Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the candy lady

at the end of the dirt road, that snaked back through the hills, passing our house, sat a single wide trailer, in a yard with grass so tall it was mostly hidden. if you follow the skinny trail of trampled down grass you will find an aluminum door, the glass in the window fogged by age, and inside, seated in a brown recliner, clawed ragged by the feral runaway cats that had found a home, sits the candy lady.

not too many people would brave the trip to the end of that road, at least no after puberty sets in, but when we were kids and our parents had shooed us out of the house for asking too many questions, after exhausting all other resources, we would go see the candy lady to get our answers.

she smelled like eucalyptus and old cigarettes. though she never smoked in front of us, i once saw an pack of pall malls peaking out of her soft side purse that always sat within arms reach of her chair. the eucalyptus came from cream colored lozenges she would unwrap slowly, then place on the tip of her chalky tongue and suck on until they disappeared.

she always seemed to know when we were coming, waving us in as soon as we stepped through the curtain of grass. we would sit indian style on the blue carpet at her feet and ask our questions, or present our case when there was a dispute. she never talked much, just smiled a toothless grin, lips curling back across her gums, and pass around a crystal candy dish, that sat on the table beside her.

we always knew what to do when we left there, somehow the questions were either answered or became trivial. in many ways, she is the one that helped us through our childhood, but as we grew older our visits became sporadic and eventually stopped. sure, we still had our problems, but we had learned how to carry them so they did not weigh so much.

the day i graduated college, i thought of the candy lady, for the first time in years, and walked the dirt road to tell her thank you, but all i found was a field of tall grass. no trailer. no candy lady. just the soft smell of eucalyptus and old cigarettes on the warm breeze.

every once in a while, when i visit my family, i look out the window and see neighborhood kids traveling that same road, the determination on their faces letting me know, they are on their way to get their questions answered.

This is a Theme Thursday post.

98 comments:

King of New York Hacks said...

I had a similar lady in my neighborhood growing up...seems like we all do in one way or another and look back on the good those anonymous people had left imprinted for only us to reflect upon...it takes a village so they say, and a candy lady certainly helps...nice post Brian.

Bonnie said...

Love, love this!!! Those special memories and people that almost seem unreal or phantoms when we try to go back ...

Paul C said...

Enjoy how you raised the story to a universal level at the end. Rich description.

Baino said...

Aww nice that the kids actually had time for someone who sounds so eccentric. You never know who's life you've touched.

Steven Anthony said...

This is my fav thus far, bringing memories of my own candy lady...or did I just borrow her from your wonderful story?

perfect!

5thsister said...

Mrs. Forrestal was my "candy lady". Thank you for bringing back those wonderful memories.

Birdie said...

maybe she moved to another neighborhood with smaller kids to help them answer all those questions ... very lovely magic story before I continue my nap ;-) ... you made me laugh out loud with your comment - thanks Brian!

Magpie said...

Very special and spooky at the same time...interesting.

Eva Gallant said...

Love thevisual of the threadbare chair, the feral cats, the candy dish. Very real.

Nessa said...

So, once you reach puberty, you can no longer see the candy lady.

Your imagery always astounds me.

blueviolet said...

Nowadays, parents would be wondering what kind of creeper she was. Our childhoods were so much more full of adventure and fun!

drybottomgirl said...

I was enlightened by what Nessa said. Sometimes it's a shame to grow into an adult...My favorite book of all time is "To Kill a Mockingbird" and this short tale had an underlying of that writing...

Mighty M said...

We used to have a lady like that too - nowadays that would probably be called a crime!

Sam Liu said...

This is such a beautifully constructed story of so many wonderful layers of meaning. I loved the brilliant characterisation of the Candy Lady, it was vivid, powerful and truly effective. Great piece of writing, Brian.

Caty said...

My sister and I had a "candy lady" growing up too. I don't remember getting candy, but I remember spending hours with her at her house and in her yard sharing stories. My family has moved from there and it's been so many years, I don't know what ever happened to her. Thanks for the great story and stirring some wonderful childhood memories :)

Tracy said...

"she smelled like eucalyptus and old cigarettes". I knew somebody who smelled like that! This is very poignant as I am visiting my hometown where nothing ever changes yet everything is different.

Cloudia said...

the door closes & disappears....








Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

C.M. Jackson said...

was she there or not? part of the magic created during childhood and somehow lost as we grow older---what a shame ---loved the smell of eucalyptus and the smell of smoke in the air at the end--nice job--c

Mrsupole said...

We had a neighbor that we called the Professor and we were always at his house. He taught us to make and to fix things. Nowadays they would probably take him away, but we always felt so safe and protected when we were there. I do not remember him giving us any candy, only fruit that grew on his trees. Those were great times. Thank you for sharing your "Candy Lady" with us.

God bless.

JeffScape said...

This sentiment seems to be making its way around TT. Kinda crazy, and kinda sad, what kinds of memories get attached to something as simple as pieces of candy.

Heartspell said...

Maybe she sensed your after-college visit just as she did when you were a child... I think so. nicely shared. Heartspell

Just Be Real said...

