Deep feelings for small longings

Deep feelings for small longings

Do you remember LifeSavers storybooks? I received this as a Secret Santa present once in the mid- or late-1970s and could hardly believe my good fortune. Twelve rolls of candy. All mine. Twelve flavors. Each better than the next. I remember savoring the feeling of a single disk melting slowly on my tongue, delighting in the new flavors to explore..the wild cherry both tart and sweet, the wint-O-green startlingly cold, the butter rum simply perfect.

I longed for another storybook for years afterwards, quietly pining for a thing that seemed obviously out of reach. Like the box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener, the cunning little cardboard book with its heavy pair of sleeves containing unheard-of riches of personal candy felt like an item almost too luxurious to contemplate. Twenty-four colors were considered sufficient for one’s school supplies. One package of LifeSavers at a time was surely enough for any reasonable child.

Twelve packs at once, if purchased by my parents, would have undoubtedly been required to be split evenly between me and my sisters — four rolls each. Which might seem both practical and reasonable. After all, no one needed so much candy all to themselves.

But which would have utterly destroyed the thrill of the storybook, whose magic lay in its excess bounty and in the absolute extravagance of time it would take to eat through it all. Lying on my stomach on the shag carpet of my bedroom, novel open, relishing the long moments of indecision: which package to open next? The slow working one’s way through the chosen flavor. The consciousness, on eating the last one, that that flavor was gone. Perhaps never to be eaten again. (So many of those flavors were not sold with the candy at the grocery store registers!) It would have been unthinkable to have more than one package open at a time, to destroy the tidy display behind the clear plastic window with more than one ragged tube-end. And so, the heavy column of candy was slowly reduced, one roll at a time.

Yesterday, out running errands, I saw a LifeSaver storybook at Target. I gasped, and thought fleetingly about getting them for my children for Christmas. They would not feel sentimental about them, of course. THEY had never longingly run one forefinger over the ad for Sea Monkeys in the back of the children’s magazine and wished so hard they could feel it in their tummies for $1.25 and several UPC symbols. And they had never seen other children come to school with exotic flavors of LifeSaver — pineapple! wild cherry! (not the same as cherry!!) — and known, just known, that those children’s parents thought LifeSaver storybooks were a good idea.

To be fair to my parents, I am quite sure I never expressed this longing to them. Having the sense that it would be met with confusion, bemusement, or immediate misunderstanding, as small-person’s longings often are, I suspect I never told them because I didn’t want to give them the chance to say that it was unnecessary. Or to prove their utter lack of understanding by suggesting that it would be the perfect thing for we three sisters to share.

But I still thought my children would get a kick out of it. And so I picked up a storybook. Do you know what they have done? First, the “book” only has one side, and the cover that folds over it is simply a clear plastic window. The twelve glorious rolls, the unimaginable bounty of candy, has been reduced to six. And, to heap horror upon indignity: ALL OF THEM ARE THE SAME FLAVOR. Six tubes of the mixed-flavor. The most pedestrian, most available, least thrilling choice in the entire candy display is the one they have chosen to pack repeatedly into this StoryBook. What even is the point? my childish longing cried. And so I put it back.

At first, I was annoyed by stupid consumerism. But then I realized: isn’t this part of what childhoods are? The deeply felt, never confessed certainty that no adult could ever possibly understand the particular texture of one’s admiration for a thing that surely they would see as pointless? And the delight in holding that certainty close, reveling in its enormity, in the gravity of the knowledge that when the last butter rum LifeSaver melts away, and all that is left is the lingering slick of flavor on your tongue, you have truly had an experience in life that is all your very own?

3 thoughts on “Deep feelings for small longings

  1. This just sparked a nostalgic conversation with my husband and we are both now also disappointed that it’s just the one kind.

  2. Your piece reminded me of one great change between then and now. In my day, I knew literally no kids who actually owned the 64-crayon box of Crayola’s. All my own children’s friends seem to have had them.

    Is this a sign of excessive affluence? We weren’t poor but my own parents thought 64 was simply too much.

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