Fruit snacks are one of the most incredible treats to a child. The molded gelatinous fruit juice in the shapes of favorite cartoon characters or objects is treasured almost beyond understanding. They are toys, they are dolls, and they are food. You can get them stuck in your teeth for hours and while you try to push them around with your tongue, you taste the grape goodness with each attempt. You can line them up on the table and watch as they dwindle down to nothing, each one flying into your mouth with joy and intrigue for the forthcoming flavor.
My favorite fruit snack was a child was called Thunder Jets. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a pilot or that I particularly couldn’t get enough of flying them through the air on the way to my mouth. It was the fact that the stealth bomber, the most secret weapon of 1980’s boyhood didn’t come in every pack. It was the one fruit snack that you searched for over any other. You wanted to know if you had been chosen by the snack gods to have the sweet taste of the elusive black airplane.
If I was so lucky as to have received a bomber, I would always put it aside and let it watch all of the other planes as they dive bombed into my mouth. I would always save the most special treat for last. I would treat it with respect and play with it longer than any sticky foodstuff should be played with before reaching its final destination. It would do barrel rolls and it would make rescue runs at the imaginary people on the table. I would show it off to my friends who had to go without the pleasure of knowing the bomber on that day. I would taunt them as I lifted it high into the air and let it drop casually into my mouth, as if it were nothing that I had the envy of everyone at the snack table.
This was why I loved Thunder Jets. I was attached to them because of their exclusive and differentiating influence. The stealth bomber represented, if for only a few minutes, the feeling of winning at a game that we all wanted to play. I came out ahead and everything was put right for just a moment. And it was delicious.
I wonder what my stealth bomber is now. I feel as though owning an iPad is no longer something that sets us apart. You aren’t really winning when everyone else has their “magical” device of choice. It isn’t a particular watch or handbag or house or car, either. None of those things really seem like you were chosen for something bigger and better. The honor of having a stealth bomber is so much more significant because it wasn’t a choice.
It’s possible that the stealth bomber of today is the “like” button. It is the validation that through merely being yourself, others will promote you. It is the fact that because you shared that link or single wonderful quip that you will be showered with praise and others will look on in envy. It is the differentiating factor between the events that have significance and those that do not. It is in knowing that everything you do will not be liked and commented on that lets you know just how valuable the moments of being “liked” are.
While the moment of opening a Thunder Jets pack and finding a bomber is gone for me forever (the RIP facebook group has already been set up), I know that I can still feel the sensation of holding up a little piece of aspiration and flying it around for the world to see as they all “like” it. I can still internalize that feeling and savor and swallow the moment until I can unwrap a new thought worthy of showing off.
The more I think about it, perhaps my whole life is a big bag of Thunder Jets now. Is that a good thing?