Maybe Next Week

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.

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10 Comments

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10 Responses to Maybe Next Week

  1. Yes. A lesson we have all learned, the hard way. Has this happened to you? When you find something you LOVE, you buy a bunch of it — and then you go off it? Or, just when you find something that is PERFECT, they discontinue it?
    Ah, the problems of the First World. Seen those sites? Very amusing. My fav is

    http://first-world-problems.com/

    • Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – Indeed, the challenges of wealth! Subtle taste preferences are likely something much of the world can’t even imagine.

  2. Oh, I don’t know — when all you eat is some kind of root gruel, I bet you can taste many differences. Like the many names for snow. What we have today I suspect would be called, uh, “squeaky.” I haven’t been out to test , but we all know the sound. Just like there is a certain kind of snow (wet) that will make snowballs, not that I’ve touched snow in years.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – For me, hunger makes almost everything taste better. Maybe that’s why we have raised food appreciation to an art. Lacking hunger, we need finer and finer distinctions in our food.

  3. You can go home again! After all, you have indeed revisited your childhood longings, which are exactly the same for me regarding Cherry Blossom angst. You never did eat a Cherry Blossom, so that was never part of “home”. As a child, I thought being rich was eating fresh fruit every day, a richness that has for some time been bestowed on me thanks to globalization and transportation improvements. Still, I do remember to feel rich anyway.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Interesting. I remember having ‘canned’ (i.e. commercially tinned) fruit for dessert. I sure can’t imagine doing that now! Fresh fruit is, as you say, quite a commonplace luxury, as it were.

  4. Dave

    That brings back memories. I also remember the Cherry Blossom dilemma. So tempting yet so small compared to an O’Henry bar. At Christmas time it was get to the Black Magic box of chocolates first to get the cherry chocolate. There was also Mom’s jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge. Could I sneak one cherry out of the jar without it being missed? Probably, but what if I did that repeatedly? How many is one too many? A topic for another day!

    • Isabel Gibson

      Dave – Oddly enough, I always liked the maraschino cherries in chocolate & syrup, but not on their own. (Too squeaky, maybe – like Barbara’s snow today.) As for sneaking food, what do you bet that your mother noticed even the one, and just said nothing? A wee gift to a little kid…

  5. MC

    What an interesting perspective. As a mother of two young girls, I feel I spend most of my time trying to limit exposure to candy which seems to be *everywhere* even though we rarely buy it. A typical 2-hour birthday party these days produces more candy and sugar than most people even a generation ago would have seen in a year I imagine. And candy is just an example of the constant availability of almost any want; it’s difficult to reproduce the magic of ‘wanting’ something these days. It’s a shame because it does heighten its value. That’s why butter, fine sugar, and silk stockings were so coveted by my grandmother’s generation.

    • Isabel Gibson

      MC – As a grandparent who despairs, sometimes, of giving a truly ‘special’ gift to kids who pretty much already have ‘everything’, I now focus more on gifts with non-monetary value: special rocks and shells I’ve collected, as two examples. As another, a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle made and then broken apart into manageable chunks for those just barely in school. The scarcity that makes these gifts valuable is, of course, time. Getting kids to save up for something they want is about the only way I know of to reproduce that yearning.