December 5, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
It was a crisp fall morning, and the third-grader had 15 cents in his corduroy pants pocket, a rarity since it was usually empty except for the tissue his mom stuffed there. The kid was always sniffling.
Feeling rich on the nearly two-mile walk from his home off the Old Nyack Turnpike though he knew that White’s grocery store in Spring Valley, N.Y., would soon claim the coins, the boy thought a bit on what it must be like to be grown and carry money, as he assumed his parents did.
Of course, that brought him to all manner of big boy, even man thought. Would he drive a car like his dad? Would he work in a small factory like his mom? Would he drive in the high school victory parade down Main Street after a football game?
The hike from his home nearly finished and with both the South Main Street School and White’s next door in view, the young fellow stopped twisting the dime over the nickel and vice-versa and hurried into the grocery store so he could buy a tin of cloves before he was late for class.
Ed White was a kindly man who once lived in the house the boy’s grandfather now owned and who later had a store in nearby Hillcrest. The fellow asked for cloves, and Mr. White used his long pole with a special fitting to tip the white Bernice brand off a high shelf and into his hands.
The boy swapped the cash for the tin and hurried to his first-floor classroom where Miss Amy Rouy would later bring out 30 or so bright, large lemons and colored ribbon.
She gave each of us a lemon and showed how to stick the cloves into a lemon and then thread a ribbon through the top.
We were then to bring the spiced lemons home to our families and hang them somewhere in the bath. I think my mom had it there for a month, bringing a sweet fragrance to the room.
The boy had come to school with his parents’ cash, which he figured was in his future, too, and went home with a present for his family, nicely arranged by a thoughtful teacher.
Today, so many decades later, the boy now usually a man, keeps the half-full Bernice tin in his own family’s spice cabinet, reopening the can once in a great while to recapture a memory with as strong a flavor as the original.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org