Fun Dip, Grab Bags, and the Value of a Shiny Quarter

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Guys – there’s Valentine’s Day Fun Dip!

I had no idea until I saw some at the pharmacy yesterday, and it brought back a flood of memories for me. Not so much the Valentine part, but the Fun Dip part, for sure.

I mean, I of course flashed back to those days in elementary school when we’d all bring those wee cardboard Valentine’s to our classmates, and leave them on one another’s desks. Those themed ones with groan-worthy jokes and puns on them that we’d get at the store and then have to buy a second box because there weren’t enough for everyone in the class, and then we’d have some left over that we’d intend to use the following year, but would inevitably lose in the interim. And of course at least one kid would’t be at school that day, so their desk piled up with Valentines that wouldn’t be received until whenever they were next present in class. And the pretty and/or popular kids would always receive the most somehow, and every year you tried to figure out a way to give a special Valentine to one kid in particular, without having it look like theirs was different from the others you handed out, even though they all came from the same box, and you hoped somehow they would magically notice they got a special one but that no one else would so that you wouldn’t have to be embarrassed.

Anyway…Fun Dip!

I used to love that stuff! And while I’m sure it would send me into a diabetic coma if I were to eat a package today, I think I would still love it. I remember being torn between whether to open both sides at once and alternate, or save my favourite flavour of the two for last. The danger of doing that, of course, is not having any candy stick left. I was not above using my finger to get every last grain of delcious sugar out of the packet, but still. It’s not the same when you’re not licking it off the provided stick. Or, you know, using the stick as a candy spoon of sorts.

Even in university, while watching a solid TV line-up one night, my roomies and I made a run to the convenience store and loaded up on candy during a commercial break. By the end of the night we were jumping on the couches and giggling like, well, schoolgirls. But much younger ones. Fun Dip and possibly Nerds were the primary culprits. We also made a run to Tim Horton’s for donuts before they closed for the night one time, too. Living on campus was fun, but off-campus was even funner! 😉

As children, we would often walk to Blackburn’s – the 5 and Dime on the corner – during our lunch break from school, and spend our parents’ hard-earned change on Fun Dip and a myriad of other delectable delights – licorice strings, Bazooka Joe bubble gum with those lame comics inside, chocolate bars of all sorts, those Mackintosh Toffee things that would tear your teeth out but which were sooooo delicious, those things that were…what’s that stuff inside a Crunchie bar? You know? It starts off like a golden foam but you chew it down into a hard candy-like bit? And there was spray gum, candy cracelets and necklaces – the list goes on and on. I don’t even remember what was in the rest of the store – just that candy kiosk near the front by the cash. The hardwood floors would creak under our sneakers from the moment we entered, and it always seemed quiet in there, compared to Creemore’s bustling Mill Street (the street never bustled – but inside the store was even quieter – and incidentally, that the Meat Market was run by a couple of gay guys would not strike me as hilarious until much later in life, but I digress) and Mr Blackburn would greet us, usually by name, and we’d crowd around the candy to choose what would be our one sweet prize that day.

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The most excellent selection was usually the 25-cent grab bags on the bottom shelf. Packaged in white paper bags with a staple at the top, these bags held mysteries forged of candy and plastic, and to my knowledge no two were alike. When feeling flush, the grab bag was usually what we went for, if we could. Candy AND toys?! What better choice could anyone possibly make?!

I remember once a boy in my class asked me to get him a Grab Bag, and handed me a shiny quarter, which I placed in a pocket separate from my own change, so I wouldn’t get it mixed up. I may even have carried it all the way to the store clutched in my fist, actually. I can’t recall for certain, just that I kept it separate. When I got to the store, though, there were no more Grab Bags. Temporarily out of stock. So I paid for whatever I was getting and went back to school. I gave the boy back his quarter and explained that they were sold out that day. He was mad that I didn’t get him something else instead, and I’ve felt bad about it ever since.

It actually hadn’t occurred to me to get anything other than what he’d asked for. There were so many choices, I didn’t know what he’d like as a substitute, and I didn’t want to risk spending his money on something he wouldn’t like. Of course, it was candy, so he probably would’ve liked any of it, but I didn’t consider that at the time. All I knew is they didn’t have what he wanted, so I didn’t get him anything.

Really, he should have just walked to the store on his own two feet, but whatever.

I feel like that kind of uncertainty follows me to this day. I don’t cook for people because I’m afraid they won’t like it and then they’ll be stuck with no other choice from what I gave them. I’ll eat whatever, but I don’t expect anyone else to. I think part of it comes from never having money enough to make mistakes. Like, if I get the wrong thing at the grocery store, I can’t go back and get the right thing, because there’s no extra cash to get a second item to replace the wrong first one. Giving the boy back his quarter was, to me, a better choice than wasting his money on something he might not want. Then he’d have something he didn’t want, and no more quarter, either. If I make a meal wrong or something, there isn’t extra cash – nor usually time – to give it another try and either make the same thing better or make something else entirely. I even have trouble making decisions that involve other people because I always try to anticipate what they want and work out my choice to make sure they get theirs. I know it makes me seem…a lot of not great things…but it’s because I genuinely try to make others at least content. I require less, and I’m used to not really getting what I want. I’m used to not even fully figuring out what I want, because I know I probably won’t get it, either way. Or if I do, it won’t be as good as I’d hoped.

So while I’d have been happy with Tootsie Rolls or Bottle Caps or lime green licorice strings (though grape were my favourite), I had no idea what the boy might have preferred as an alternate to the mysterious Grab Bag, and thus I returned to him his very same shiny quarter to be used another time.

Logically I know, something is better than nothing. But I also know from experience that waiting a bit longer can be better, because sometimes the something you get in the moment isn’t worth not having waited for what you really wanted in the first place.

Sometimes you might wish you could just have your shiny quarter back and get your Grab Bag tomorrow, instead.

25-cents-1979

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