Lessons Learned at a Corner Store

Jimmy’s store was just a block away. It was the kind of neighborhood store that carried groceries and a little bit of everything else. I was told that as an infant, I would be left in my stroller just outside by the door while my mother shopped. Of course, I wasn’t alone. I had my cocker spaniel Penny to watch over me. It was the mid 50’s. Things were different then.

As I grew older, Jimmy’s display of candy was my main concern. I would carefully check the penny candy before I made my selection. This was a big thing then and needed careful consideration. Penny candy was actually only a penny back then. There were shelves lined with Necco Wafers, Candy Cigarettes, Bit O Honey, Sugar Daddies, and little wax bottles with colored “soda”, just to name a few. It was a lesson to spend wisely as those pennies were hard to come by.

The stores owner was very nice, but his son was a different story. He always found a way to pick on me. Teasing and bullying. You would think a kid who’s father sold candy would have been a bit nicer. One day, he invited me into his yard. I should of known to be careful, after all, he had never been nice before. As we walked into his yard, he seemed to steer me towards a certain area. I was barefoot as usual, but it took me several minutes to realize the ground beneath my feet was burning hot! He had turned the still burning charcoal from the grill unto the ground and lightly covered them. I was in so much pain, my feet soon covered in blisters. I’m not sure how my mother got there to help me, but I do remember her giving that brat and his mother a mouthful. That day, I learned some people are just mean. I hope he didn’t get candy for a very long time.

The biggest draw to Jimmy’s store came later in the year. Way on top of his food shelves were huge boxes containing the best sets of toys a child could imagine. They were at least four feet by four feet large with cellophane covered fronts that showed the toys inside. One that I remember most contained everything a modern day cowboy could wish for. A felt cowboy hat, a vest, “genuine leather” vinyl chaps, a sheriff’s badge, and of course a holster with a two shiny silver guns and tons of red rolls of caps for ammo.

But the one I wanted was the baby doll set. It had a stroller, cradle, high chair, baby food jars, spoons, doll bottles that tipped upside down and really emptied and filled back up when uprighted. They were magic…that was their name actually. And the best part was the beautiful dolly inside and her pretty clothes. I wanted that box desperately! My parents said if I was good until Christmas it would be mine. All mine.

To this day, I can’t remember what horrid offense I had perpetrated to make my parents decide the box was not to be under the tree that year. It must of been really bad. Even knowing how much my parents loved Christmas, they said they could not reverse their decision. I still held out hope they would cave in and get that box for me. As usual, Christmas morning that year there were many wrapped surprises for me under the tinsel laden tree. But the box I had yearned for was not there. My parents hadn’t caved. I couldn’t believe it! They had said it..and they meant it.

Now they call it “tough love”, but back then they just called it parenting. I had learned many lessons that year. One was that we need to beware that some people are cruel and can really hurt us. A big lesson was that a parent that really cares will do their best to show a child they mean what they say. It is for the child’s best interest. My children still tease me that I used to say they were grounded for a month. They knew that was not ever going to happen! They would drive me crazy by then. I finally learned to hold my anger and make punishments more maintainable. As we age, we keep learning lessons. Some of those lessons I learned from Jimmy’s store and many others I’ve learned on my way through life. Some through great joy, others through great pain.

Originally published in Bottom Line News & Views, July 2018

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