The Penny Candy Store

I grew up in a rural community. Mostly there were apple orchards and dairy farms. We lived about a mile from a hamlet which was really nothing more than a cemetery, a church, a Grange Hall, and a cluster of houses. And LaFlam’s.  We rode our bikes to LaFlam’s every chance we could.

Mr. LaFlam owned a small orchard. He was an older, bald man. He also ran a penny candy store on the enclosed front porch of his house. His youngest daughter, Anna, helped him with the penny candy business. Anna was what we called “slow” back then.

One of Anna’s brothers was intellectually disabled. He would hitchhike up US-20 to the town proper, where he was known as the Mayor. People watched out for him.  There was a perpetual bald spot under one of the trees on the Presbyterian church’s lawn where Henry (as he was known in town) sat. In his home hamlet, we called him Hank.

Both of Anna’s children were also severely intellectually disabled. Eddie and Ginny were adults when I knew them. The people in the hamlet watched out for the LaFlams. It’s what folks did back then.

Someone had given Eddie an old bicycle. It was, as far as we all could tell, his prized possession. He couldn’t ride, but he pushed the bike up and down the road all the time.  If he heard a car coming, he would push the bike way off the road to avoid being hit. Eddie also wrote love letters to his “girlfriend.” He always had a small spiral notebook and pencil stub in his pocket . His wavy lines were very neat, between the lines on the paper. He would share those love letters with us if we asked him to show them to us.

Sometimes, visitors who weren’t familiar with the family, would try to take advantage of Eddie…get him to give away apples and such. But no one in the hamlet did that. No one was mean–not intentionally. Yes, we sometimes imitated the way Eddie spoke, called it our accent, but there was no meanness in it. One of my cousins had Eddie down-pat.

In the summer, every Monday night, Anna and her daughter Ginny would walk to dinner at a house down the road from my parents place. We would always greet them. But Ginny was shy and seldom spoke.

After old Mr. LaFlam passed away, the penny candy store had to close. Anna wasn’t capable of doing whatever needed to be done. We lost our place to buy Turkish Taffy, Fireballs, Tootsie Rolls, licorice whips, and cherry vines. Another family tried to do the same thing on their enclosed porch, but it never succeeded. LaFlam’s was an institution to a generation of children in the area.

I grew up and moved away. My folks weren’t sure whatever happened to Eddie and Ginny after their mother could no longer take care of them.  Dad thought Ginny went into a home, but didn’t know what happened to Eddie.

I did a little Internet snooping

Henry/Hank died in 2005, survived by one niece and one nephew.

Ginny died in 2017. Her obit reads: She is survived by her brother Edward. Ginny loved getting her nails manicured; going shopping and to her ARC program.

Eddie was the last one to pass away. He died only a few weeks ago, at the age of 88. I missed his memorial service by two weeks. How utterly sad that his short obit reads: Edward has no known survivors. Please contact the funeral home with any additional information. 

I don’t suppose they meant memories of bicycles, love letters, and penny candy.

Tale of a Movie Critic

For many years, the city in which I live hosted a film festival. Actually, it hosts several,  but the most established one was created and run by a friend of my husband. Several larger cities tried to “buy” it from the founder, but he wouldn’t give it up. The festival featured old movies. It drew a wide range of people from all over the world, including a Famous Movie  Critic. My husband owned several books by this movie critic, who also had his own syndicated TV program. Several people who contributed to his books also attended the festival. While I never met the Famous Movie Critic, I did become friends with the others. We went to baseball games together.

My husband always attended the film festival either alone or with his friends, while I stayed home and did the solo parent thing.

One evening, the children and I were on a quest for saxophone reeds when my cell phone–a very early version of one–rang. This was before talking on a cell phone was illegal in this state. It was my husband. “Famous Movie Critic wants the Turkey Buffet, and I can’t remember how to get there.” My husband’s sense of direction does sometimes leave much to be desired.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“In my car with Famous Movie Critic. I’m using Contributor’s cell phone.”

Wonderful. I’m in rush-hour traffic with our children in my car, the music store where I hoped to buy saxophone reeds was closing soon, and I’m supposed to give directions to a restaurant my husband should know how to find when he didn’t even know where he was. This restaurant was not difficult to find: the Interstate to the correct exit, then turn left at the end of ramp, then right at the next traffic light.

We managed to get everything straightened out, including the sax reeds. Famous Movie Critic got his Turkey Buffet. My husband got a tale to tell about how he got lost with Famous Movie Critic.

 

The Mommy Files: Names

When X-Chromo was very first learning to talk, we discovered something interesting. We played the standard game with her: point at something and ask her, “What’s that?” or at a person and ask, “Who’s that?” The latter was quite common at the dinner table every night.

I would point at my husband. “Who’s that?”

“Dada.”

He would point at me. “Who’s that?”

“Mama.”

One of us would point at her older brother. “Who’s that?”

“Hmph.”

Y-Chromo’s given name is nowhere near “Hmph” in sound. Neither were his many nicknames. But night after night, she would respond: “Dada, Mama, Hmph.”

If you look up the definition of “hmph” you’ll see that the sound indicates annoyance or indignation. Traits that set the tone of their relationship for next several years.

The Mommy Files: Green Grandma

Green is TV Stevie’s least favorite color. I’ve always been partial to it, but after we married, I limited green to foodstuffs. TV is partial to vegetables, so he was content.

Along came the children, who, being green deprived in the house and in their closets, both declared green to be their favorite color.

X-Chromo, I think, rebelled against all the pink and purple in which I swathed her.  Her love of green morphed into a preference for what I call turquoise.  Which TV Stevie insists is green. Men, however, have fewer color rods in their eyes, so he clearly knows not of what he speaks.

Y-Chromo took it one step further.  He invented his “Green Grandma.”

One evening at dinner, Y informed us he wanted to visit his Green Grandma. So I asked him about this person. “Oh, she lives in a green house. Her kitchen is green. Her curtains are green. The stove and refrigerator a green. There are green walls and green floors. All her furniture is green. I love it there.”

The kids wasn’t talking about environmentally correct stuff. He meant the color.

 

 

The Mommy Files: Yum Yums

Friday nights at our house have always been pizza night. After a long work week, it is nice not to have to think about what I’m going to cook for supper.  When the Chromos were young, I did cook. Every night. Except Friday.

We go through phases with our pizza toppings. TV likes green peppers and mushrooms, two things I cannot abide. I like Italian sausage, something he considers extremely unhealthy. Two things we’ve always agreed on are black olives and onions. So for a while, our weekly pizza was topped with onions.

Y-Chromo was old enough to eat a slice on his own, but I had to cut up X-Chromos pizza into tiny pieces for her to handle.  “Yum yum,” she would say. And thus began what would be come a weekly game.

X-Chromo would reach over to my plate and pluck the onions off my slice. “Hey!” I would chide her. “What do you think you’re doing? Those are my onions.”

She would smile and reply, “Yum yums!”

It became a weekly game.