The 80s were about Norwegian pop bands, eye-scorching neon, jelly bracelets, sweaters with absurd graphics that my pediatricians wore, and iron-on unicorns, but for me it was about candy. There was this store I’ll call Trifles because that was its name, Trifles.
Trifles was a gift store, with mugs by Sandra Boynton and whatnot, if you were over 40 and looking for a gift for your secretary. If you were a kid, it was a tooth-rot paradise. The smell was jarred chocolate raspberry sauce, greeting card, and vile gummi worm. They’d sell alcoholic cordial candies to children, like me and my sister. The chocolate shell, the inner shell sugar, the inner inner shell, brandy, liquid, like the center of the earth.
Some of the candy was old country: sugarless dark chocolate almond bark for your diabetic Uncle Sal, cut-rate peppermints wrapped in green cellophane, the hard anisette pillows my great-grandfather liked. But blessed be was the new country stuff, the artificially flavored and colored stuff like Skittles and Runts and E.T.’s favorite, Reese’s Pieces. This was before I knew about product placement. I actually believed that in California, not only did aliens land, but harried and exhausted single moms handed out, simply threw large bags of candy at their kids in exchange for a little piece, like Sour Patch Kids. I liked Sour Patch Kids. I liked mixing them into my pouch of Big League Chew, to surprise myself.
Big League Chew, the gum that was shredded to resemble, yes, chew. Like tabaccy. My sister and I smoked candy cigarettes, too, but the gum was inferior to the experience of deviousness. The best gum I thought was Chewels. It had a liquid center that schmoozed out when you chewed it. God I loved that stuff. I thought that it was what sex might be like.
Besides the sexed up Chewels, and the cordials, and my neighbor’s hot tub, the apex of my 80s candy delirium was the gummi. The gummi anything. The gummi bear. The gummi worm. The sour gummi worm. The large gummi bear. The mini gummi bear. Like, whatever, if it was made with horse gelatin and German I would eat it. The best flavor? The clear ones: pineapple. I stuck them onto my teeth and pretended I had braces, because back then all the cool kids had braces, and biteplates, and retainers and headgear.
It was my sister who found the motherload on one of our trips to Trifles. “Gummi rats!” You took one by the tail, and ate its head off. It was too much, really, it’d make you sick to eat a whole one, and I still remember the grey-brown color, kind of milky, the give, the mouthfeel of sinking my teeth into its neck. It was fucking gnarly. It was Ozzy Osborne for eleven year olds.
Elizabeth Bastos is a WAHM (pronounced “wham!”) of two in the Baltimore suburbs. Her work has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Big Jewel, and the Book Bench blog of the New Yorker magazine. When she is not writing, she is eating something made with whipped cream. What could that be? You guessed it. Whipped cream. Straight up. She blogs about all things cheesy, also parenting, at http://www.goodybastos.blogspot.com/.