Growing up in my household, we never had Fig Newtons. Either it was the strict adherence to monetary concerns (Fig Newtons were awfully expensive), or the fact that the innards could get stuck in our teeth, or even perhaps due to the sweet nature of the product. I’m not entirely sure of the reasons, but I do know that it was a frustrating time. I would see those commercials on television where the kids were enjoying the Fig Newtons, and I wanted to be one of those kids.
Of course it wasn’t just Fig Newtons. There were a lot of things that made us… exceptional, meaning we were the exception to a lot of rules, but it seemed like the Fig Newtons were the gauge by which I judged everything. If it was “Fig Newton worthy” that meant it got the highest stamp of approval, at least by me. So when I met a girl and my friends would ask me what I thought of her, I would either say she was Fig Newton worthy, or she wasn’t. It got to be a game of sorts, at least during my first couple years of college.
It was July 21, 1996, and I was going on a first date with a girl, but not just any girl. She was definitely Fig Newton worthy, at least from what I knew about her to that point, and I was so excited that I had changed my outfit more than once before I had to be at our rendezvous point. And I was still sweating profusely on my trolley ride to the train station, where we were to meet. That was my problem when it came to girls who impressed me: I wasn’t likely to impress them in return, not the sweaty, nervous guy with the puppy dog eyes.
Yet somehow I did impress her, at least enough to warrant a second date, which turned into a third, which led us to a brief engagement, but that’s a story for another time. What’s important to this tale is the conversation I had with my friend Frank after that first date…
“So, how’d it go?”
“She’s definitely different from the girls I usually go out with.”
“So she’s got a brain, huh?”
“How about on the Fig Newton scale?”
“Totally worth the whole package.”
“Dude, you’re in deep already.”
I told him all about her physical attributes — which were many, and all positive — and about the ease of our conversation. Honestly, I told him how shocked I was that someone so dynamic could be as into me as I was into her. I was already planning our wedding, our five kids, and our house in the countryside. After one date. I was thinking maybe she was worth at least five packages of Fig Newtons. Or at the very least she was my immediate future, with a possible option for more.
The rest of our dates were just like that first one, incredible conversation interspersed with comfortable silences. It was perfection in an imperfect world, and I thrived on it. In fact, to this day those remain some of the easiest give-and-takes I’ve ever had. Maybe it was because everything was brand new, or because we shared so many of the same interests, but I was ravenous for every piece of her, and she gave it back in kind. Those dates were like sweet chocolate melting on my tongue, and even now they exist in my mind as precious memories, regardless of all the negatives that came later.
I don’t wish things had gone differently in our relationship after those 18 dates (yes, I counted), when everything finally fell apart. I do wish that I had savored that connection more, that I had appreciated the ease of those dates more, that I had been prescient enough to realize how rare it all was. But it ended, I got older, and those dates became nostalgic touchstones that I can still look to for inspiration, even though I haven’t spoken to the girl in 10 years.
And I am grateful to her for that feeling, for that emotional connection that flowed throughout the course of those dates. If not for that time in my life I would be ill-equipped to deal with all of the curveballs that life has thrown my way. If not for everything that made those dates so special I wouldn’t have recognized the feeling when it came to me again several years later in a completely different place, with a completely different girl.
I can’t remember the last time I had a Fig Newton, not really, but it hasn’t been about the delicacy anyway, not for a long time. It’s really about love, and touchstones, and becoming the me I was meant to be. That’s totally worth the whole package.