The idea of a thing
An examination of the shadowy place between the idea and the reality.
Note: Here’s a free essay to check out while I’m working on a new one. I’m going to sprinkle in some of my favorite stuff from my old blog, The Girl Who. This was originally written in 2016 right after a breakup with the first man I let myself fall for after my divorce. It hit me hard back then but, as is the way with so many things in life we think we want, have convinced ourselves we want, I soon realized the breakup was a good thing. A very good thing. I talked myself into a love story and convinced myself he was perfect for me because that’s what I needed at that time but that guy was very, very wrong for me. I met Cory about a month after writing this post about the end of that short-lived and ill-advised relationship.
Artist: Yo La Tengo. Song: Our Way to Fall
“Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act falls the Shadow.” - T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
I never even went to the chocolate shop. Not once. So I'm not sure why I was so disappointed when I spotted the GOING OUT OF BUSINESS signs decorating the sidewalk out front.
The shop is situated back from the main road in my tiny town, faded bricks invite you to approach its fire engine red door. Massive trees older than your great-great, grandma guard it from the elements, and emerald-colored ivy has insinuated itself into all the cracks and crevices as all respectable ivy should. A smallish water fountain - a glorified birdbath, really - sits outside the front door, and next to that white cast iron chairs cuddle around a sweet bistro table for passersby in need of a chocolate respite.
It’s the kind of joint that begs for a hand-lettered wooden sign featuring words like "shoppe" and "olde" in English font; bait for the white socks, sandals-wearing tourists who regularly happen through my historic village in Central Pennsylvania.
Tourists around these parts straight-up lose their minds over that kind of thing. Olde Shoppes selling goat milk soap, hand-churned butter, and artisanal bread they spend a fortune on and convince themselves is the greatest thing since, well, since sliced bread. That, and the Amish. They go fucking bonkers for the Amish.
You're probably impressed with the Amish. Would probably lose your shit if a horse and buggy boasting an Amish family clip-clopped its way past. They are pretty cute; saucer-eyed Amish boys in suspenders peering at you from beneath black-brimmed hats, sweet girls in bonnets waving at you from the backs of buggies.
You would dig it and totally I get it. They don't even seem like actual people, more like extras from some historical period drama or maybe Colonial Williamsburg employees gone AWOL.
There's just something about the Amish and their adorably, eccentric ways that fills people with quaint thoughts and respect, even, yet Scientologists continue to weird us out.
Makes no sense to me.
I'm not fooled by the Amish. I was raised Mormon and the whole Amish scene reminds me of that backward, patriarchal, narrow outlook. A dangerous viewpoint. Brainwashing. Minds closed tight. Men know best, gay people are as sinful as murderers, and sex outside of marriage is worthy of a good shunning.
The Amish do not mess around when someone decides to leave the community. They will shun a motherfucker and not think twice. Mormons prefer the term “excommunication” and while they don't usually boot you from the family dinner table like the Amish, they will exclude you from their fancy church weddings like the Amish.
Quaint, my ass. Tourists get a kick out of Amish folks, though. And they DO make a mean pie, but I think we can all agree a killer shoofly pie doesn't erase homophobia and sexism that'd make your grandpa blush.
But, I digress.
The chocolate shop is no more.
I keep thinking about it and it's not that I'm going to miss being able to avail myself of artisanal chocolate at six o'clock at night on a whim because, like I said, I never did that, don't think I'd even really want to do that. It's just that the idea of living near a chocolate shop(pe) really appealed to me. It was a part of the narrative I have struggled to create for myself in the wake of divorce.
I've lived in this beautiful neighborhood for almost two years and for nearly two years I've been telling my kids weekly that we should meander (you don't walk to your local chocolate shop, you meander) down to the chocolate shop and get ourselves some fresh-made, hand-whipped something or other. With peanuts, maybe! Marshmallows? Nougat!
The idea of the thing was so much nicer than the actual thing, I think. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they mixed up some bangin' chocolate but I didn't need to actually taste the chocolate to fall in love with the shop, is what I'm saying. I just really liked that it was there.
I am realizing that, very often, the idea of a thing is better than the actual thing. It can be hard to know if it's the idea of a thing that appeals to you or the actual thing. You welcome an idea into your head and relish the way it makes you feel and so you let your thoughts wander all around the idea and become attached to it because you like the way it makes you feel and maybe you even make it a part of your identity based on what you think you want and not an actual experience and then the idea starts to mean more to you than it should and maybe I'm not even talking about chocolate shops anymore.
I never even went to the chocolate shop. Not once. But I miss it.
A Broad View is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.