Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)
TITLE: Like Maple Sugar Candy
By Jan Ackerson
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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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