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Found Time

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal

I was on the phone with my mother the other day, brightening up her life with a blow by blow description of my fascinating day, ". . .and then I went to the grocery, and then I emptied the cat box, and then I loaded the dishwasher, and then I had a nap."

"I snoozed," I told her, "for about an hour and when I woke up I thought it was Wednesday morning and that I had to get ready for work. I was so happy when I realized that it was really 3:30 Tuesday afternoon!"

"Ah!" she said, "Found time!"

I loved that! "Found time." Like it was something extra, a bonus, a gift. Like finding a dollar bill on your way to school, a dollar that came to you out of the blue and that nobody knew you had, so you were not obligated to save any part of it. A dollar which you could take to Mott's Five and Dime with a clear conscience and blow on penny candy, and nobody would be the wiser.

Mott's had a big divided bin and each compartment in the bin held a different kind of candy. There were taffies and bubble gum and pixie sticks. My all time favorites were Fire Sticks, which were very hot cinnamon hard candy. You think Atomic Fireballs are hot? They're for sissies! Fire Sticks were the thing and they could, with a bit of patience and a long afternoon, be licked into a very sharp, pointy Candy Dagger to threaten your brother with. An added attraction. "Better watch it ya dork! I've got a Fire Stick and I know how to use it!"

Mott's was the best store in the world. They had everything there! Everything anyone might possibly ever need. Except cinnamon oil for making cinnamon toothpicks. For that you had to go to the drugstore a block farther down. We didn't go there very often. It wasn't just a drug store, but also a gift shoppe. "Shoppe," mind you.

It was really, really fancy. You were not allowed in the store barefooted. The old ladies that worked there were very crabby and snooty. You just knew that they were noticing your grubby fingernails which you yourself only ever noticed when you went in there. You could tell they thought you were going to break something on the way in or out.

You had to work up a little courage to brave the Drugstore and Gift Shoppe, but it was well worth it. The cinnamon oil was at the pharmacy counter at the very back of the store and you had to ask the pharmacist in his starched short sleeved jacket for it. You had to solemnly promise him that you would be very careful with it.

Who knew what you might see on the way back to the pharmacy counter! They had those glass birds that dipped their beaks in water and were supposed to predict a change in the weather. They had all manner of ceramic puppy dogs and angels and praying hands. There were windchimes and snazzy candles shaped like mushrooms and Hershey's Kisses. They had sealing wax too, for super fancy letters. My sister and brother and I pooled our money and bought a box of sealing wax for our mother for Mother's Day one year. She still has it. It was that fancy.

But the Drugstore and Gift Shoppe was too upscale for most of our shopping. We usually went to Mott's. Much less pressure. Nobody at Mott's noticed your fingernails. We didn't go everyday. Those were the days when we earned 50 cents an hour babysitting and were obliged to save half of it. Or, we could earn money pulling weeds. We got a penny for every ten weeds. I don't know what kind of weeds they were, but they grew straight and slender, were easy to pull, and there were millions of them. We would bundle nine up and wrap them around the middle with the tenth. They had to have the roots attached or they didn't count.

So, you can see that going to Mott's with a whole dollar in your pocket, a dollar that came from nowhere, was an event. You found a dollar on the sidewalk and your feet left the ground. You were "walking on sunshine."

And that's how I felt, when I realized it was Tuesday afternoon. Nice to know that I can still feel that good about something that is really nothing at all. Found time.

Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
August 1, 2006 Column
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