My first experience reading John Steinbeck was in seventh grade. It was The Pearl. I don't remember the main character's name and I don't remember the plot. For some reason I want to talk about dolphins but I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the book either. The more I think about it, I remember very little about that book. However, despite this, John Steinbeck and The Pearl are forever attached to a memory of mine.
One day after school, my mom picked me up and we made a stop at the local Safeway supermarket. We picked up a bag of those Mother's Pink and White Frosted Circus Animal Cookies, that I feel probably haven't changed all that much in style from when they were first invented by "Mother." Of course, I could be completely wrong about that.
Happy with the treat, I returned to the backseat of my mom's burgundy 1987 four-door Honda Civic, and we drove over to the high school where my sister was part of the tennis team. As we waited for her practice to end, I kept to myself in the back seat, eating cookies and reading my homework assignment, The Pearl. Those cookies were quite addictive, if I recall correctly.
Some time passed, I don't remember how much, but eventually my sister was done with practice and we made our commute back home. I remained in the back, still reading and still eating cookies. I did change position though, finding it much more comfortable to lay down in the back as if I was on my own couch, lounging in the living room.
Our house was a little far away from school back then, and it would be a solid 30 minutes before we'd get back in our driveway, so I had plenty of time to continue my lavish self-treatment of cookies and John Steinbeck. Unfortunately, about half way home I started to feel carsick. I was never one to get carsick, so this was a new feeling to me. I just remember wishing that the bubble in my chest would go away.
However, it didn't. When we finally arrived home, I fumbled my way out of the back of car and leaned up against the garage over a patch of white daisy mums my dad had proudly planted years before. None of that mattered though, because before I could help it, my stomach involuntarily clenched and I vomited a seemingly endless pink and white mixture of elephants, rhinos, camels and whatever other circus animals I ingested.
I'm not sure which of the factors was at play. Was it the over indulgence of Mother's cookies? Was it the reading of a book laying down in a car? Was it John Steinbeck? Regardless of the culprit, I have forever connected John Steinbeck's The Pearl and Mother's Cookies with one of my more violent vomits.