Deferred Gratification

They each had a dime and a bicycle. They were six years old.

“Can I go with Susan to ride bikes?”

“Where are you going?”

Maggie held out her dime. Susan held out her dime.

“You be home in 30 minutes.” Mom knew perfectly well neither kid could tell time. She just felt a little better putting a time limit on it than saying, simply, openly, “Yes.” She smiled to hide a kernel of fear, but she had to let her little girl go. She knew it, but… “Don’t spend it all in one place,” she added, laughing,

Mom made no sense.

Susan’s bike was small, blue and shiny new. Maggie’s bike was big, red and a little rattlely and she had to ride it standing up, but so what?

The little girls raced the whole two blocks OUT OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD into the NEXT NEIGHBORHOOD with its taller trees, older houses and tidy Methodist church with its steeple. O Brave New World! Maggie and Susan’s neighborhood wasn’t even finished when they moved in.

They leaned their bikes against the wall beside the door and went inside where it was dark and cool. Susan went right to the wire baskets of penny candy.

“I like these and these and these,” she said pointing. “We can have ten.”

Maggie had never seen anything like this. Her knowledge of candy was limited to the Russell Stover boxes that occasionally and mysteriously appeared in their house. “You can have one. And just pick. Don’t stick your finger into it to see what it is.” It was a crapshoot. Maybe she’d pick a gross maple one. She would rather not have any than have that. Ewwww.

And Hallowe’en? She and her little brother got to eat two pieces from their bag and the rest went into a tin her mom kept on the top shelf over the sink. Once in a GREAT while, they got a piece of that. Add to that, she’d never had a dime before. This one was from the tooth fairy. Soon she learned she couldn’t hold ten pieces of candy in her hands.

The store owner came over to them and asked, “Can I help you ladies?” Maggie looked up and handed him her candy. He could hold it easily in his big hand. “How about you miss, are you doing all-right?” Susan nodded and gave him her candy. They followed him to the counter and handed over their precious (real silver) dimes. He put each girl’s candy in its own little paper bag. “Thank you, ladies. Come back soon!”

“Has it been 30 minutes?” asked Maggie.

“I don’t know,” said Susan, shrugging. They got back on their bikes and rode back to their neighborhood.

“Let’s see what you got for all that money,” said mom. Maggie opened the bag and poured her treasure onto the white metal kitchen table. “You can have one, honey. The rest is going with the Hallowe’en candy, OK?”

Maggie nodded. She looked at the pile of candy and tried to choose. Finally she chose something called “Necco,” a cylinder of incredibly dry and tasteless sugar smashed into disks. She spit it out.

“Can I try another one?” she asked Mom who shook her head.

“There’s a good reason that stuff only costs a penny, honey. Next time, save your dimes until you can get something you really want.”

“I’m going to have more dimes?”

“Do you have any loose teeth?”

Maggie trailed her tongue around the rim of her teeth, checking. “No.”

“Give it time.”

Mom really made NO sense.

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13 thoughts on “Deferred Gratification

  1. My parents didn’t confiscate our candy but I know that my father exacted a payment for taking us around the neighborhood. I always offered him a couple of the good chocolates so that he’s leave my licorice alone!! The only good Necco wafers were the black licorice ones! Hehe!

  2. Did we grow up in the same neighborhood? Must have. You nailed it.

    Although in my house, we had “candy night.” Every Friday night. It was our dentist’s idea, apparently. Restrict candy – whether snagged at Hallowe’en or bought with our precious allowance at the local drug store – to one night per week to reduce the chance of cavities. My mother would add to the stash, buying whatever candy we asked for. It was kept on a shelf in the cupboard for us to drool over until Friday night when we’d overindulge while watching shows like Wild Wild West, promising to brush our teeth extra hard before bed. Seemed a good compromise then, and now, upon reflection.

    • Pretty good solution! 🙂 My brother LOVED The Wild Wild West. I remember watching it, vaguely. I vaguely remember so I probably DID watch it vaguely.

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