Delightful post Brian. A fond memory indeed.

I had one of those candy lady's in my day, although she was known as the "crazy lady" and I was told not to get too close. But as a kids curiousity got the better of me, I soon learned my lesson on why I was told not to get too close. She scared the beevee jeevees out of me one day!

Kris said...

Dean Corll's mother?

The Retired One said...

Oh Brian, how wonderful this is!
I love that she helped so many children and that you still remember her...we all have our mentors, and sometimes they are the most unlikely people that others would guess....
May she be happy now, wherever life took her.

Maha said...

Congrats on the 500 followers!

Pauline said...

sort of the-lion-the-witch-and the-wardrobe-ish - very cool

slommler said...

I love the remembering of those special people that come along just when we need them. They know!! they just know! And we knew it too!
Trust was a given.
Hugs
SueAnn

Ronda Laveen said...

I was just thinking about the lady in my neighborhood who we visited. She had cookies. Maybe they were cousins.

TALON said...

Fine writing is in the details, Brian, and you sure have those - "curtains of grass", "chalky tongue", "indian style on the blue carpet" and the "crystal candy dish". I love that she had-- in such a humble home -- a crystal candy dish.

I saw her so clearly. Just a great story. Thank you.

SuziCate said...

I ditto Blue Violet's comment. Great write, Brian.

Tom said...

an interdimensional hag, what every kid needs!

Dorraine said...

There are always answers down sneaky dirt roads. Wonderful words you plucked to tell a childhood memory. I richly enjoyed it, pall mall smokes and all!

Monkey Man said...

For me and my gang of questionable buddies it was "The Little Store". A quaint (yes) little store with hardwood floors and all the candy and pop we could stow in our grubby little hands. Great Story.

Betsy said...

You kids were probably her only friends. Sweet.

Jaime said...

i want to have a candy lady to give me answers to all my questions!

secret agent woman said...

Where is the candy lady when I need her? For that matter, where is the candy when I need it?

Felicitas said...

I really enjoyed this story, Brian! The Candy Lady reminds me of a few of the older women I encountered growing up.

Unknown Mami said...

Aww, now I'm missing the candy lady and I never even knew her.

The Urban Cowboy said...

Really like this one Brian! It's got me wondering...

Jill said...

I truly wish you would have gotten to see her and thank her when you went back after school. I wonder if...the candy lady ever knew how important she was to you and your cronies.

RA said...

Beautiful, simply beautiful! :)

Poetic Shutterbug said...

A beautifully expressed story. So many memories of things and people sometimes unexplained. People who could very well be angels upon earth. Well done.

Joanna Jenkins said...

What a great memory.... and so vivid and well told. I wonder what happened to her.
jj

island of peace said...

a story full of beauty and mystery.

you are a marvellous taleteller.

Vodka Logic said...

Cool lady, sounds a bit creepy though. Did you ever find out what happened to her

Selina Kingston said...

If only the memories of my childhood still existed ....if they ever did !

william said...

mate we all go through life meeting these eccentrics. great post as always :) have a great thursday.

anthonynorth said...

That's a great memory. There were many ladies like that around in childhood.

Zuzana said...

Deliciously contemplative as only you can write.;)
Eucalyptus and cigarettes. Isn't it amazing how certain scents can bring back memories in an instant...
A lovely tribute to the candy lady of your childhood.;)
Have a great Thursday,
xo

Subby said...

Most excellent tale sir...

Lorraine said...

She would love this Brian, that she made such an impact, and that you became an outstanding writer...I love this, I can almost sense the trailor, one of those old gypsy wooden trailers, with red doors and gold...you drew a picture again for me, thanks you rock

JStar said...

Brian, you should be publishing a book! The vivid pictures you create take me to that place...I can see it, feel it and taste it...Like I was actually on the adventure with you...Your details are amazing...I only wish to write like you when I grow up :)

Daniel said...

Kids have a way of going places that adults never would even consider. Your young eye saw through the veil of poverty, lower class, and eccentricity. Most cool.

natalee said...

okay this hit close to home... my candy lady was my Nana who also smelled like halls and cigarettes.. i just got a smell ja vu...love this!!!

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful magical story!

I had a similar refuge in my neighborhood -- but it was a lady with lots of books rather than candy.

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful magical story!

I had a similar refuge in my neighborhood -- but it was a lady with lots of books rather than candy.

Kathy said...

I can just see what you described. Loved this! Brings back some of my memories!

00dozo said...

Great post! Happy TT.

theonlycin said...

I wonder if she's still around?

AmyLK said...

I love this story! I think we all had our candy ladies when growing up. Thanks for reminding me of mine!

Jingle said...

Your words have the power of a waterfall, carry the beauty of
nature and love...

award winning story,
it is remarkably sweet!

Happy Theme Thursday!
U Rock!

Maggie May said...

A brilliant post! Loved it.
Just proves we are all answerable to the things we say to youngsters and the impressions that are forming in their young minds because of us! What a responsibility!
Maggie

Nuts in May

Holly said...

