Being the 5th in a miscellany of short posts to mark the 12 days of Christmas.
Standing in front of the candy counter, clutching my weekly allowance, I look longingly at the Cherry Blossom. Packaged in its own stylish box, it stands aloof from the array of cheap sponge toffee, bubble gum, chewy candies and jawbreakers, all enticingly at eye level. To my 9-year-old eyes, it represents the height of indulgence: so small, yet the same price as a full-size chocolate bar. I could buy it — I have enough money — but it would mean forgoing all other treats until next Saturday. On the mile-long walk home from the convenience store, I think, Maybe next week. And yet, week after week, the calculation of best bang for my quarter-buck leads me to pass over the Cherry Blossom. Reluctantly, regretfully, relentlessly. When I can afford a Cherry Blossom, I think, I’ll be rich.
For the next several years, the nearest I come to a Cherry Blossom is the single Lowney’s box of chocolate-covered maraschino cherries that appear — in our early 1960s home at least — only as a Christmas treat. Almost too sweet, they are impossible to savour slowly, collapsing in a drip of syrup down my front unless popped whole into my mouth. Rather than extinguishing the dream, though, they feed it: If the 20-to-a-box version is this good, how much more wonderful must the humungous one-to-a-box version be?
At what age I stopped bestowing my weekly allowance exclusively on the nearest candy counter, I can’t say: maybe when that allowance began to stretch to buying books from the Simpsons Sears discount bin. My next clear memory of the Cherry Blossom is as a 30-something, standing in line to pay for gasoline. The candy counter is no longer at eye level, but that distinctive box catches my eye just as effectively as ever it did. I didn’t know they were still making these, I think. And, indeed, the Walter M. Lowney company of my youth has been assimilated into Hershey through a corporate takeover, so the ‘they’ is different, but the ‘these’ look just the same. I stand indecisively for a moment, weighing the silliness of yielding to this impulse from the past against the silliness of not yielding to it, now that I can, finally, easily afford it. Seize the day! I think. Someone said that, didn’t they? I leave the store clutching my gas receipt and that prized little box.
Yet the Cherry Blossom — no longer unaffordable — is still unattainable, in some deep sense. My 30-something tastes lean more to rich, dark chocolate than to the sweet, cheap, nutty milk chocolate on offer here. I can finally afford the damn thing, all right, but I no longer want it.
You can’t go home again. Who said that? You can’t even go to the candy counter again. The day I am trying to seize is long past: the day I have to seize, as always, lies before me. When I can do that, I’ll be rich.