On Tuesdays, I walk my daughter’s dog. I do it as a favor to save them a few bucks (dog walkers ain’t cheap, you know) and to work in some exercise (which everyone tells me I need). It’s not a bad gig despite the exercise part. They live near us, so it doesn’t consume much time; and unless the weather is nasty, it can actually be quite pleasant.

So yesterday, there I was stretching my legs along with the pooch. The sun was out, and we were enjoying our little stroll. As we rounded the initial corner of the first block, I spotted a brightly colored piece of plastic on the pavement. Something about it seemed extremely familiar; so I drew nearer to have an up-close-and-personal look.

It Looked Curiously Familiar

The closer I got, the more familiar it looked, and I took a mental guess as to what it was. Sure enough, I was right. As I bent down to make a solid identification of the gaudy yellow object, I could make out lettering stamped on the side. It was a PEZ dispenser—apparently crushed by an ongoing vehicle.

Since I don’t spend much time at the candy counter these days, I hadn’t seen one of these in years. For many of you, I suppose this would have merely represented another piece of trash. For me, however, it was a reminder of my Mother.

It’s probably not what you think, however. Neither she nor I were fanatical consumers of PEZ candies. In fact, I can barely remember chomping on those dainty morsels of sugary delight. We were more into the chocolate, candy bar confections. It was something entirely different that put me in mind of Mom.

It was the name of those little pellets that jolted my maternal reminiscences. PEZ happened to be my Mother’s initials. Not a lot of people knew that obscure fact, though. She always went by “Ellen” (her middle name).

A Bit Too Matronly

I guess she wasn’t all that fond of her first name, which was Phoebe. If she had been born and named during the current generation, she probably would have worn that moniker proudly. As it was, I suppose, Phoebe sounded a bit too matronly for her when she was young. Cultural norms and styles can do that to you.

So it was. My Mom, Phoebe Ellen Zuchelli, was PEZ. Now that I look back on it, I’m not sure why I never called her PEZ and teased her about it. I don’t know if she would have laughed or told me to knock it off. Either way, my chance is gone. She passed away almost eleven years ago, now.

I guess we need these little reminders from time to time. Whether it’s a broken, discarded PEZ dispenser or a photograph hanging on the wall, it’s a good thing to remember those who have shaped our lives. After all, each of them helped to make us what we are today—for good or for ill. Rest in peace, PEZ.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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