The Penny Candy Store

I grew up in a rural community. Mostly there were apple orchards and dairy farms. We lived about a mile from a hamlet which was really nothing more than a cemetery, a church, a Grange Hall, and a cluster of houses. And LaFlam’s.  We rode our bikes to LaFlam’s every chance we could.

Mr. LaFlam owned a small orchard. He was an older, bald man. He also ran a penny candy store on the enclosed front porch of his house. His youngest daughter, Anna, helped him with the penny candy business. Anna was what we called “slow” back then.

One of Anna’s brothers was intellectually disabled. He would hitchhike up US-20 to the town proper, where he was known as the Mayor. People watched out for him.  There was a perpetual bald spot under one of the trees on the Presbyterian church’s lawn where Henry (as he was known in town) sat. In his home hamlet, we called him Hank.

Both of Anna’s children were also severely intellectually disabled. Eddie and Ginny were adults when I knew them. The people in the hamlet watched out for the LaFlams. It’s what folks did back then.

Someone had given Eddie an old bicycle. It was, as far as we all could tell, his prized possession. He couldn’t ride, but he pushed the bike up and down the road all the time.  If he heard a car coming, he would push the bike way off the road to avoid being hit. Eddie also wrote love letters to his “girlfriend.” He always had a small spiral notebook and pencil stub in his pocket . His wavy lines were very neat, between the lines on the paper. He would share those love letters with us if we asked him to show them to us.

Sometimes, visitors who weren’t familiar with the family, would try to take advantage of Eddie…get him to give away apples and such. But no one in the hamlet did that. No one was mean–not intentionally. Yes, we sometimes imitated the way Eddie spoke, called it our accent, but there was no meanness in it. One of my cousins had Eddie down-pat.

In the summer, every Monday night, Anna and her daughter Ginny would walk to dinner at a house down the road from my parents place. We would always greet them. But Ginny was shy and seldom spoke.

After old Mr. LaFlam passed away, the penny candy store had to close. Anna wasn’t capable of doing whatever needed to be done. We lost our place to buy Turkish Taffy, Fireballs, Tootsie Rolls, licorice whips, and cherry vines. Another family tried to do the same thing on their enclosed porch, but it never succeeded. LaFlam’s was an institution to a generation of children in the area.

I grew up and moved away. My folks weren’t sure whatever happened to Eddie and Ginny after their mother could no longer take care of them.  Dad thought Ginny went into a home, but didn’t know what happened to Eddie.

I did a little Internet snooping

Henry/Hank died in 2005, survived by one niece and one nephew.

Ginny died in 2017. Her obit reads: She is survived by her brother Edward. Ginny loved getting her nails manicured; going shopping and to her ARC program.

Eddie was the last one to pass away. He died only a few weeks ago, at the age of 88. I missed his memorial service by two weeks. How utterly sad that his short obit reads: Edward has no known survivors. Please contact the funeral home with any additional information. 

I don’t suppose they meant memories of bicycles, love letters, and penny candy.

Tale of a Movie Critic

For many years, the city in which I live hosted a film festival. Actually, it hosts several,  but the most established one was created and run by a friend of my husband. Several larger cities tried to “buy” it from the founder, but he wouldn’t give it up. The festival featured old movies. It drew a wide range of people from all over the world, including a Famous Movie  Critic. My husband owned several books by this movie critic, who also had his own syndicated TV program. Several people who contributed to his books also attended the festival. While I never met the Famous Movie Critic, I did become friends with the others. We went to baseball games together.

My husband always attended the film festival either alone or with his friends, while I stayed home and did the solo parent thing.

One evening, the children and I were on a quest for saxophone reeds when my cell phone–a very early version of one–rang. This was before talking on a cell phone was illegal in this state. It was my husband. “Famous Movie Critic wants the Turkey Buffet, and I can’t remember how to get there.” My husband’s sense of direction does sometimes leave much to be desired.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“In my car with Famous Movie Critic. I’m using Contributor’s cell phone.”

Wonderful. I’m in rush-hour traffic with our children in my car, the music store where I hoped to buy saxophone reeds was closing soon, and I’m supposed to give directions to a restaurant my husband should know how to find when he didn’t even know where he was. This restaurant was not difficult to find: the Interstate to the correct exit, then turn left at the end of ramp, then right at the next traffic light.

We managed to get everything straightened out, including the sax reeds. Famous Movie Critic got his Turkey Buffet. My husband got a tale to tell about how he got lost with Famous Movie Critic.

 

A Tale of Two Earrings

I lost one of a favorite pair of earrings last summer. I searched everywhere for it. Every placed I’d been that day at Day Job. My car. Every place I’d stepped or sat at home.  I tossed the widowed earring into a container on my bureau. Periodically I would see it and think I should dispose of it, but I somehow managed not to.

The seasons changed. I wore my fall/spring coat when temperatures required it. I drove to work everyday. I had the car inspected. I made a road trip to a friend’s house in a nearby city for a writing day. I made another road trip to another nearby city with my husband to visit a museum of interest to us.

One chilly morning late this summer, I pulled on my jacket, hopped in my car, and drove to my parents to take them to an appointment. When we came out of the house to get into the car, I discovered the missing earring hanging through the fabric on the back of the driver’s seat. Facing the steering wheel. You know, where I’d sat nearly every day for a year.  Yes, it had been a couple of months since I’d worn that coat, but I had worn it. Repeatedly. Through fall and spring.

Perhaps there’s a black hole or a time warp in my car. Regardless, the earrings are happily united, and I wear them with pleasure.

 

Movie: The Flower of My Secret

My husband said, “It’s about a romance author.” So we watched it.

This 1995 Spanish film is about the falling-apart life of a famous, best-selling romance author. The opening is freely based on a short story by Dorothy Parker. Miles Davis composed the soundtrack.

  • The main character, Leo, wants to expand her repertoire. Her publisher wants her romance novels. They reject her “darker” work, saying it violates her contract.
  • Her marriage is disintegrating.
  • A script she wrote and threw away has been made into a movie–without her knowledge or permission.
  • The people on whom she thought she could depend either betray or abandon her.

The film is filled with interesting characters, passion, and even some melodrama. There are incidents you see coming; plot twists you may not.  It is in Spanish, with subtitles.

Four stars.

Books about Writers

Image credit: andrejad / 123RF Stock Photo

I am preparing to make a major change in my life. I’ve been thinking about it for over a year.  I’ve been imagining what my new life will look like.

In my reading, I came across two books that prompted further research on the topic of What Does a Full-time Author’s Life Look Like?

The first one I read was Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. This was non-fiction. Then, as I was re-reading an old favorite, In the Midnight Rain  by Barbara Samuel, I realized the heroine of this novel was a full-time author.  Both books mentioned the writing schedule.

So I Googled/Goodreads-ed “books about writers” to see what I could glean. The answer: not much.

I read: The Accidental Tourist (Anne Tyler); Swimming Home (Deborah Levy); Cakes and Ale (Somerset Maugham).  Not what I was looking for. Then I re-read other books on my shelf and stumbled across more authors mentioning their writing schedules: Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence;  Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes. John Mortimer writes a novelist character in Paradise PostponedThe World According to Garp (John Irving). And of course Stephen King’s On Writing, The Shining, and Bag of Bones. I waded through The Brontes by Juliet Baker, which was a mistake because I’m looking for glimpses of a writing life, not an analysis of one.

Any suggestions?