Unwrapping Childhood

childhood memories, Memory LaneJudith strolled past the stores of the old town with disinterest.

“Mandy, why did you bring us here?” she moaned. “This is a virtual ghost town.”  Judith surveyed the grungy bungalow-type buildings; the unkempt road; and the dearth of any human beings. If she wasn’t such a practical, no-nonsense sort of person, she’d be freaked.

“Judith, relax. I have my reasons. You’ll see.” Mandy  was a new age hippie, with spaced-out blue eyes that always looked like they were seeing something fourth dimensional; long untrimmed hair;  unshaved armpits; and a vocabulary that consisted of words like far out, hang loose, and groovy.  The reason Judith was with her was too convoluted to remember.  Something that started as a favor for her boss’ brother’s ex-wife’s sister.

Judith grumbled under her breath and walked closer to one of the dusty storefront windows. “An-ti-cue Store” was written across the top of the store’s door.

“Oh puleeze,” she groaned.

“Let’s go in,” Mandy suggested.

“Why?” Judith asked.

“For fun,” Mandy said.  A tiny bell tinkled as they entered; the door closed behind them with a thud.  An Einsteinian-type fellow appeared out of the shadows.

“Ladies?”

“Depends on who’s asking,” Judith replied.

He quirked an eyebrow, not understanding her sarcastic wit.

“You know,” she explained, “it depends on who’s asking if we’re ladies or not.”

“Ahhhh,” he intoned as if chanting a mantra.

“Good God,” she muttered under her breath, turning away. But upon doing so, she spied a three-foot doll standing in the corner, arms raised in greeting.Patti Playpall, memory lane, childhood memory

“Patti Playpal!” Judith shouted before closing her mouth shut.

Mandy inquired:  “An old acquaintance?”

“Well, yes,” Judith answered.  “I mean, she looks just like Patti, the doll I had as a child.” Judith touched the silky hair. The red crinoline skirt and starched white apron were just like the outfit she used to dress Patti in.  The doll’s black patent leather shoes shone.  A warm gushy glow enveloped Judith.

Embarrassed, she stepped away and bumped into a shelf full of odds and ends. The candy bar wrapped in silver paper with icy blue trim caught her eye.

Zero, candy bar“Zero?!” she shouted.  “A Zero?”

Mr. Einstein-Yoga master beamed.  “Would you like one?” 

“A Zero?” Judith repeated. “Those candy bars haven’t been around for at least 40 years. They must be stone hard.”

He shook his head, and white whisks of hair flew around him like electric sparks. “Fresh as the day it was made,” he claimed.

Memories of summers in the pool, swinging in the backyard, playing flashlight tag with the neighbor’s kids burst through Judith’s brain.

“A Zero,” she whispered. “White chocolate on the outside, caramel and nougat on the inside.”Zero, candy bar, zhildhood memory

“We’ll have two,” Mandy commanded.  “Thanks so much, Uncle Randall!”

The elderly man laughed.  “Anything for you, dear. You and your friend are always welcome to ‘Memory Lane.’ ”

A chill crawled up Judith’s spine, crossed her neck, and settled into her scalp. She’d been told that Mandy was an orphan with no family.

As Judith began to ask some probing questions, Mandy’s uncle slapped a Zero in her hand.  Judith’s queries disappeared as she slowly unwrapped her childhood.

What item would unwrap your childhood?

112 thoughts on “Unwrapping Childhood

  1. I had a feeling that they were in “The Twilight Zone” as soon as she saw the doll. 🙂
    I’m not sure what items. A few weeks ago at my mom’s house, I was pointing out things she still has and telling my niece stuff like that chest was in the front hallway and Zipper the dog used to sleep in front of it. . .

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  2. What an intriguing story, Pam. I hope it’s to be continued. The ending is rather delicious. I’m not sure what would unwrap my childhood in quite the same way. But perhaps a coconut flavoured iceblock. I used to love them and now, everytime someone wearing coconut ‘flavoured’ tanning oil or body lotion walks past, I breathe in the scent and remember those coconut iceblocks. So maybe that is unwrapping my childhood. I’m not sure.

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    • That is precious, Norah. I’ve never heard of a coconut iceblock – but it may be what we called a “sno-cone” when I was a child. Isn’t it neat that the aroma of coconut sun tan lotion can take you to a happy childhood memory? When you sniff, you are definitely unwrapping your childhood.

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      • Actually, the other day, I was standing in the queue behind a lady wearing a coconut and lime body spray, and I couldn’t help but comment on how much I liked it (my daughter used to wear it too). It smells delicious. I think she thought I was a bit strange (I guess I am 🙂 ) but I meant it as a compliment. It’s so refreshing.

