March 4, 2010

See's Irish Potatoes

"Do you ever get the smaller versions of this?" I asked.

"We've never had those," the lady in the white dress said. I was at See's candy, picking up the seasonal treats of Irish Potatoes. For those of you on the East Coast, these treats have a nutty fondant center, rolled in a cinnamon-cocoa mixture and studded with pine nuts for eyes. They are wonderful and chewy and a lovely St. Patrick's Day treat.

Her brusque response made me feel like I was about 97 years old, and she looked at me like I was nuts. I wasn't. She was merely younger than me, and hadn't had the experience I'd had. The year they were introduced, they sent out the smaller versions for the stores to hand out as treats--as a way to sample their newest product. One day I went back and bought a pound of those tiny Irish Potatoes and took them to a church dinner to share at my table at our Wearin' O' The Green Family Feud Activity. We all loved them.

But according to this young woman, they'd never had them. I tried again. "Well I'm pretty sure that you did. If I recall correctly, See's sold them when they first came out. I had you hand-pack me a box."
"No," she said. "We've never had them." The stone wall of an expression looked back at me. I tried another tack.

"How long have you worked here?" I asked.
"Eight years."

Ah, okay. I guess I'm used to the softball approach used with customers these days, you know--that "customer is always right" business. Obviously, she didn't get that memo. But the exchange was more than that. Perhaps today--on my no-makeup-sneakers-day--I looked a bit old to her, perhaps even a bit daft, so she felt justified in correcting my "incorrect" information. In fact, in her mind, I probably was 97, and would probably need to be walked to my car, my imaginary walker stowed in the trunk before they made me sign imaginary forms that said I would hold See's harmless if my imaginary medications reacted with any of their chocolate, thereby rendering me more helpless, more daft.

I've come to think this problem isn't going to get any better. I'm going to get older and older, and maybe even someday have a walker with the tennis balls on the legs, and thicker glasses, heavier shoes and I may even act slightly daft, or disconnected or whatever. How am I going to handle all those young'uns who treat my perfectly good memories as a fiction, an exercise in triviality? "There, there," they'll say and pat me on my hand, while leading me gently away.

I have no answers for this one; I cannot predict the future to know if I will be lost in my memories or still have a grip on reality. This experience makes me hold the mirror up to see if my behavior towards those with grayer hair and a few more wrinkles is thoughtful and respectful, or rushed and impatient.

When I came home, a Google search put the origins right about the year 1997--when the salesgirl would have been trading notes with her buddies in junior high. And to make double-sure, I'm calling See's Customer Service tomorrow, hoping for proof.

Click to return to SOLSC

P.S. The recipe for the Orange Chicken from yesterday's post can be found •here• at


  1. Thank goodness for Google! :)

    I think I'll have to try some Irish Potatoes.

  2. I love that you penned this exchange. I am always avoiding dialogue. Hold your ground!

  3. YES! I'm with you. After reading Olive Kitteridge, I'm on that aging wavelength and sensitivity. Your slice resonates for me,
    We need to stick together!

  4. I grew up in Florida - land of the snowbirds - and I volunteered as a Pink Lady at the local hospital when I was in middle and high school. I had friends who were truly terrified of old people, but I loved them. Their stories, advice, memories... Even today, when I get stuck behind someone going appallingly slow, I think, "Well, the driver is probably 89!" And usually, when I finally pass them, I can see that they are.

  5. When I was in New Jersey I could get Irish Potatoes in March, but only at the local, handmade candy shops. As I recall they were mostly sugar and coconut, rolls in cinnamon as you said. They were yummy! But I know I didn't eat them very often. It is amazing how we all think time began with our first memory.

  6. I love the word "daft". And wow, was 1997 really that long ago? Yikes.