Tootsie Rolls mean ‘I love you’

Tootsie Rolls rank number 27 on Vox’s Halloween candy ranking. For me, Tootsie Rolls are number one. 

Once a week in elementary school, my class would split into two groups and make the journey downstairs, where each group would have one class period in the library and one in the computer lab. 

Everybody was always excited to see the librarian. They’d wave enthusiastically and say, “Hi Mrs. McGee!” “Thank you, Mrs. McGee!” “Have a nice day, Mrs. McGee!” When people said, “It’s nice to see you, Mrs. McGee,” she’d say, “It’s nice to be seen,” and she meant it. She loved to be with people and to talk to people and to brag about her grandchildren. 

Mrs. McGee made a great librarian. She also made a great Mom Mom.

Having my Mom Mom as a librarian was a joy because it is nice to be seen; it’s even nicer to see and be seen by people you love. 

During the school day my Mom Mom couldn’t show any obvious preference for me over the other kids, even though they all knew she was my grandmom. I was there to learn like everybody else, looking for the book that would be mine for the week.

When I finally made a choice, most likely a musty-smelling “Magic Treehouse” book that I was lucky to get my hands on, I went to the checkout and said my code “585.” 

I would happily slide the book across the desk. My Mom Mom would stamp the logout sheet on the inside of the cover and slide it back to me with the addition of a Tootsie Roll.

She didn’t have to say what the Tootsie Roll meant. I knew. 

My Mom Mom McGee always carried Tootsie Roll midgees. It sounds like it came straight from a nursery rhyme; It was sweeter than that.

Everywhere she went, she would have a few Tootsie Rolls in her pocket or her purse because what if she saw me? What if she saw my sisters? Being together was grounds for celebration; it was grounds for sharing Tootsie Rolls. 

I have a distinct memory of sitting on the picture day chair in my elementary school’s cafeteria and seeing my Mom Mom pass through the room. She walked right up to me, as I was sitting for my photo, and put a Tootsie Roll in my hand. I’m smiling nice and big in that picture; it is indeed nice to be seen.

When I went over to my Mom Mom’s house, I always looked forward to snagging an orange popsicle from the freezer or eating Milano cookies, which were her favorite. I loved climbing on the pink flower tree on the side of the house and trying to beat my sister to the reclining chair in the sitting room before we watched “Dancing with the Stars.”

But the thing that reminds me the most of my Mom Mom is Tootsie Rolls. At her house we had to do some impressive climbing to get to the Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, which were hidden on top of the fridge, but that made them all the more enjoyable.

My Mom Mom came over to my house a lot, often unannounced, which was bothersome at the time. She’d pull down the driveway in her maroon Honda, rosary beads swinging from the mirror and Post-It note reminders on the dashboard. She often parked askew across the grass. Then she’d walk in the kitchen door without knocking and in a shaky, old woman voice yell “Hello! Maureen?” Maureen is my mom. My Mom Mom would always bring random items and decorations with her to our house. “I found these in the garage,” she’d say to my mom, “I thought that you could use them.” We most likely did not want the decorations or old sweatshirts or gifts that we gave her for Christmas that she thought we might enjoy more than her. But on her way out, there were the Tootsie Rolls being handed around the room and all of us wanted one of those. 

She came to my sports games, my church readings, she even came to my handbell concerts. She was at almost every event that my sisters and I participated in. 

Every time we said goodbye, no matter the meeting spot, she would dig around her black Coach bag for Tootsie Rolls to give us.

I don’t know many people that point to Tootsie Rolls as their favorite candy. I’m not sure they would take the top spot on my list either, that is if they didn’t taste so much like love

Erin Drumm


Nov. 5

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.



Is it pink? Is it something I can wear? What is it? 

Frantically racking my prepubescent brain for what my eleventh birthday gift could be, I curl up next to my mother. She is just as adamant in her commitment to keeping it a secret. 

Happy twenty-first birthday. I’m so proud of you. 

Her voice on the other end of the phone feels like home as I head down to my dorm’s front door, greeted by her delivery order of baby pink cupcakes and mini tequila shooters. 

