I have a problem. I cannot eat Cheetos without first scrutinizing what shape they resemble. And if I see something I put them in a plastic bag, until I decide what to do with them.
This all began with the story online about how there was a Cheeto that resembled Harambe the gorilla that was killed when a 3-year-old boy climbed into his enclosure.
On May 28, 2016, a 3-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden where he was grabbed and dragged by Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla. Fearing for the boy’s life, a zoo worker shot and killed Harambe.
About a year later, the Cheeto that looked like Harambe was put on eBay, and it sold for $99,900. I wondered if maybe in my plastic bag I had anything I could put on eBay and sell. Searching through my Cheetos, I found one that I thought resembled Donkey Kong, and I put it on eBay, listed it for $50 and had a few “views,” but no takers, so I came back down to Earth and relisted it for $15. I got one offer of $1, so I ended up removing the item, and putting it back in the plastic bag.
What I didn’t know is that there was a lot of Cheetos for sale on eBay, various shapes, some a little X-rated depicting said Cheeto as a, well… you get the idea. In fact, a few years ago there was a Cheeto contest where it asked people to submit photos of your weird-shaped Cheeto. True story, just Google it.
Then came the time I found one that looked like a saint to me. No real definitive saint, just a bit saintly. But the coup de gras was the one that I found that looked like Mother Mary and Baby Jesus. I wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap and placed it in the infamous plastic bag that contained my Cheetos.
Pondering my latest find, I decided to try again and so I put it on eBay for $50. Believe it or not, someone purchased it. I packaged it up, being ever so careful. First I placed it in a little cotton-filled box, then I bubble wrapped it and put in a mailer and sent it on its way.
You wouldn’t believe how many friends and family members reacted when I told them the story and showed them the photo of the Cheeto. It was about an 80-20 percentage of those who immediately saw the Mother Mary and Baby Jesus image in the Cheeto, and of course a few who just kinda saw it, but not really.
Recently, our family was over and as I was replenishing the cheese platter, I grabbed the box of Ritz crackers and pulled a few out and one looked just like Pac Man, half smiling, not a complete cracker, and I thought, hmmm. Yep, you guessed where it now resides, in my Cheetos bag.
Of course, I’m not the only one who looks for things or rather sees shapes of things in out-of-the-ordinary places. Recall The Madonna Tree on Sierra Highway that was special to so many people.
There is a theory called Pareidolia and it is the tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none. I beg to differ; I think we are always searching for the “hidden meaning” and finding things that bring comfort to us in the places where we look.
I have taken many photos throughout the years when I think I see something special. Whether it’s the way a shadow was cast or a bright ray of sunshine peering through the tree branches, I capture that moment. Believe or not I’ve got a few Mother Mary images that I’ve photographed. And I have photos that people and family members have shared with me. It’s nice to be able to have that connection.
About a year after my mom had died, I was at the Starbucks where we used to sit and chat, while the kids would play. At that time, I had a digital camera that was a basic staple in my purse, and I carried it with me everywhere I went.
As I was walking, something caught my eye. There was a small pool of water and part of the cement was damp and it was shaped like my mom’s face. It was so familiar; in fact, it matched a photo that had been used in the booklet at her memorial. We had put together a collection of photographs as a celebration of her life. There was a photo that I thought matched the image I saw outlined in the cement and it was taken on her wedding day. About a week after, I was talking to my friend, and I showed her the picture, and I showed her the photo on the front page of Mom’s memorial booklet.
She was speechless. She couldn’t believe it. I did a little research and found out that many believe that when you pass away you go back to the time when you were the happiest. In my mom’s case, that was her wedding day.
I know people might think it’s a stretch to believe this, and that life can sometimes seem rote in its behavior. But it’s nice to know at those moments when we perhaps need a little more that something special can occur. We may see a comforting sign in the most unobvious of places, be it a tree, or the angel in the center of a pansy flower, or the ray of sunlight against a branch or wall, that casts a shadow creating a shape that looks familiar, or spiritual.
Be it indoors, outdoors or in the case of Jennifer, inside a simple bag of Cheetos.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.