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        • Oh, I like it. Just like you, I’ll spring up a conversation with strangers (always positive, of course). Isn’t it a shame that a friendly comment from a stranger is scary to some? If we ever get together in “real” live, Norah, I will be wearing coconut/lime body spray!!!

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    • Ohhhh, yes, I can imagine the fun play in that shed, Mary! You brought back the memory of my brother and me bringing out a card table on rainy days, my mom draping a long tablecloth over it, and we played “fort” underneath it for hours. 🙂

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    • Of course you have great memories of the book mobile – I’m sure you were quite a reader even as a child. You reminded me of my first trip to the town’s library – ALL THOSE BOOKS. I was in awe. And now to think that you and I are adding our own books to those library stacks. ❤

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  3. My childhood doll sits on a shelf in my office, watching over me. And I still ride my bike as far away as I can take it. I’d love to play double dutch again. And then pay a nickel for a Hersey bar. Thanks for the quick stroll.

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    • So glad you strolled along Memory Lane with me here, Janet. How lucky you are to still have your doll – your first childhood friend. Double Dutch! Now I’m itching to play hopscotch again. Wonder if I could make it in those squares nowadays? 🙂

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  4. Oh, that would be one shop I’d love to visit! I love how Judith’s scepticism was won over by Uncle Randall and his memory lane store and you can imagine her softening and warming as she recalls her childhood. One item I was obsessed with for a couple of years was a Little Professor … small handheld yellow calculator-type machine which generated mathematical problems to solve … it made long car journeys a lot more fun! So, Pam…what would unwrap your childhood? Wishing you a great weekend, my friend! hugs xx

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    • I never heard of the Little Professor – but what a great idea for children to get excited about solving math problems. Your comment about long car journeys brought to mind the hours my brother and I played a car-traveling game called Password on long trips. I don’t think it’s around anymore, but basically it was a word game, and of course that was right up my alley. 🙂

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  5. Pam, you sure unwrapped a magical story. If only… I have fond memories of going to our local shop on a Saturday and gazing fondly at the penny tray of sweets. My pocket money soon gone. Some sweets were saved for great expeditions exploring a local stream with my friend – building dams and pretending we were in far off forests…

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  6. Great story, Pam. 🙂 I’d like a Zero bar just about now. But to your question… gosh, there are so many when I think about it. Things that remind me of Christmas mornings or summer vacations as a kid. Some, like my ballerina tutu I’d have no use for now, but this makes me realize that there are other experiences/things that don’t have to stay in the past. I need to buy myself a Butterfinger. 🙂

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    • NANCY !!! You just listed three things that would be on the top of MY list. (Well, maybe not pogo sticks – I was a disaster on them). But I wouldn’t have survived childhood without Nancy Drew. And Yo-Yos. Wait, You meant the little cupcakes called Yo-Yos, right? ;-0 xo

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  7. So many memories! Thank goodness for Judith’s boss’ brother’s ex-wife’s sister!

    My memory lane item would be a Hong Kong Phooey lunchbox. I was obsessed with that terrible cartoon show when I was in elementary school. I banged my metal lunchbox about with pride and delight.

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  8. We used to have pop that was like Sprite but it was called 2-Way. Do you remember that one? Also, that doll is the same one my sister had (except hers had blonde frizzled hair) – the doll that gave us the creeps when we woke up at night and saw it staring at us from across the room.

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  9. Great story, Pam! Brought me down memory lane… When I spotted Patti Playpal, it reminded me of my Toni Doll–she came with all the fixing for perming and hair styling her long dark brown hair. Toni’s arrived one Christmas, dressed in a frilly blue dress, white socks and Mary Janes. Thanks for a blast into the past–and for your awesome short! ❤

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      • Still right there with you remembering my Ginny dolls today… I had four of them! Mom made all of their outfits and Dad built furniture for them. They were always my favorites. Only about 8 inches tall. My cousin Mary Jane and I would play with them for hours. I’m still a doll lover. Have given most of mine away to adult daughters and granddaughters too. Oh, those good old days. Thanks for another blast from the past, Pam! 🙂 xo

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  10. Excellent story Pamela. The item that would unwrap my childhood would be a Schwinn 26″ boys bike in maroon. I got it for Christmas in 1951. I was 9 years old and way too small for the bike. I learned to ride it and it stayed with me through high school.

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  11. Your title today intrigued me. Oh, what a walk down memory lane. I had a dark-haired 3-year-old doll with curly hair. I named her Shirley. And, a ballerina music box. I remember Zero bars and penny candy stores with red licorice, Swedish fish candy, bulls eyes, and candy cigarettes.

