I have 4 brothers. I’m right in the middle. That means that anything we got into was never really my fault. And we got into a lot.
We lived on the very edge of a small town where we ended up mostly hanging out with each other. Rick, my oldest brother, was just 11 and the rest of us were younger than that. None of us had jobs, and our parents were certainly not handing out anything like an allowance for doing chores.
But we were a creative bunch.
I won’t tell you the story about when we filled the bathtub up with garter snakes, or the time we drove dad’s old car into the creek. Those stories are true, but they only happened once. One thing we did constantly was go on a mission to find a way to get some candy. We were honest, small town kids so we had to either find work or find money.
Work might have been easy enough to find, but it would have meant, well… working… so we went for the money route. We collected pop bottles and cans. We stuck our heads into garbage cans and opened the ties on garbage bags to check out the contents. We scoured every ditch. We tip toed behind the restaurant (yes, there was only one) to see if they had thrown anything returnable out into the trash.
After hours and hours of searching and doing our civic duty for the environment (my current spin on it but that wasn’t even on the horizon then), we came up with a box of bottles and cans. There was that one time we used mom’s laundry basket, which apparently got sticky and she did not “appreciate it, in the least!”
We all took an end. Sometimes sliding the box on the sidewalk, and sometimes managing to carry it between us, we got it to the corner store. Well, not really a “corner store” because it wasn’t on the corner. It was directly across the main street from the Post Office. The Post Office seemed huge in comparison. The candy store was just 2 aisles. In my memory at least. Maybe there were more aisles, but if there were, they did not have any candy on those shelves.
The clerk took the bottles and cans and took forever counting how much cash we had earned that afternoon. Finally, he forked it over and we divvied it up.
And then came the Candy Math.
How much money did I have? How much did everything cost? What could I get? I remember walking up and down those 2 aisles smelling the sweet scent of chocolate and sugar, with a faint hint of mint near the gum display. I might have just strolled near the candy all day if Wayne (my second oldest brother and the person in the world who scared me the most at the time) didn’t remind me that we needed to get home quickly, now. (That sounded nicer than it was.)
I got a chocolate bar, and some penny candies (I think they were a nickel). I held them close to my heart as we walked back home.
When we got home my brothers all ran to their rooms to eat all their candies. I remember sitting on the back step with our dog, Suzie, and just smelling that Snickers Bar for a long time. I must have eaten it eventually, but what I remember is how good it smelled.