Heart Shaped Memories

Forrest Gump had something with that now-famous line about life being like a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re going to get.” How I wish life really was that simple.

When I was a young girl in grade school, I would take the public bus home after Brownies or Girl Scout meetings that were held in the church basement located next door to the school. I could have walked the mile or so home, but it was dark by that time in the fall and winter.

Sometimes I would wait for the bus about a block from the school in front of the old Hundley’s car dealership because there was a phone booth – an actual glass-enclosed booth – that I could duck into in case it was raining or snowing. Other times I would walk to the corner of Edgington Lane and National Road, where the Buch and Donovan drugstore was located. If it was really cold, I could stand in the doorway or go inside to escape the weather.

That drugstore was typical of the era, complete with a soda fountain, lots of gift items, magazines and other neat stuff. Sometimes I might have to pick up a prescription for my mother if she called ahead. If I had the opportunity to wait inside for the druggist to complete the transaction, I would spend my time gazing at the merchandise lining the walls of the narrow store.

In February, I particularly loved to admire the boxes of Valentine candy displayed there. Big and small heart-shaped boxes in hues of red, pink and even yellow were adorned with large, fancy bows and wrapped in colored cellophane. They were a far cry from the tiny boxes of hard candy hearts with messages stamped on them that we shared with classmates on Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward quite a few years to the first year or so of married life. Living on a shoestring budget, fancy holiday gifts were not the norm for us. But when my husband surprised me with a large – and I mean extravagantly large – yellow heart-shaped box of candy, I was over the moon happy.

It didn’t matter that I later found out he had won the chocolates on a 10-cent tipboard pull at his favorite tavern. I kept the box for years afterward, cherishing that silly yellow heart that reminded me of those drugstore visits of yesteryear.

Sometimes our childhood dreams never quite reach maturity. Like when one of my brothers would rise early to greet the sanitation workers on their garbage truck in the alley because he was fascinated with that occupation. While he never fulfilled that childhood desire to work on a packer truck, he enjoyed the occasional rides on the trucks and still brags about them.

High school yearbooks are filled with pictures and captions claiming various predictions for students later in life. There are those most likely to succeed, most likely to be a brain surgeon or most likely to be president.

And just when you think you’ve got life all figured out, someone hands you a box of chocolates.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at ziegler@theintelligencer.net.