Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sweet Times in Livermore

I mentioned in an earlier blog how much I loved to walk when I was a young girl living in Livermore. I have to admit that most of the walks were purely motivated by my insatiable desire for candy. It wasn't until the past few years that I have realized what the serious sweet tooth I have has been around since I can remember. I walked to the Sprouse Reitz on Rincon. I walked to the Quart House on L Street. When I swam at the May Nissen park, the only thing I could think about was getting the 50/50 ice cream bar after my swim.

Sweet Tarts, Red Hots, Jolly Ranchers, Hershey Bars (a real treat), Sugar Daddys, Almond Joys, Sugar Babies and of course Life Savers. M&Ms were very cool because they melted in your mouth, not in your hand. Candy cigarettes and the Pez candies and the Pixie sticks and of course the Bazooka bubble gum. When the Sweet Tarts came out with their giant Tart, about the size of a hockey puck, I would suck on it until my tongue bled, and then would just save the rest for later when my tongue had stopped bleeding. One of my treasured Christmas presents was a Life Saver Christmas box from my sister Becky. I relished going through each roll, saving the Cherry roll for last. When I lost a tooth and got a quarter or a fifty cent piece under my pillow, that money was gone by noon, spent at Woolworths or the P&X.

I chewed Dentyne after any kind of binge, because I had been told (probably by some television commercial) that Dentyne was recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists and I thought that maybe it would help me from getting cavities. I even would take the chewed wad and paste it on my front teeth for a while, thinking it's magical powers would help straighten my buck teeth out.

I smugly walked into the dentist's office on my own when I was eight. I had been to the dentist before, many times, and had never had a cavity. The dentist sat back and told me gravely, I'm afraid that you have a small cavity." My heart sunk, and I dreaded getting the novocaine needle, but it didn't stop me from buying candy.

Did I eat the sweets to stave off the loneliness? Some other kind of emotional pain? Couldn't tell you that. I wasn't feeling much of anything after my father died. I was bent on being the good girl and I was dead inside. Sugar in its many varied forms filled a hole. At that point, I just thought it was a hole of hunger.

I am the youngest of four girls; my mother was left to raise us after she and our father divorced in 1958. We managed, mainly on dinners of macaroni and cheese and a concoction called Hamburger Heaven (my sister has the recipe on her blog), and my mother made a lot of our clothes. But things were tough, there was no doubt about it. My mother always seemed tired; partly due to her work as a secretary at Sandia, and partly because she was emotionally exhausted from the stress of raising four girls on her own. I came home one day and heard my mother sobbing in her bedroom. What happened, I asked Becky. The puppy chewed up her best dress, she answered. She wasn't a fashion maven. She was just despondent over not having the money to replace her only good dress.

Linda was the oldest of the girls, ten years older than me. The responsible one, always making sure we’d done our chores before Mom came home from work. Patty was eighteen months younger than Linda. and looked more like Dad than the rest of us.

I was afraid of Patty most of the time. “C’mere,” she’d tell me when I would come home from second grade. She would be in the living room, putting her hair up in rollers with Dippity Do in the middle of the afternoon for her date that night. “Tell me what this is.” And she’d flip me the bird, three inches from my face. I’d stand there, confused, not knowing the answer. She’d laugh and turn away.

One day she and Becky told me that they would pay me fifty cents if I managed to put an entire pack of gum - not the regular size with five pieces, but the giant sized with 20 - into my mouth all at once. This bet stemmed from an incident in the car a few days earlier when they discovered that I had a very large mouth that was practically cavernous when I opened it wide. One by one I put those sticks of Juicy Fruit in my mouth. Patty and Becky were busy cleaning their rooms, or at least pretending that they were - they never did clean a room in the real sense of the word, they just moved clothes from one pile to another.

Oh my god! Patty said when she finally checked on me. I stood in the bathroom, tears streaming down my face, making gutteral sounds, trying to wail past the wall of gum that was in my mouth. I could not move my mouth and could only breathe through my nose. Patty and Becky stood at the bathroom door, mouths agape if only for a second before they started to howl with laughter. Patty slapped a fifty cent piece into my palm and I pulled the gum out of my mouth. I'm sure that I spent the fifty cents on candy. I don't remember what kind, but I'm sure it wasn't Juicy Fruit.

1 comment:

Lisamariesmom said...

I'm laughing AND crying. I faintly remember the gum incident. You captured the atmosphere and made it fun to read!