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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)

TITLE: Like Maple Sugar Candy
By Jan Ackerson


You want me to talk into this doohickey, young man? Well, isn’t that cute? Everything’s so tiny these days…my great-granddaughter listens to music on something called a peapod. Why, I think that’s just marvelous!

They say you have a picture to show me…oh my, I remember that day in Atlantic City. I suppose that makes me a part of history, but—I’ll tell you the honest truth—I was a wild thing those days, and I was skipping school. Lucy Wilkins and I got her brother to drive us to the city in his Ford Model T truck. We were intent on poking our toes into the ocean one last time before summer faded away—next thing I knew, I ended up almost being the first Miss America! 1921 it was, and Lucy and I were only sixteen years old.

Show me that picture again…that’s me, almost at the end of the line, with my bathing dress on. Why, I believe it was made of wool, can you believe it, and I wore long black stockings beneath. Mercy me, it smelled like an old dog when it got wet, no one would dream of actually bathing in that getup. I sure don’t care for those two-piece bathing outfits they wear these days, but lands, didn’t I look funny in that old thing? I’m glad I didn’t win, but second place was nice. I still have that sash, in the top drawer of my bureau.

So long ago…what else did you want me to tell you, young fellow? Speak up—I still have all my faculties about me, but my hearing’s fading some. Well, so will yours, if you ever reach the grand old age of 103. My, my, I don’t feel a day over ninety.

How has the country changed since then? Well now, let me think on that…

Oh, I remember how happy I was when they came out with those new-fangled stockings, what do you call them, pantyhose. So much nicer than nylon stockings and those awful girdles. Of course, I was a middle-aged lady already, but my legs were still very nice, thank you very much. I always did turn heads with my nice legs. Don’t smile, young man, I see you looking. I’ll have you know that my Henry still found me a fine-looking woman until the day he died, and I was eighty-seven then!

I guess you don’t want to hear about stockings, you want me to tell you about the Great Depression, and the war, and where I was when that handsome president was shot. I don’t think I’ll talk about those things, though. You say you’re going to write about me in the newspapers? Well, I’m 103, and I can say what I want.

Let’s see…I loved Jiffy Pop popcorn. Remember how that tinfoil just puffed up full of popcorn when you set it on a hot stove? No, I don’t suppose you do. I haven’t had Jiffy Pop in years, they don’t serve popcorn here. Gets stuck in the dentures.

You know what I remember? No fooling now--I remember when they came up with Scotch tape. I was so tickled, I came up with excuses to wrap things, just so I could tape them. Christmas presents, birthday presents, presents for new babies and weddings, I was a regular taping fiend!

Oh listen, let me tell you about one present I gave. Shirley was turning twelve that year, and I got her a Slinky. She didn’t much like it—she wanted a pony, I believe—so I spent a whole afternoon pushing that silly toy down the cellar stairs. The last time I went to fetch it, I bent over to pick it up from the cellar floor and I heard a loud wolf whistle from the top of the stairs. There was Henry, staring at my backside and laughing to beat the band, even though I’d missed fixing supper and we had to eat eggs that night. Why, I remember that like it was yesterday…

Life is sweet, isn’t it? Like maple sugar candy…no, I’m not going to talk about those sad and heavy times, young man, you can’t make me. See that picture on top of my bureau? That’s my new great-great-great granddaughter, and they’ve named her Addison. Write it this way, so Addison can read it some day—“Bernice Arnold always believed that life was sweet.” Did you get that? Now turn that thing off—let’s have some cocoa.