Great Story as always Brian....our worlds seemed much more safer back then....now we'd be scared of a neighbor candy lady.~Holly

Tim Keeton said...

Brian,

Thanks for visiting my site.

Rhyme on!

Tim Keeton
(Undead)Poet / Wizard / Teller-of-tales

Leeuna said...

I love this post. Childhood memories are such wonderful things. Fantastic job on your Theme Thursday post.

buffalodick said...

We lived across the street from my grampa, so he was my source of a lot of info...

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Brian:)

This is something interesting for me because I had no candy lady when I was young and I really don't know how I solved my problems. Come to think of it, I really don't know if I had any problems at all when I was young. As far as I can remember my youth was full of fun and joy.

I enjoyed reading your beautiful presentation.

Best wishes:)
Joseph

Debbie said...

This is one of your masterpieces. I could almost smell the eucalyptus as I read.

tori said...

we had a candy lady in our neighborhood growing up. she gave us candy whenever we stopped by and she loved daisies, even if we picked them from her flower beds...

mouse (aka kimy) said...

love the line of the lingering smell.....

sweet story

Lori said...

Bravo! Oh how I have missed visitig you Brian and reading your beautifully put together words. I am so thankful for this opportunity to stop by and say hello and to thank you for checking in on me...I have so missed being a part of such a wonderful caring community.

Another wonderful story Brian. Thank you! XX Lori

PattiKen said...

This is great, Brian. So many wonderfully described details.

But, oh, man, I just know that my friends at that age would have woven a scary tale of the witch who lived at the end of the dirt road, who lured unsuspecting kids in with candy, and ate them. The eucalyptus was only to freshen her breath afterwards, don't you know.

No way would I have gone down there!

Jingle said...

http://itistimetothinkformyself.blogspot.com/2010/06/theme-thursday-love-is-sweet.html

here is mine tt post.
there are candy treats on my previous post.
take and enjoy some!
;)

Ms. Gibson said...

Having a Candy Lady in the hood is whole lot better than having the Candy Man!!! :P

TechnoBabe said...

How fortunate you were to have a wise person to turn to. She sounds like a great soul. The description of the tall grass and the trailer are so real.

Rob said...

Good stuff. There was a guy like this at my church growing up. He would pass out candy to kids as they entered church.

Jessie said...

i never knew anyone like that. a beautiful story.

moondustwriter said...

Yet another one well done - a reflection of innocence and searching and the old sage who points the direction

California Girl said...

Brian, is this a true story? I can never tell. Your writing is so...REAL. (high compliment).

My answer to your question on my TT post today is,

"No, he doesn't know I posted it but he probably wouldn't mind."

You do a mean Church Lady, btw.

Ed Pilolla said...

what a scene from childhood. the scene at the candy lady's trailer reminds me of ray bradbury's 'time machine' story in which an old man fields an audience of little boys in his living room and takes them back in time with his storytelling. dig the intergenerational connection as well as the quick tho rich description.

Jen Chandler said...

Ok, this made me cry. I sometimes with I'd grown up in a neighborhood with a bunch of friends and a "candy lady". Great detail. Cheers!

Pat said...

I love this! Nowadays it would be "STRANGER DANGER!!"

Together We Save said...

I loved reading this post... reminds me of simpler, safer times.

Bernie said...

Nothing ever stays the same...I use to love the candy lady and the ice cream truck as a child....Hugs

Caroline said...

i am sure the candy lady remembers you.

thank you for your support ... i know you are a dad so i dedicate this piece to you - http://unprecedentedintellectual.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/until-he-smiled/

Dot-Com said...

Might be miles away, but I feel I know that candy lady!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Eucalyptus and cigarettes ....... funny how certain aromas can trigger a memory so strong that you are right there again, if only for a moment. Leaves you with a certain longing for the past, doesn't it?

Harnett-Hargrove said...

What a memory. The keeper kind. It sounds as though we all had a candy-lady of sorts, I did too. -J

Tammy said...

We moved around too much, so I missed out on a candy lady of my own. Wonderful memory.

Six Feet Under Blog said...

That would have been fun. Sounds like a great middle aged children's book. There's a story there!

Raven said...

Such vivid descriptions here. You bring out the characters quite nicely in only a few words. Well done.

I didn't have a candy lady when I was a kid, but now I wish I did.

Have a great day.

Dreamhaven said...

Sweet memories, indeed. Happy TT

Jingle said...

http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/thursday-poets-rally-week-22-the-perfect-poet-award/

perfect poet award week 22.
Thank you for the poetry contributions!

Crazyasa said...

Amazing story. We had a "candy lady" in town her name was Alice. She knew the history of the area in detail and would tell us stories.

Marla said...

I had a candy lady in my life too. I want to be remembered like that. Well, except for the cigarettes and no teeth. :-)

Hilary said...

Another beautiful glimpse inside your mind. I love the scents which lingered.

Goofball said...

so cool. I didn't have a candy lady in our neighbourhood :(

Syd said...

I think that each of us meets such a person in childhood. Some have candy and some offer up tales of far away places which are just as sweet.