The man by the cash register nodded to me.
“My allowance went up to ten whole cents!” I said with excitement. “So you’ll see me every day on my way back after lunch!”
Since the walk to elementary school meant seven blocks uphill there, seven blocks downhill home for lunch, seven blocks back to classes, and seven blocks again to my house, and I had to do this five days a week for eight whole years… A candy store nearby the all-brick education building was quite perfect.
Candy Dots: Visual of colored circles of sugar, plus carefully pulling each one from paper without disturbing the others, was something I really enjoyed. Now, with a bigger weekly allowance, I could actually have ten of these a week instead of only five.
School buses didn’t exist in the community, nor did lunchrooms on site until 9th grade. ‘Middle school’ hadn’t been developed even as a concept yet. For high school, one could walk really long distances or wait for city buses on regular routes. Crowded with too many students plus passengers, walking, for me, was definitely preferable no matter what the weather conditions. I was used to dealing with cold or rain or snow. Sunshine and warmth was as much a treat as thinking about Candy Dots!
War Identification Cards were issued, and I was also given a plastic disc (suspended from a chain) to wear around my neck. It said: Lois Greene, New York City. But I lived where Long Island began, so why did the tag say where all the skyscrapers were? Well, the special necklace seemed fun and grown up, but they took my fingerprints in that candy store—how could government people, or something like that, make my fingers inky when it was a CANDY store! I looked at the display of Sugar Dots to concentrate on something pretty that I so liked in my mouth, how my fingers enjoyed peeling dots from the paper, anything so I wouldn’t have to watch dirty fingers being smushed on paper for some government reason I didn’t understand anyway.
When my allowance rose to 25-cents a week, I could still ‘feel’ inky stuff each time I walked through the wood door and saw the shop’s owner. I began to buy gummy dots, neatly boxed, since delight with my sugar-on–paper had been dampened by wartime government-decree to have my digits filed. A teacher said if a bomb fell, and we couldn’t be recognized, those fingerprints and dog tag would be identifiers. I had to look that word up in the dictionary. I know who I am, so why was some proof needed?
My uncles came back from places across the ocean, a female cousin returned from being in the army of women, my mom no longer had ration books, my dad could get gasoline and use the car. The Uncle Sam Wants You signs began to disappear, and I tucked the two identification items into a satin hankie case.
Well, wars didn’t stop as I was an undergrad during the Korean fighting, although no one had ID tags except soldiers. Tiny candy stores slowly vanished. The elementary school building seemed small and dated when I registered in that facility at age 21 so I could vote in American elections.
Adulthood. Marriage. Families. My older sister lived 3,000 miles away, and, before our current technology, telephone communication was costly; we used regular mail. When she was terminally ill, she told me to anticipate a present. Wrapped in layers of tissue paper for protection, in a normal envelope, was a strip of paper with tiny-tiny sugar candy dots affixed. Tears tumbled as I peeled away the first pink one.