Monday, February 25, 2013

I WAS IN CAVITY-INDUCED HEAVEN


 
When I was a kid, my favorite movie candy was Pom Poms – little round caramels coated in milk chocolate. They were not to be confused with Milk Duds, which also were little round caramels coated in milk chocolate. The big difference between the two was that Pom Poms were creamier and more dental friendly, meaning they didn’t suck the fillings out of your teeth. Milk Duds, however, were so sticky, I once had to use a butter knife to pry one from the roof of my mouth.

One day, to my dismay, Pom Poms suddenly disappeared from the stores’ shelves, never to be seen again. Whenever I went to the movies after that, I substituted Sugar Babies for Pom Poms. Their caramel was good, but they didn’t have any milk chocolate, which I missed.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was in the candy aisle at Dollar Tree and happened to notice what looked like the old familiar Pom Pom boxes. Certain my eyes were playing tricks on me, I grabbed a box and examined it. The picture on the front looked the same, as did the description, “soft milk caramels in pure chocolate.” The only problem was they weren’t called Pom Poms. They were called Junior Caramels. Curious, I bought a box.

I barely made it back out to my car before I tore open the box and stuffed two of the caramels into my mouth. The old familiar Pom-Pom flavor flooded my senses and instantly transported me back to cavity-inducing heaven. I felt as if I were 12 again and back at the Rex Theatre in Manchester, watching the horror movie, “Mr. Sardonicus” (which gave me nightmares for a year), and stuffing my face with Pom Poms.  They tasted even better than I’d remembered – even creamier, which was important, considering that my mouth had managed to gain an assortment of dental hardware over the years.

I rushed back into the store and bought five more boxes, just in case the Junior Caramels were a limited edition or a trial run, and soon would vanish from the shelves for another 40 or 50 years.

My plan was to ration them, to treat myself to two or three caramels a day as a special reward and make them last for as long as humanly possible.

I was home only five minutes before I tipped back my head and poured half a box of the caramels into my mouth.  I looked like a chipmunk.  And at that precise moment, the phone rang. I didn’t care if it was Publisher’s Clearing House telling me I’d just won a million dollars, I wasn’t about to take the caramels out of my mouth so I could talk.

Eating the candy again after so many years, triggered a flashback of a past Valentine’s Day back when I was only about 10.  At that time, a kid named John, who had a crush on me, knew of my fondness (a.k.a. addiction) for Pom Poms. He told me he had bought me some for Valentine’s Day and would drop by my house after school to give them to me.

The minute the dismissal bell rang, I rushed home and eagerly awaited his arrival…solely for the Pom Poms. Personally, I didn’t like John all that much.

He showed up at about 4:30 and, to my bewilderment, was carrying a giant heart-shaped box – the kind Valentine chocolates come in.

Smiling proudly, John handed the box to me. I opened it, and inside were about 30 Pom Poms, rolling around and looking completely lost in the big box.

“I was going to bring you the Pom Poms in their original boxes,” he said, “but then I was passing by the trash barrels out in the alley and saw this cool heart-shaped box someone had thrown out, so I decided the Pom-Poms would look more Valentine-y if I poured them into it!”

I thought that was a pretty romantic idea – which, I also thought, would have been even more romantic if he’d have bought me enough Pom Poms to actually fill the box.  I reached for one of the delectable little caramels, my mouth watering at the mere thought of it. Before the candy even reached my lips, however, my mother swooped in like a vulture and grabbed the box away from me.

“You can’t eat those!” she snapped. “Didn’t you hear him say he found the box in the trash?  How do you know what was in that box before he put the Pom Poms into it?  It’s disgusting! I thought you had better sense than that!”

I wouldn’t have cared if the Pom Poms had been covered with pocket lint and ants at that point, I just wanted to eat them…preferably all at once.  My mother, however, seemed determined to ruin my Valentine’s Day. She dumped my precious candy into the trash.  John and I both looked so appalled, you’d think we’d just witnessed her strangling my pet hamster.

But now, here I am, over 50 years later, with a nice little stash of Pom Poms – or should I say Junior Caramels – in my kitchen cabinet.

Well, actually it’s not such a little stash. I think I have enough boxes of the candy in there to last me through an apocalypse.

So if you call me and there is no answer, it’s probably because I have a giant wad of caramels in my mouth.

 

 

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