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    • You’re the first one who also remembers Zero bars! Yay. One of my writing students heard my story and she found a small store in Maine that sells them — still! And she brought me some. I could call this, “Biting into Childhood.” 🙂 Oh, and those candy cigarettes. So non-PC now, but I can still taste their pink sugary sweetness. ❤

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  12. Fabulous story, Pam, and I love the ending. I saved my dolls at my mother’s insistence, and now I want to go play with them! I had a doll named Tammy who looks just like the Patti doll in your story. As for sugary treats, mallomars come to mind – graham crackers, marshmallow, and chocolate – yum! I must go looking for some!

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  13. Good one.

    For me, a packet of salt and vinegar crisps for sure!! Or maybe a “chocolate log” candy bar. Or a crunchie … which whenever I see them, in places like San Francisco (no idea why) I buy them. They are full of sugar, way too sweet, but when I eat them I am a ten year old back in South Africa standing outside the local corner shop having just spent my all my pocket money on these goodies.

    Peta

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    • I know, like what happens to Judith, and is Mandy for real… or a ghost/spirit perhaps like Uncle Randall? The biggest question perhaps is, do they ever leave Memory Lane? ;-0 Many thanks for reading and enjoying, Jacqui.

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  14. Oh Pam – I love it! You’re such a clever writer – a perfect mix of heart warming and slightly scary, and so imaginative. Hmmm – what would I unwrap? Kittens! One morning, I must’ve been about 8 or 9 I think, I went downstairs to watch early morning kids TV (it was Sunday, we were allowed…) and I crept into the sleeping bag I’d left ready and waiting. The cat had had kittens, and she and her little ones were all curled up at the bottom! I had to take them out of the sleeping bag…hence, unwrap… 🙂 xxx

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    • Thanks for recognizing the pulled-both-ways in many of my stories. A lot of real, but also often a touch of the supernatural.
      But your kitten memory is all soft fuzziness. What a perfect surprise for a young girl. ❤
      PS – I recently used your sensitive/sensible writing exercise – the students loved it. 🙂

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  15. Oh so loved this story Pam, it evoked loving memories of our village sweet shop.. Mine would be a Barley Sugar Twist. six inches in length.. and as thick as your little finger of an adult.. A sugar candy that was around . I would make them last and last until they had a devilish sharp point then crunch the point of and grind it with my teeth lol.. We never got many treats,…. Don’t know if you had them in the USA… The zero bar looked delicious.. 🙂 we never had them..

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  16. A Ginny doll, no doubt about it. My Ginny had her own bed and furniture made of little boxes we’d find, and my Mom used to sew clothes for her. There was an alcove under part of my very small bedroom, which, in the room, made a permanent “table” of sorts – Ginny’s apartment. I come across Zero bars every now and then and still love them – white chocolate! (Hershey’s makes them, now.) I’m glad Judith’s eyes got opened a little – she needs to relax!

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  17. I would bring back my Debbi doll. I loved her so much. She was my best friend for many years. I had three brothers, no sisters so she filled the gap for me. Then I put her away. When I was much older I went back to get her from the attic and to my horror, she was gone. My brothers had decided to clean out the attic one day and without telling me, they tossed my Debbie doll out along with a few stuffed animals I loved. It took me forever to get over it. Actually, after reading this story, I might still not be over it. Oh, and I too remember the Zero bar.

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    • Oh, brother — brothers!!! How could they get rid of Debbi? I’m so sorry. I think you should look for another one. I love your description of how important she was to you – a sister in a way. ❤

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  18. My sister is not a new age hippie, but she does like to drag me to antique stores. And yes, I’m reluctant. And I do get bored because she wants to stay so long. But there are always some things in a good antique store that bring back memories. I don’t think I would recognize any of my dolls though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weirdly, I can see my doll when I close my eyes. Perhaps that is creepy!
      Antique stores give us some nice fodder for writing. I like to imagine who once sat in that gold horsehair sofa, or who once looked at herself in the round-mirrored walnut dresser. They just don’t make some of those glorious things any more.

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  19. Ah nice Pam. For me maybe the gobstopper machines that used to deliver one down a chute for one or two pennies. Phased out as ‘unhygienic’ about 50 years ago but I don’t recall anyone being struck down with a deadly disease from one.

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  20. This made me think of the the book by Stephen King called “Needful Things” which is a little slow and weird (of course) because it IS Stephen King after all. It starts out with a man who owns a shop and whatever someone wants or needs, it is available. Love your story much more!
    I think there are several things that would take me back to my childhood. Food wise it would be Sugar Pops cereal (known as Corn Pops today) because it was something my grandparents always had. Cotton candy is another one because we had a small amusement park that was a permanent fixture at the local city park. Even as a teenager, I would go there to get some so I could feel the comfort of childhood. It was closed and everything sold off which is so sad to me now.
    I like this thought… maybe I will write something about it.
    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

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