But again, I stopped, and bought a Zero. I got back in my car, unwrapped the Zero, and took a bite. I burst into tears and sat there for a minute, just looking at the stupid white candy bar in its silver wrapper as I cried. After I calmed down, I got back on the road, and every so often, would take another bite and sniff.
It’s kind of amazing how long you can make a candy bar last, if you really try.
Milky Way Midnight is still my go-to candy bar, even as an adult. But over the years, if I’ve decided to treat myself to a candy bar—and I say treat not because I’m so stingy with my diet and sweets, but more because that’s how Mom always made me think of candy bars: as a special treat—sometimes I’ll buy a Zero bar. Whenever I do, I’m usually driving somewhere, typically from Chicago to Knightstown, or vice versa.
I eat it slowly, enjoying each bite. When I get halfway through, I put it in the cup holder for a while and ignore it. Maybe it’s totally crazy, but I like to think I’m splitting it with someone.