“Come on, Princess. Let’s go get some chocolate bars,” Dad suggested. It was a special treat every now and then on a hot Canadian prairie evening for just the two of us to walk to the store after supper.
Before we left we took “orders” from Mom and my sister Lori and their requests were always the same. Mom wanted a Cherry Blossom, a golf ball-sized piece of chocolate surrounding a maraschino cherry swimming in a sweet cherry-flavored liquid, and Lori wanted a buttery Mackintosh Toffee bar. Chocolate bars cost only a dime back then, and so with forty cents in hand, we set off for Tom’s.
The store we called “Tom’s” was a small structure attached to the front of a house on the corner where a Chinese man named Tom and his wife lived. As we arrived, the dull thumping sound of our shoes on the wooden incline leading from the sidewalk, joined with the squeak of the door hinges, to announce our arrival and summon Tom from his house in back.
Inside of the store was cool and dark: a comfortable contrast to the summer heat outside. The floor was made of wood, worn smooth by the bare feet of children in search of sweets. The air in the windowless store was heavy with the scent of Chinese cooking wafting in from the back room.
Against the wall directly across from the door was a freezer that contained popsicles and ice cream. A cooler beside it held bottles of soft drinks like Orange Crush, which was my very favorite.
To the left was a display case filled with a countless varieties of penny candy. There were round, rubbery Red Hots that cost one cent each, licorice tar babies that were three for a penny, candy bracelets, jaw breakers, shoe strings, licorice cigars, and Double Bubble – that sweet gum that tasted like pink cotton candy.
Next to the glass candy display case were shelves that held row after row of chocolate bars. Dad picked out the Cherry Blossom and Mackintosh Toffee right away, and then chose between an Eat More peanut chew and a Burnt Almond chocolate bar for himself.
“How about a Jersey Milk?” Dad asked me as I pondered the chocolate paradise in front of me. A Jersey Milk was a plain kind of bar but I agreed with his recommendation anyway. Only when I got older would I be brave enough to request something more exotic like a bubbly chocolate Aero bar instead.
Tom took the four dimes from Dad, put our treats in a little bag and handed it to me. I was proud that I was big enough to carry the bag home.
Past the Langstaff’s, past the Montgomery’s, past the Gregor’s, I skipped along holding Dad’s hand, heading down the sidewalk toward the little blue bungalow that he had built when he returned from the war. I felt safe, secure, happy, loved and content. All I needed or wanted at that moment was to be holding my Dad’s hand and anticipating the taste of a simple ten cent chocolate bar.