…but liquor is quicker! (A Personal Entry)
Physically extinct reminders, both wanted and unwanted, of our childhoods and distant pasts reflect on our simpler views of the world at the time. We call the various forms of these reminders nostalgia, and I have yet to meet someone who was able to resist its allure in one form or another.
And man, does it come in many forms.
Music, movies, television shows, fashion and clothing, world events, cars, celebrities, technology, even slang and verbal communication are all various manifestations of nostalgia. And these are just a few of the more general terms I could use. I suppose not all topics are to be treated equally by everyone. There might be a song that triggers a memory for one person that has no meaning for another, or a film where one person could recite every line from the time they were five (Beauty and the Beast for Yours Truly) and the second person hasn’t even seen. Nostalgia is as individual as people are. It comes to and affects people in different ways.
For me, it’s candy.
I’m pretty sure this is why I was moderately overweight from the fifth grade until about six months ago. I was truly a connoisseur of ninety-nine-cent confections in my day (adjusted for inflation). No chocolate bar was left unturned during my youth. It didn’t help that a simple fifteen-minute walk through the neighborhood from my house led me directly to a Kinney’s, where there was relatively cheap and unlimited access to a whole aisle of both seasonal and year-round candies. Hell, I only needed to cross one busy street to get there!
Not only does the smell, taste, and mere idea of the Ghost of Candies Past guide me back to those golden years of not caring about my weight (and they really were golden years to me, it meant one less worrisome burden that I had to carry then that I carry now), but the candy itself triggers memories whenever I eat them…if I can find them, of course. A lot of these treats are now either extinct entirely or can only be found on exotic candy sites that ship from India.
One of my personal favorites was the strawberry Charleston Chew. It was one of those candy bars I got at Kinney’s. Afraid of my mother’s scornful taunts that I didn’t need the extra calories (however true they were), I would refuse to take my kid purse and instead put the money in a pocket. I’d go out under the ruse of going for a walk (looking back, Mumsie must have known what I was doing all along) and start my journey in the hot summer sun.
I didn’t care that it was hot as I wandered through the woods behind the nearby school that led me into the other side of the neighborhood. I knew the prize at the end was always worth it. And damn, that Charleston Chew never failed me. For a dollar left over from my ‘paycheck’ mowing my Grandmum’s lawn, my taste buds were given the cheap-but-delicious satisfaction they’d been waiting for all week.
On the way home, after I emerged from the woods behind the school, I’d divert from my usual path to swing in the twilight on the playground, greedily chewing away the minutes until I had to go home to another one of my mother’s attempts to drop a few pounds off my sister and I (usually grilled chicken salad).
Those were the days.
Fortunately, Charleston Chews still exist, even the strawberry ones. So occasionally, I can still find a Kinney’s and relive those carefree summer days again. They remain to this day one of my all-time favorite candy bars.
Unfortunately, like many forms of nostalgia, many of my old favorites are now extinct and condemned to Vh1’s I Heart the 90s Part Deux.
Take, for example, the Wonder Ball.
The Wonder Ball. Bitches.
This candy was too awesome for words, especially to a ten-year-old mind like mine. For those who can’t remember the days of Wonder Balls, or never heard of them to begin with, imagine this: combining two of the best things to happen to children in the late 90s (Nestle and Disney) into a 2oz spherical masterpiece in shiny foil paper. This confection had the equivalent of about two Hershey kisses-worth of chocolate, but it wasn’t even the chocolate that made the candy epic. It was the fact that peeling away the thin chocolate shell revealed a foam ball you popped apart, which, in turn, revealed a small Disney figurine. And these figurines could be of absolutely ANY Disney character past or present.
However, due to the combined effort of grown-ups who are too stupid to tell their children not to swallow the plastic thing inside their candy, as well as the grown-ups who get off on taking the happiness away from small children, the Magic Ball was declared a hazard and taken off the market. It was replaced a few years later by the Wonder Ball, which, instead of a Disney-figure inside the thin candy shell, contained a few Disney-shaped Sweet-Tarts and a Disney Sticker inside the box.
Despite the fact that it contained the same net amount of candy as a fun-sized Snickers Bar, it was still awesome. It was the only thing I wanted when the family went for Sunday-afternoon grocery shopping. I would pit my mother against my grandmother when I went to stay with the latter on some weekends, and convince her to let me have a treat from the Wegmans even if Mum wouldn’t allow it (and Grandmumsie always took my side, bless her).
And screw the candy! It was that damned sticker I wanted!
I collected the stickers like nobody’s business and stuck them to my door (much to my parents’ anger…at least I lived in the basement where few would see my acts of pre-vandalism). I think at the peak of my infatuation with the Wonder Ball, I had about 50 or 60 different stickers on that door. One of the best parts was that repeat stickers nearly never happened. I think I only had one or two sets of repeats total. I grouped them by film and had an ongoing contest to see which Disney movie had the most stickers. The winner always suspiciously kept changing to be the most recent Disney movie to come out (what a surprise, yes?).
Then, woe came in 2004, the summer I turned fifteen (Jesus, really?). Some douchebag snooty small-name company bought out the Wonder Ball brand name from Nestle. And put the Wonder Ball permanently out of production. Fuckers.
Instead of blubbering senselessly and wondering why someone would bother buying a brand just to stop it from being enjoyed world-over, I found around that time my candy tastes matured. I still bought strawberry Charleston Chews and some of my other old favorites. But I was becoming a fan of Riesen truffles (my new personal favorite), Godiva, and Lyndt. The days of cheaply processed sugar lay behind me, and I became a woman that summer…at least in the taste-buds department.
Nowadays, my waistline means more to me than sugar comas (sadly), and I haven’t touched a strawberry Charleston Chew or Riesen since entering college nearly four years ago. Willy Wonka would be so ashamed.
Maybe one day I’ll find my passion for candy once again, and I’ll stumble upon a Charleston Chew or bag of Riesens, or even a packet of Gushers! Then I’ll walk out of the woods behind the old elementary school, another mission successfully completed, and sit on that swing set, chewing away the minutes before going home to a grilled chicken salad my mother made for dinner.