Friday, October 27, 2006

The Kid in the Candy Shop

As Halloween approaches it isn’t uncommon to find a bowl of candy at reception desks of local business offices I have the occasion to visit. Many of the wrappers have the same look they had when I was a child, except now they are hermetically sealed in plastic, so no one can get in them with evil intent and cover their tracks. Safety of the foods we put in our bodies is a concern, however this also covers up something that I found fascinating as a child; the smell.

Across the street from the elementary school I attended was a house in an unassuming sort of neighborhood. The houses were the type you would see in any industrial town, but this house had an odd addition attached to its side that jutted toward the street. It was built in a time when many businesses were run from rooms added onto the proprietor’s home.

Mrs. Topnik ran a candy shop from her home. It was the kind of place where a kid with a nickel could make out pretty well. She had some offerings that were as inexpensive as 5 for a penny. More than the convenience of popping across the street during recess or stopping by before walking home from school, the thing that always brought me back was the smell. Upon entering her store you were confronted by the sound of the bell on the door which summoned Mrs. Topnik to walk from her home through a curtain into her shop. You were also confronted with every possible candy smell that was off-gassing on her shelves. You could actually taste the air. It was the smell of all the candy varieties blending together to make a wonderful opera for the olfactory senses.

Mrs. Topnic was, as I remember, a frail older woman who looked as though she was nervous around children. Her shop was open six days a week. Her shop was closed forever by the time I entered high school. Her oak and glass candy cases sat empty and her son was storing some of his things in the shop.

I can still hear the squeak of the spring on her screen door, and I can still see in my mind some of the signs she had in her shop. My mind has accumulated forty years of clutter since those days, but still I remember that beautiful smell that simply can’t happen any more now that everything is sealed in plastic.


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