Ten years ago, my eleventh birthday gift was not pink, not something I could wear, but my first phone. I was ecstatic, downloading every obscure and unavailing app imaginable, staying up well past my bedtime to text my friends for the sheer enjoyment of the sound of the Blackberry’s keyboard. 

A decade is meant to be a comprehensible measure of time. We’re always referencing decades to categorize music, trends in fashion, books, major news headlines. Yet somewhere between the euphoric excitement of unwrapping that phone, now a relic, and the mortifyingly off-tune singing of my friends’ recent performance of “Happy Birthday” at South Dining Hall, time became unquantifiable. A decade snuck by, and any attempt at computing an intelligible perception of the years leaves me disoriented. 

The first time I wished time would slow down, I must have been seventeen. Going into my final year of high school, the once-distant idea of graduation began to manifest itself in concrete reminders of the end of our time in familiarity — emails about caps and gowns, sign-ups for the alumni network, writing university acceptances on to the celebratory post-its on the wall by the counselors’ offices. The nights I spent wide awake, suddenly alarmingly aware of the way I could physically feel time moving. The easy April afternoons when we basked in our last few picnics, social-distancing appropriate and decisively nostalgic. 

In my vivid recollection of one such afternoon, we’re in the park, dozing off on the grass after a day of online classes and Zoom breakout sessions, with an assortment of snacks and drinks we emptied out from our respective pantries. One of our friends brings up an IDER song she says she just can’t stop listening to lately. She reaches for the speaker, and the band’s voices fill up our little nook under the tree, enwrapping the rustling leaves and chatter of sunbathers.

They keep telling me:

“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, baby – don’t worry, don’t stress, do your best.” 

What if that doesn’t save me?

We sit in silence as we take the lyrics in. In the next few months, we would each be moving away, further from each other than we could have ever fathomed. The picnics would eventually turn into pre-scheduled FaceTime calls and sporadic, elaborately-planned visits. This song feels special, emblematic. It gives this afternoon a tinge of melancholy, and even while I lay my head in my friend’s lap with my book facedown on my chest, it already feels like a memory.

How did you do it? How did it turn out alright?

I swear it’s always easier back then, or is it just hindsight?

In cities that are oceans away, we are still alongside each other throughout all our biggest doubts and uncertainties. IDER captures it perfectly — when the blind faith with which I pursue my aspirations falters for the odd, brief moment, I am bewildered at how my twenties could unfold, how it could possibly “turn out alright.”

We’ve all heard it before: “College is the best four years of your life.” “Someday these will be the good old days.”

Personally, it is my fervent hope that the former isn’t true. While I owe indelible memories and undeniable growth to my adolescent years and my time so far at Notre Dame, I look to my post-graduate life in anticipation of grander times that will, conceivably, prevail over my years spent sleeping in a lofted bed and eating a rotation of dining hall foods. 

With an unsettlingly minimal approximation of what my future may look like, I will eagerly dispute the idea that these will be the best years of our lives, at least by certain metrics. I hope to be on a constant upward slope. I hope to be celebrating my sixty-first birthday one day, look back on the past year, and say, “Sixty was the best year of my life.” 

Revisiting the song last week, its first lines evoked a relatability in a newfound light. 

I’m in my twenties, so I panic in every way

I’m so scared of the future, I keep missing today. 

What a succinct and consolatory expression to articulate my seemingly perpetual learning curve of blunder and diffidence. How familiar we all are with what IDER means, the direct segue we mentally forge between navigating our twenties and the panic that finds us, in the smallest waves and the most daunting collisions. 

The night I turn twenty-one, I watch the digital clock strike midnight in the library. I’m sitting under the fluorescent lighting for what feels like the millionth hour, a perk of having a birthday in the eye of the hurricane known as midterms week. This is twenty-one. I feel older, I guess, I tell my friend wryly when she nudges me across the desk, asking for a birthday speech. 

