Suddenly I was six years old again. I had forgotten how it felt and fifty years later the feeling came flooding back. The unbridled joy followed by the knowledge an emptiness and longing was to follow. The indecision as to how I would tackle the problem.
Transported back to childhood, I remembered each Monday. Pocket money day. Unlike my brother who banked his, I visited the Popular Cafe. They had the best lolly selection in town. Leaving early for school on these days I ensured that I had enough time to make a really good choice of sweets. Sixpence bought a lot in those days. I had to deliberate on whether to buy one all day sucker for a penny or maybe get six mint leaves, which I didn’t like quite as much. The four for a penny musk sticks were a definite must, as were the milk bottles. The sherbet, with the bit of licorice to suck it through or the Donald Duck sherbets with little spoons, that fizzed on your tongue were also possibilities. Chocolate bullets, jubes, raspberries and cream, licorice all sorts, jelly babies, fruit salad chews, arctic mints, humbugs, bulls eyes, false teeth, wine gums, chocolate eclairs, rosy apples, frogs of the jelly, white and brown chocolate varieties, cigarettes and jaffas were all considered seriously. Freckles weren’t really on the list as already I was a bit of a chocolate connoisseur.
Exhausting my money I would leave the shop with a white bag full of delicious treats that would be eaten over the day. I would deliberate on the order to eat or suck them. I savoured every mouthful. I sucked the musk sticks revelling in the taste and odour. Cigarettes I would smoke, sucking them to a fine point. The babies I would eat limb by limb. Was I a head person or a bottom person? At six who cared but we always used to pay attention to it. I would eke out each lolly for as long as I could. I would resist chewing as using the teeth would make them go quicker: but it was hard. I’d suck the jaffas until all the red colour had gone and the candy became a cracked white, then, puff, the chocolate would melt in a stream and run down my throat signalling the end of that one. All day suckers were disappointing as they did not last all day although, they did last considerably longer than most of the other sweets. Dissecting the licorice all sorts I’d suck the candy until the sugar totally dissolved and then chew the liquorice. They were better in those days as they would always have at least six layers.
I relished in my gorging. Before the end of the day I would be drawing towards the bottom of my bag and inevitably there would be only one sweet left. What should I do? I had a whole week to go before I would see another lolly. Should I save the last remaining for later in the week? What would make me happiest? Eating the candy or knowing it was there, constantly battling the urge to eat it. It was an unfair dilemma to place a six year old.
And here I was, feeling just as I did then, only now it was my retirement present from work that was causing the angst. They had asked me what I wanted and told me how much money they had collected. With disbelief at the esteem in which I was held I decided to forgo the gold watch requested a set of four glasses. They were the finest lead crystal, beautiful not only to look at but also to hold. I insisted on using them and couldn’t understand my friend’s reluctance to do so when I told them each glass cost two hundred dollars. What was the point of having a nice glass if it wasn’t used?
The first had shattered into a thousand pieces when it dropped on the tiles near the barbecue. The second had a similar fate as a result of a washing up mishap. Now the wagging dog’s tail had collected the third in its happy trajectory, sending it flying across the room, exploding on impact. Now there was one remaining.
I had kept my cool on all three occasions. There were no recriminations or tears; it was fate. Now, however, I was feeling as I did when I was six. Should I continue to use the one glass and inevitably lose it forever? Should I place it reverently in the cupboard, not have the pleasure of my lips on its cool surface, the feel of it in my hands, but at least I would know it was there?
I oscillated backwards and forwards. I had always survived once the lolly was gone. It was a relief when it was gone because then I could stop agonising over what I should do. Perhaps that was the best way. Get it over and done with. I filled my glass with a lovely red and slowly sipped and enjoyed. When it was empty I raised it, taking aim at the fireplace. I couldn’t do it. I decided that I would wait for the inevitable natural attrition.