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This article has been read 1311 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon01/15/09
Love it, love it, love it...from the peapod on. I'm not 103, but I remember half the things she was talking about. The voice is perfect, and her life philosophy is very refreshing. Why dwell on the bad things when life is like maple sugar candy? Great entry.
Betty Castleberry01/15/09
What a delight to read. You used one of my favorite subjects; old folks. Kudos for this charming piece.
Lynda Schultz 01/15/09
Delightful. I loved this "Why, I believe it was made of wool, can you believe it, and I wore long black stockings beneath. Mercy me, it smelled like an old dog when it got wet, no one would dream of actually bathing in that getup" mostly because I have a woolen bathing suit of my mothers! I can't imagine how they stood them. Well done.
Holly Westefeld01/15/09
Your MC's voice is a lot of fun. She has lost neither wits nor wit.
Chely Roach01/15/09
Peapods...that got me rolling, lol. What a phenomenal voice, you just want to give her a big hug. (BTW, jiffypop was a genius invention...)Awesome piece!
Dara Sorensen01/16/09
This was amazing! I loved the voice; you portrayed her character very well.
Yvonne Blake 01/17/09
Ahh...I could just see her! Makes me think of my Grandma, still flirting with the men, til the day she died! Having an interview was very creative. Well done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/18/09
Wonderful voice in this wonderfully written story.
Karen Wilber01/18/09
I went looking for some Jiffy Pop a couple of days ago. Now I'm imagining having to explain that to my kids someday. ;-D This is a delightful, light-hearted piece.
Joanne Sher 01/19/09
What an awesome story. I LOVE it! Characterization is absolutely perfect and endearing.Wonderful title, too! (And I have Jiffy pop on my counter, waiting for the perfect time to be popped!
Teresa Lee Rainey01/19/09
I could just see this very-great grandmother giving that young man what for. Wonderful MC.

She reminds me of a 90-something-year-old woman in an assisted living facility in Nebraska who lived for summer. That was when her grandson would ride up on his Harley and take her for a spin. Precious woman.

Loved your story.
Pamela Kliewer01/19/09
Absolutely delightful! Peapod - tooo funny!
Emily Gibson01/19/09
Jan, this is a treat, truly! And not even a bit far-fetched.

I have a 103 year old friend who still is teaching a "literary class" for a group of relative youngsters in their 70s and 80s in her assisted living facility. She still drives (gulp!) around our little town and takes herself to church.

This is something to shoot for!
Carol Slider 01/19/09
What a humorous yet moving description of a life well lived! I love all the details that make this character such an incredibly real person.
Myrna Noyes01/19/09
What a spunky, delightful personality this little old lady has!! I wish I could interview her myself! :) I like her attitude and think we would be great friends! Thanks for sharing her with us!
Debbie Sickler01/19/09
What a character you've created here! I could really picture her and hope to be a lot like her when I'm that age. :)
Benjamin Graber01/20/09
Jan, I really enjoyed this sweet little story - it has such a warm, homey feel to it...
Laura Anne Harrison01/20/09
The characterization of Bernice Arnold is marvelous!
And her "voice" is so-o-o delightful. Excellently done!
Diana Dart 01/20/09
Just a sweet lil' old bit of writing. I could almost picture her and the young man she was speaking to. Great characterization (did I spell that right?). My absolute favourite line is "Well, I'm 103, and I can say what I want." Gold.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge01/20/09
Besides creative and entertaining, the message is right on. We know how bad things are, dwelling on them won't change a thing. Delightful.
Kenneth Bridge01/20/09
Loved the lady!
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is sweet as maple sugar candy - think about such things, and the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding -
God shines best in those who delight in the world He made.
Leah Nichols 01/21/09
Great message! Your character is believable and I can totally picture her in my mind.

I know it's focused on her dialogue alone but I think it'd be interesting to read the interviewer's words as well and the interaction between them. I understand that the word count gets in the way, though. :)

Very well done! I expect to see this one way up there in the rankings.
Kristin Slavik01/21/09
This was incredible! Your word choices were right on target with creating a picture of the USA. This actually was the first piece I have had a chance to read this week - your title had me curious and I was not disappointed.
Beth LaBuff 01/21/09
I think at her age, she earned the right to be opinionated! :) Her memories are vivid and bring those events to life for the reader. Will you forgive me if I say I wanted her to have a red hat and a purple dress? :)
Sheri Gordon01/22/09
Congratulations on your EC, Jan. As my first comment says, I love this story and woman.
cindy yarger01/22/09
Wonderful entry and it sounds just like you with such a positive attitude! Very fun. Congrats on your wins.
Myrna Noyes01/22/09
This clever, engaging story deserved this win! CONGRATULATIONS!! :)
Charla Diehl 01/23/09
Wonderfully written--your MC came to life for me--loved her spunk and her attitude towards life. Congrats on your win.
Joshua Janoski04/20/09
Loved the voice of your elderly MC. Her voice was authentic and a lot of fun. You mixed just the right amount of humor and truth into this to make it totally believable and a blast to read.