March 22, 2021
I have fond memories of the local drug store where I grew up. I worked as a paper boy when I lived in this small Kansas town. My two brothers and I delivered all the papers for the whole town (75?). I believe officially the route belonged to my older brother, but he gave parts of the route he did not like to Danny and me. The papers came from a larger town forty miles away and were delivered to the local drug store. The store was one of the classic old stores with a counter for the soda fountain and a rack of penny candy off to one side. Although I occasionally bought some of the penny candy, I usually spent my money on baseball cards. Still, there were times I would sit at the counter or stand and stare at the racks of candy and wonder.
When I was growing up there were not a lot of sweets in our household. It was not that we did not have sugar, it was just the candy that is so prevalent today was not readily available. The big treat came every year when my grandfather would bring two pockets full of ribbon candy when they visited for Christmas. We would clamor around as he would dole the candy out to his doting grandchildren. Instead of regular candy, my mother would make taffy. Fudge and divinity also became a tradition for Sunday night, and mixed with popcorn, it became the staple meal. Mom still practices the popcorn part of this habit (and fudge when she can get it) today at 92 years old.
The other thing I recall were the special cakes we had for our birthdays. While I do not remember all the favorites, I do recall the German Chocolate (with pecans and coconut in the frosting) that was my dad’s favorite. I also know the Angel food cake we had on Christmas Eve. What else would you serve for Jesus’ birthday? Mine was always Elephant Cake. I am not sure where the recipe came from, but mom would use one cake pan for the body and cut the other pan into the head (center circle) and the outer ring into the four legs and trunk. This was a white cake decorated with licorice for the tail, toenails, and tusks, and the white frosting was covered in coconut. Mom continued to make elephant cake until I graduated High School. Coconut cake is still one of the few sweets I crave.
Thoughts: In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, George asks Mary if she wants coconut on her ice cream. When she hesitates, he retorts, “Hey, brainless, don’t you know where coconut comes from? The Fiji Islands, . . .” How could she not like coconut and its connection to far away? When I was at the grocery today, I came across a small coconut cake. The Box store in town makes a great coconut cake. It is 16” in diameter and three layers high. There were times when I would buy one and split it with my parents. I now live in another town and Melissa does not like coconut. This cake was only six inches and two layers high. I cut it into four pieces to enjoy over time. There are times when traditions help keep us going. That is true with mom and popcorn, and that is true for me and coconut cake. There are other times when we rely on hope and expectation to help us through a rough patch. That was the expectation of George. That is also our expectation of the vaccine. While the virus will not “magically disappear,” there is hope for a return to something closer to normal. Even with the vaccine, we still need to adhere to proper protocol. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.