…I saw Gerard over by the ball diamond with a couple of other kids, friends of his no doubt. As they saw me coming toward them I thought I detected a smirk or two directed in my direction. Can’t be sure though. Was that a chuckle I heard? At my expense? Don’t know. Gerard seemed to shoo them, correct them, and silence them for some reason unbeknownst to me.
“Hi Gerard” I said coolly, nonchalantly in my best, I don’t really give a damn fashion.
“Hey Gilly” Gerard answered with a sly look of confidence in his eye.
“Don’t call me Gilly”
“Okay Gerard. So what have you in store for me? What is this surprise?
“It’s at my house. You’ll have to come home with me after school to see it.”
“What?” I stammered, somewhat in nervous anticipation.
My interest suddenly piqued: “Caramels? As in Kraft caramels, the only kind, the real McCoy?”
“Yup.” he said with that youthful brash and assurance of a braggart. “I have boxes of them at home in my basement.”
“Yesss” Gerard confirmed. “My uncle works for Kraft. He gets them for free. As much as he wants but he can’t eat them all himself so he gives some to my family. We keep them in our basement for safe keeping. We have tons!”
Figuratively thinking perhaps? But then? At that age? Literally thinking of course. Perhaps naivetévly. Tons of caramels, mmmm, wow. I was a sucker for caramels. Like the old Barnum and Bailey proverb says: there’s a caramel sucker born very second! There really is.
“Really?” Excitedly! I couldn’t believe it. Kraft Caramels, by the box load, in Gerard’s basement no less. Tons of them.
“So, um” I asked somewhat timidly and with mild trepidation. “If I come to your house with you after school can I have some?”
“As much as you want. As many as you can carry. You just have to help me with some chores, that’s all.”
“Okay Gerard” Wow, man, this is great, unbelievable, I thought excitedly. Then added: “I’ll just have to go home for lunch to check with my Mom to see if I can go to your place after school.”
“Okay, but for Kraft’s sake this has to be our secret. No one needs to know.”
Thinking that that was a strange way of putting things, I agreed. And what was that about chores I thought?
I ran home and for what seemed to be an interminable journey. Home for lunch, soup and sangy. It never changed. Campbell’s canned chicken noodle, or canned tomato with a peanut butter and jam sangy. Yes, all the major food groups in those halcyon days. We lived for salt and sugar. We were living the life.
Our school did not allow us to stay for lunch as they did not have the resources to supervise us. Only those kids who had prior permission from the school board were allowed to stay over lunch. Usually both parents worked or the child was from a single parent household. Not many of those around in our parish. No, better to be knocked up and married to some brute then strike out on your own. As long as the brute was Catholic was all that mattered. We really didn’t have a clue as to what went on in that parish. Like good old Mr. Delvechio and his two Catholic wives. Misogyny and misandry may be, after all is said done or thought, the 11th and 12th commandments. Perhaps that is why Catholic men and women get on so well and stay together for a lifetime. Divorce, in the Catholic vernacular, is not an option…