No Imitations

If I had a favorite beverage besides coffee, it would have to be Diet SunDrop. Those of you who have never had Diet SunDrop, I pity you. It’s similar to Diet Mt. Dew, but more awesome. Growing up, you knew you had officially come of age in the Hudson house when Mom let you drink SunDrop at the dinner table.   As our family easily drank two 2-liters per day, my parents once joked that the SunDrop truck should make our house a regular stop; as soon as I could drive, I was sent to the grocery store with a $20 bill (back when 2-liters were $1.09) to buy 15 Diet SunDrops or “all they had left”— whichever came first. (As you might imagine, pushing around a cart with nothing in it but Diet SunDrops was a mortifying experience for a 16-year-old.)

My earliest realization of our family’s addiction to the SunDrop product line came the summer I was 17, when we decided to take the fabled 2-and-a-half week vacation out West in the family van to see the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Monument Valley and a score of other national parks I can’t remember. Packing for such a trip was an ordeal, but the greatest challenge came when it was time to stock up on SunDrop. You see, SunDrop is somewhat regional – widespread in Tennessee and parts of Alabama, but only found in patches west of the Mississippi. (We’ll call those states, Black States, as in, without SunDrop.)

Once my dad had sufficiently obtained a “3-week” supply of SunDrop for the family and loaded it up with the luggage, he was presented with a crucial problem – the SunDrop was stacked too high for the driver to see out the back of the van. Thus, my sister and I were tasked with the important assignment of breaking down the flats and storing the individual cans throughout the van in creative places – in pouches, under seats, in the VCR cupboard, even under the trash bag in the bottom of the trashcan. For years afterward, if you opened some seldom-used compartment to get a map or cassette tape, you ran the risk of stray SunDrop rolling out and hitting you in the head.

Anyway, I don’t know if being stuck in the car for 22-hours made us consume more SunDrop or if the arid climate of the American desert made us more thirsty than anticipated, but despite my dad’s best calculations, we began to run out of Diet SunDrop a week and a half into our journey, somewhere around Moab, Utah.

My dad was the first to pick up on the scarcity and began rationing (aka. hiding) cans belonging to the last flat. My mom then procured cans of Diet Mt. Dew at some desert outpost, which proceeded to sit in the back seat of the car like an unwanted stepchild. Despite admonitions to alternate our beverage selection, we proceeded to deplete the precious stash of Diet SunDrop. My mom began to get suspicious when my dad graciously volunteered to climb over backpacks and children to get her a drink while she was driving. She became even more suspicious when he volunteered to pour it in a cup of ice instead of simply tossing the can at her.

“This isn’t Diet SunDrop!!”

“I don’t know what you mean….”

“How many SunDrops have you had today?”

“Two, but I didn’t have any yesterday!”

“You had one back at Canyonlands – I saw you!”

“But I gave some of mine to Holly…”

The suspicion rose to such heights that a child was dispatched to watch the parent pouring the drink at all times and verify that it was, in fact, Diet SunDrop.

Children can be easily bribed with small amounts of chocolate.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, my parents knew what they wanted and would accept no imitations. They knew the taste, the fizz, the unmistakable SunDrop tang to be able to discern an undiluted fraud in their glass.

When I went to college in southern Alabama, I was forced to wean myself off Diet SunDrop and onto Diet Mt. Dew, a habit I’ve kept till this day. But I still remember the Battle of the SunDrop somewhere along the dusty trails of the American Southwest.

Today’s message is, “Know what you want. Recognize the real thing, and accept no imitations.”

When you visit the Hudson household this November as an honored guest, you can see pictures from that summer of 1996, along with videos and souvenirs from other trips we are thankful for.

And when it comes time for dinner, we will serve you Diet SunDrop.

Any other SunDrop fans in the house?