Kayla Hughes - Grade 9, Centerville High School
The Taste of Happiness
When you’re laid up in a hospital with a swollen, throbbing cheek, banana pudding is holy manna. I’d been diagnosed with a low-grade adenocarcinoma inside my mouth, behind my cheek, and had surgery earlier that day. My parents chose to stay overnight with me, managing to fit on the shoddy pull-out couch that seemed to shrink two sizes when extended--almost in defiance of holding two people.
I digress. An adenocarcinoma is a tumor. Malignant. Thus, on the day the doctor called my mother, explaining my diagnosis in an even voice, she wanted it out yesterday. I’ve had several surgeries on it, but this was the first one I had to stay overnight for; I was unaccustomed to nurses checking in every few hours, making sure I didn’t flatline or go into cardiac arrest or one of those things you always see on Grey’s Anatomy. I didn’t sleep well, and extending my mouth felt like I was tearing a rift to another dimension. It wasn’t the best day of my life. My parents weren’t very content either; their youngest daughter, who’d had VSDs (small holes in the heart) as an infant, which had closed up only relatively recently, now had cancer.
I think my mother laughed a lot; when my mother is anxious, she does this laugh that would be quite convincing, if I didn’t know her better. My dad closed off a little, asking me if I was okay; he’s not the greatest at emotional matters, but he tries. I was alright. I could only eat smooth foods.
But then that godsent banana pudding arrived. It was a pale yellow, with a gorgeous lump of whipped cream on top. I lifted my right hand, tingly due to an IV sticking out of the flesh, and grasped at a spoon. I dug it into the soft mound. I raised it to my lips. I consumed ambrosia, sweet, holy food. The subtle milkiness created a film around my mouth.
From my hospital bed, I croaked out a southern accent, “I like that banana puddin’”. My mother laughed. A serious one this time. I’m rather sure even my father cracked a smile. So I kept it up.
“I’m really enjoyin’ this banana puddin’”. I mimicked Callie from CSI: Miami more.
It wasn’t much, but I offered my parents respite in a time of crisis. Yes, I could’ve bemoaned the fact I was connected to several differents wires and machines, whining like an infant with colic, but that would have done nothing. I chose to savor that banana pudding. I chose to be happy. I chose to make my parents happy in the process. Happiness is a hard thing to catch, but it sure spreads once caught. Now, when I’m faced with something unfortunate or upsetting, I just think of something happy. The fluffy feeling spreads from my brain to my limbs, extending everywhere. I cling to happy memories, which taste a lot like banana pudding.