Twenty-one feels like that wooden desk at the library’s window seat, etched with years’ worth of students’ doodles and puzzlingly profound quotes — a little fraught, a little weary. Twenty-one feels like an outdated travel book, with incoherent maps to destinations that nobody is even sure exists. It feels like the big break, the move to the city I so adore, dropping bags and boxes on the floors of the apartment I have not yet seen, breakfast in the cafe I have not yet discovered. 

At sixty, I may very well look back at my present day with humorous dismay. And yet I can be certain that the eleven-year-old girl with her brand new Blackberry would have envisioned her twenties in the most impressive, most romantic shade of pink.

Through the ambivalence and hesitation we encountered in the song, that day in the park, we clutched on to the one defining lyric that we so earnestly try to believe and live by — you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


The things that don’t spark joy

We’ve all seen Marie Kondo and her organization wizardry on Netflix, preaching her secret key to not being a hot mess: if the object doesn’t “spark joy,” throw it away. I am a hot (arguable) mess, and I hold onto things that spark sadness, frustration, nostalgia and humiliation. 

For years, I’ve obsessively preserved souvenirs from defining moments and memories, not in the form of postcards and magnets but random trinkets that I would declare as “sentimental” according to my arbitrary, melodramatic discretion. 

Up to this point, I view my decisively uneventful timeline in a series of peaks and valleys, and the valleys somehow seem so much more monumental than the peaks — and so, sorry, Marie, but I’ll be holding on to the things that remind me of all my existential crises and crying sessions to Frank Ocean. 

If, hypothetically, all of my possessions were to be in one place, and that one place was to catch on fire, I would want all of the below objects to be salvaged. Not just the things that spark joy. 

The orange dreamcatcher my middle school friend made for me when I was moving away. We haven’t been in touch for years, and I’m sure she has no idea that it’s dangled from the window in every single bedroom I’ve slept in since. 

The one pair of wired headphones I keep in my backpack even when I have fully charged AirPods. The same headphones that drowned out Seoul subway announcements and New York City traffic.

My diary from my junior year of high school, pages filled with what in retrospect read like an extensive nervous breakdown. This was my most unapologetic, uninhibited version and she was someone I would love to find again.  

The battered, pink golf glove I still have in my stand bag from when I took lessons with matching pink kiddie clubs. 

The copy of “The Sun Also Rises” that I like to bring on flights, recommended to me years ago by a boy who I no longer speak to. The underlines and folded page corners still remain from when I first read it, scouring for insightful comments I could make to impress him. 

My grandmother’s gold ring that I haven’t taken off my right ring finger in years, somehow enwrapping my skin perfectly like lock and key. 

The hotel keycards from my favorite high school trips: Paris, The Hague, Singapore. Remembering the stifled laughter behind those doors and how we snuck out the fire escape and had to prop up a water bottle to keep it open for when we’d return at dawn. 

The recording microphone I have from the one week I was convinced that I was meant to be a songwriter. Quick abandonment came after realizing that my limited vocal range and knowledge of five guitar chords equated to a blatant lack of talent. 

The empty Kodak film canister that I turned into a keychain, dangling from my car keys, now a hollowed shell that reminds me of the best summer I ever had and the photos that were developed to tell the tale.

All my nametags and placards from past Model UN conferences, back when my favorite hobby was dressing up in heels and debating world issues with little to no idea what I was really talking about. 

The sweatshirt from my dream university that I kept even after the pure devastation of that rejection email because it is as much a token of my teenage ambitions and efforts as it is of my redirection.

The classic, comfort teddy bear that I’ve had since I was five, with its green Harrods ribbon still miraculously intact.

The plane ticket from Frankfurt to Seoul the morning after I graduated. I sat in my window seat and watched as my city turned into a tiny speck, distorted by the clouds, and I waited until the cabin crew was gone to let myself sob. 

In her consulting program, Marie shares that “to put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.” I choose to keep my past a part of my present, in convoluted disarray of the objects I arguably have no use for anymore. These are the tactile reminders of my past twenty years, and I love nothing more than shuffling through them whenever I’m home on break. My cabinets may be overflowing, but there is plenty of room for decades more of clutter to come. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying finance with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80s playlists at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.