Story Time (Sort Of)… Cheese Toddler

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Cheese toddler.

What do you think of when you read that?

A toddler made of cheese. A toddler with cheese all over it.

What? I’m genuinely curious.

The reason, well… because what I personally think of when I think of “cheese toddler” is quite different than most would probably think.

Yet, then again, I have no idea what general idea comes to mind when someone reads cheese toddler in someones blog. Or, anywhere for that matter.

So…

I’ll just go ahead and tell you what cheese toddler means to me.

Early in 2019 I was in Nebraska for my cousin Zach’s wedding. Good, right? Well, the tone of the occasion became very muddled early on.

While we were eating at one of our favorite restaurants, Godfather’s, my mom got a call from my cousin Stacy. Jerry, the stepfather of my cousin Zach, had passed away in his sleep. It was a day before the wedding.

Quickly this had turned from a wondrous occasion, one that would celebrate Zach and his bride to be Kenzie getting married, into this complex… thing. This complex ball of emotions was brewing.

The rest of the day after finding out about Jerry’s death was a bit of blur. What I do remember though is that my mom wanted to go and see Joyce, Zach’s mother and Jerry’s wife, alone. What I really remember about that weekend begins the day of the wedding. Things became… interesting.

Before heading to the wedding site we, my mom, dad, and I, decided to go to Runza. Another favorite restaurant of ours. There isn’t some fantastic story about us eating there that made things interesting. But, there was one thing that happened that is why my family and I will always remember “cheese toddler” the way we do.

While we were sitting there eating one of the employees behind the counter had a large stack of cheese slices he was carrying to the kitchen. Before actually moving into the back of the story though he had one comment to make. He turned to one of his fellow employees and said “this is so heavy its like a… a cheese toddler.”

My dad and I began laughing immediately upon hearing this. We commented back and forth about how funny the comment the Runza employee had made was. At some point during the laughter I told my dad that the reason it was so funny to hear is that I had never heard it before and I would never hear it again.

(I mean, if you’ve ever heard someone say cheese toddler before let me know).

Nothing else eventful happened as we sat there eating. Although my dad did have to go up to the counter and comment that he had heard what the employee had said and thought it was funny. No, the interesting stuff at that point was really just going on in my head.

Well, at least as far as I was concerned.

You see, since my mom was the only one who had seen any of my cousin Zach’s family before the wedding (we had stayed at a family friend’s house) I was still trying to think of what I should say to Zach and Joyce about Jerry. Hearing the phrase cheese toddler didn’t mean much, but the fact it was something I had never heard before and would never hear again gave me an idea.

As we drove to the church my cousin would be getting married at I thought about this. Weirdly, it seemed quite perfect.

Jerry had been this wonderful presence in Joyce and Zach’s lives. He was a special human being. Very kind and giving. Exactly the father figure Zach needed. Jerry was one of a kind.

Which fit so well with this idea of why I thought the phrase cheese toddler was funny. Both the phrase and Jerry were in the lives of the people they touched for a time that didn’t seem long enough. They were both singular. Someone, or something, that were both unique and would not be forgotten. To me at least, this was just the perfect thing to use in reference to Jerry and his life.

I could use this phrase cheese toddler and explain the story behind it and why it was funny to either my Aunt Joyce or Zach. Not only would it be meaningful and hopefully touching, but it would be funny. A way to ease the tensions of this very emotional time.

So it would be. At least, that is what I thought it would be. I didn’t count on a few things though.

First, I wasn’t going to speak to Zach or his mother Joyce for a while. Second, and most important, because it was going to be a while I was going to get drunk in the mean time. There’s a third thing, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

So, of course, about two and a half hours into the reception my cousin finally came up to our table to talk with us. I was about fifteen 8 oz. cups of beer in.

My cousin talked with my parents for a while mostly as I sat making funny faces at our mutual cousin’s baby. I got up to talk to Zach and the first thing I heard was my parents and him talking about Jerry. That third thing I haven’t mentioned yet, that complex ball of emotions set to be released during the wedding was holding together nicely.

So as my parents and Zach talked about Jerry my cousin made the morbid joke that he wished Jerry could’ve waited just one more night to pass on. Which… is about the time I decided to butt in.

My first words?

A slurry version of Cheese Toddler of course.

Which just made the three talking say “what?”

So, I explained. the best I could anyway.

From what I remember I got the idea of cheese toddler and why it was so funny across. That possibly poignant bit about that being like Jerry for Joyce, Zach, and the rest of the family though, that didn’t come across too well.

Graciously my cousin said he got what I was saying and smiled. Pretty quickly he was off though to fulfill his duties as the groom. Talking to many other people.

I haven’t spoken to Zach about Jerry since.

I want to in a way. I want to see if he remembers for some reason. Even more so I want to see if he actually did understand what I was drunkenly trying to get across the night of his wedding.

Selfishly, I want “Cheese Toddler” to live on. I want it to become a tradition in Nebraska.

You’re sitting around at a wake and someone quietly mutters “cheese toddler” and everyone around them repeats the phrase.

Why?

Because cheese toddler means more to me than it did back then.

You see, I think cheese toddler can be said about anybody. Really, I do.

Think about the vast number of people that have lived throughout the history of our planet. Billions? If not more when talking the planets history into account?

All of these people special and unique in their own ways. Each of them special to a certain number of people. Even the famous only known truly and deeply by a small number of individuals. Every one of us is someone that most people through the course of our planets history will never know. Yet, for those very few…

We were this amazing, unique, complex, wonderful (hopefully) individual.

The next time someone you love passes remember that.

You and a few other people got to know that amazing, unique, complex, wonderful bit of stardust. Share it with the world if you want. Share how they were. Make sure others remember that fantastic individual. Or, keep them to yourselves.

Whatever you do remember that for however long they lived and were in your life you got to experience their presence, their ideas, their worldview, so much that other people didn’t get to experience from another individual.

Remember them like I remember Cheese Toddler.

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