Everyone has a flavor that transports them to their childhood. Before the events of that traumatic childhood day, they were simply known as “sugar wafers.” And I loved them.
I loved how they were crispy on the outside and sweet and mushy on the inside. I loved how they came in different colors and how those colors did not affect the flavor. Sure, all they were made of was sugar, but no one cared about that in the late eighties/early nineties. I sure didn’t. I was child #2 of 3, who was taken care of by a hard-working single mother. While there was always money for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there was rarely ever money for snacks and sweets.
My sweet of choice was cola. I preferred Pepsi-Cola, but would accept Coca-Cola in a pinch. I was also a huge fan of RC Cola and loved bubble gum, too.
My big sister was more moderate in her consumption of sweets. She was more moderate and measured in everything. She worked hard on her school studies, cooked when she had to, and made sure that my brother and I were taken care of, as my mother worked night shifts and our father was on another continent.
I was an odd combination of mature and immature. I’d keep my uniform on for hours after school was over. I stayed outside long after the street lights came on. But also, I learned how to do laundry, clean house, darn my clothing, and cook a meal for five people before I was fourteen years of age.
My big sister learned how to do all of that years before I did. She acted mature for her age. Unfortunately, that maturity brought with it unforeseen consequences. Young guys noticed her. She didn’t mind that.
But then old guys noticed her. She minded that.
I didn’t know how bad it was. She was so good at putting a brave face on things, and shielding some things from me and my younger brother. I listened to her, because she knew things. This day, I was there to watch her shield drop.
We’d gotten off the school bus and were walking down the lane that would take us home when an old man stopped her. And this man was old. The man wasn’t “old” as in a guy who was in his twenties talking to a teen aged girl, but “old” as in having wrinkles, white hair, and false teeth.
He stopped my sister, holding her hand firmly. He handed her a letter and a present wrapped in colorful paper. Oblivious as I was, I was going to walk away. But then she told me to stay, so I did.
It didn’t take me long to realize that something very improper was going on. We did not know this strange man. Also, my sister’s demeanor had changed. She became stiff. She stared at the ground and answered the man’s questions in a monosyllabic manner. I stayed with her until she said it was time to go.
I asked her what was going on, just as soon as we were safe within our home. Big sister told me that she had no idea. She then opened the letter. She was stiff again as she read it. I asked her what it said and she handed it to me.
“They will not permit us to be in love!”
That struck me the most. I asked her why an old man was in love with her. She said that she didn’t know. I asked her what was in the present. She opened it, revealing an extra large pack of Sugar Wafers. When asked if she was going to eat the wafers, her answer was: “hell no.”
I wondered if the pervert had tampered with the package of wafers, so I inspected the package to determine that. They had not. I asked her if I could have them and she said that she didn’t care what I did with them.
So, I ate them. Because I liked sweets. Because I was 12 and didn’t get that it was weird.
First thing the following morning, my sister presented the letter to my mother, who promptly (and appropriately) freaked out. She confronted the man and screamed at him a good bit. He never bothered my sister again.
My sister is tough. She has not stopped eating sugar wafers, even with the memories that the treats bring with them. I haven’t stopped eating them, either.
In eating sugar wafers, I am eating sweetness. I am eating sweets which bring with them the memory of plaid uniform skirts, yellow school buses, worried expressions and the safety of a childhood bedroom.