Monday, February 25, 2013


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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Monday, February 11, 2013


First of all, I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, the hundreds of you who sent me condolences, words of support and encouragement, and so many beautiful and touching cards. I can’t even begin to express how much they meant to me or how greatly they helped me get through a very difficult period. I truly was touched, and I will always treasure every single word.

If there’s one thing I have learned lately, it’s that I haven’t changed. I still do and say crazy things, and manage to get myself into embarrassing predicaments…without even trying.

Take, for example, what happened a couple weeks ago. I was running late getting to the post office. In fact, it was closing in only 20 minutes, and on a good day, it’s a 15-minute drive from my house, barring things like having to brake for squirrels or getting stuck behind what I like to refer to as a “headless driver,” where the car looks as if it’s driving on its own and is traveling at about 12 miles per hour.

I dashed out to my car, started it, slammed it into reverse and backed out of the garage. That’s when I heard a noise that sounded something like “crrruuunnnch!”  I was smart enough to know that never, especially when a vehicle is concerned, does that sound ever mean anything good.

Hesitantly, I got out of the car and checked it over. There, dangling from what looked like a couple of cables, was the passenger-side mirror. Pieces of black plastic were everywhere, scattered in the garage and on the ground outside. I was pretty amazed at just how far pieces of a mirror could be launched after coming in contact with a garage-door frame.

I ran into the house and grabbed a roll of duct tape. Then I taped what was left of the hanging mirror into a less conspicuous, upright position. I was pretty sure that if I went zooming down the highway with my mirror dangling and flapping in the breeze, I just might attract the attention of the local police.

When my handiwork was finished, however, I realized that half a roll of silver-colored duct tape wrapped around the stump of a mirror really didn’t look a whole lot less conspicuous. 

So, early the next day I, praying that at that very moment, every police officer in town would be called out to a bank robbery or something, headed over to the local gas station to see about getting the mirror replaced.

On the way, I stopped at the funeral home to pick up some paperwork.  I then asked the funeral director’s wife if she knew when my husband’s ashes might be back from the crematorium.

“Oh!  He’s back!” she said, to my surprise. “Let me go get him!”

She returned with a plain cardboard box with my husband’s name on it.

“Um…can I get an urn or something to put him in?” I asked. I knew that my husband would have been perfectly content to remain in the cardboard box, preferably one with the Burger King logo on it, but I felt he deserved something a little classier.

She led me to a display of a variety of urns – fancy ones, plain ones, flowery ones. Then I spotted an antique copper one that looked exactly like the canister set on my kitchen counter. I figured it would be perfect – that Joe, in his canister, would blend right in with the decor.

When the urn was ready to go, the funeral director’s wife carried it out to my car and set it in on the floor in the back seat. Then I headed over to the gas station.

When I pulled in, the attendant immediately noticed my artistically duct-taped mirror.

“I came out of the supermarket and my mirror was just hanging off,” I lied, too embarrassed to tell him that I’d backed into a door frame. “Someone must have hit it.”

“No problem. We can get you a new one,” he said.  He shook his head and sighed. “Some people, eh?”

So I hung around while my new mirror was installed. The mechanic then mentioned that my car was due for an inspection. “Want me to check it over while it’s already here in the garage?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I said.

Not long thereafter, he informed me that my car had checked out fine, but it needed front bushings, which meant absolutely nothing to me…other than the fact that after I paid for them, my dogs and I probably would have to live on peanut-butter sandwiches for the next month.

“Rather than have you wait around while I do the job,” he said, “I’ll get someone to drive you home, then come get you when your car is ready.”

That sounded fine to me – and very accommodating.

“Anything you need out of your car before we go?” the guy who’d been elected to be my chauffeur asked me.

“Yes,” I blurted out without even thinking. “My husband is in the back seat.”

I wish I’d have had a camera to capture his expression.  It practically said, “Ohmigod!  We had the car up on the lift, and all the while there was some guy in the back seat? How’d we miss him?”

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. “He’s in an urn!” I said, thinking that probably made me sound even weirder.

So I rode home with Joe, in his urn, sitting on my lap.  And then I set the urn next to my canister set on the kitchen counter.  It blended in perfectly.

Now all I have to do is make certain I remember which canister is which.

Otherwise, I could end up baking some really unique cookies.