There’s an indelible image in my memory bank where mom is sitting in the passenger seat of the car, Libby at the helm. Between them is a bin of survival foods. A pack of jerky, some peanut butter crackers and a baggie of Cheez-It’s. Tootsie rolls and Tootsie Pops and See’s suckers with the square tops and shiny mylar wrappers. Lollipops were Gram’s faithful companions when she sat in the car while we ducked into the 5 Hour Store. She would sit in her perch, the windows down on hot summer days, and people-watch as she worked her way through one of those eternal suckers, one lick at a time, her elbow planted on her soft belly, her head quietly bobbing from side to side as she surveyed the comings and goings of a bargain store parking lot, like a pigeon planted on a windowsill on Fifth Avenue. She was happy to be out, in the sunshine, and amused by the parade, sweetened by the flavor of chocolate and sugar brought to a rolling boil and molded to last a good half hour if you could keep your teeth from interfering.
For all the years our neighbor Kenzie Ross was growing up, there were regular stops there on Summerwood Road on their way home, usually in front of the Ross’ house when Kenz was out playing or selling lemonade or riding her bike. Gram would tell Libby to pull over so she could give Kenzie a treat. Something from the bin between the seats, or the jockey box. As Kenzie aged, so did Gram. Eventually the stops involved funny little exchanges like this:
Lib pulls over to the curb and rolls down Gram’s window.
“Hey there, Kenz. How’s your day going?”
“Want a sucker?”
Then Gram takes the lollipop out of her mouth and offers it to Kenzie. “Here, have mine.”
“Uh, no thanks Gram.”
“No really, you can have it.”
Lib chimes in. “Mom, she doesn’t want your used sucker.”
Lib scrounges in the bin for a fresh one. Alas, Gram has the last one in her mouth.
“Here,” Gram says, “Really…you can have it.”
Kenz stands at the window smiling.
Libby leans forward, looking over Gram at Kenzie through the car window. She raises her eyebrows as she cocks her head. “Why don’t you take the sucker, Kenz.”
“Really, Kenz. Take it. “
Gram keeps holding out the lollipop like it was the offering plate at Mass.
Lib, with a sigh of exasperation rising from her chest, uses her deepest voice to encourage Kenzie.
“JUST TAKE THE SUCKER KENZIE. YOU DON”T HAVE TO EAT IT. WILL YOU PLEASE…JUST… TAKE IT?”
And in a moment of perfect comic timing Gram turns to Libby and says, “Maybe she doesn’t want it!”
And so, relieved, Kenz chimes in, “Thanks anyway Gram! Love you!” Then she rolls off on her roller blades.
Gram pops the sucker back in her mouth, looks at Libby, and shrugs her shoulders.
When Gram died my sister purchased a couple hundred Sees suckers and we handed them out at the funeral luncheon. That night we celebrated in song with a back yard concert. The audience faced us as we sang, their lips pursed around white sucker sticks.