Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chewing Gum

The other day, someone offered me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. It had been years since I had I chewed that brand and I was amazed at how good it was. As I savored that wonderful sweet taste, memories came flooding back. I realized that chewing gum used to play a major role in my life. A single piece of gum would make me happy for an entire day, and into the next day if I took care of it.

When Milton, a distant cousin, would come to visit, he always had gum in his pocket. I would endure hugging his neck just to get a piece of gum. The highlight of my day was running to meet Lloyd, the mailman. He always gave me a piece of Dentyne gum, which wasn’t my favorite because it was so little and lost its flavor much quicker than others. My greatest day would be when Fat Mama and Charlie came to visit. Fat Mama always gave me a bag of penny candy with Bazooka bubble gum. A single piece of bubble gum would give me at least two days of enjoyment. I never tired of practicing blowing bubbles.

Life was simpler then. There were only four major brands; Juicy Fruit, Dentyne, Spearamint, and Double-Mint. Nowadays, the various flavors and brands of gum take up two shelves at a convenience store. Choosing a pack of gum nowadays is a major decision. Do you play it safe by selecting the sugar-free, or live dangerously and choose one with calories galore? I much preferred the days when I didn’t have to think about gum putting fat on my hips or decaying my teeth. I could just enjoy and savor that wonderful sweet flavor without feeling guilt. I think the turning point in the gum world was the introduction of Beechnut Stripes. I recall everyone rushing to try the new flavor and it was a big event. Since, the market has been flooded with various flavors. The day I saw watermelon flavor was the day I shook my head and said, “What’s this world coming to?”

We are very wasteful with gum today and tend to chunk it after a few minutes of chewing, as soon as it starts to lose its flavor. A child today would not have a clue what the song “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor On the Bedpost Overnight” means. But on the other hand, if I walked into my child’s room and found gum stuck to the bedpost, I would rant about ruining furniture or lecture about unsanitary conditions. Of course, we had metal bedposts that were perfect receptacles for gum. It would be waiting there for you the next morning like a faithful friend. If you preferred, you could retrieve it a few days later. Also, you would never get rid of your gum just because you had to eat. The underside of your dinner plate became a safe haven for it.....most of the time.

Daddy worked late one night and Mama fried some oysters for him when he got home. As I stood by him, nibbling from his plate, I placed my gum securely under his plate, or so I thought. He got a funny look on his face and said, “These oysters don’t taste right.” After a little more chewing, he said, “These oysters taste like mint.” During this time, I kept picking up his plate, looking for my gum. He finally took out his false teeth and gum was stuck all over them. “How in the hell did I get gum on my teeth?” As he scraped the melted gum from his teeth, I was very upset. What a waste of a good piece of gum; it had lots of life left in it!

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