Do you have something that brings back childhood memories? Some unique item with its own feel, its smell, its special colours or the way it sounds as it’s handled that brings those early experiences flooding back?
For me, it’s Cadbury Roses chocolates. A glimpse of them on a supermarket or service station shelf brings a gleam of comfort, like the thought of soup by the fire on a stormy night. We’re old friends; we go way back, before the lolly-style wrapping they have today, when they were covered in thin coloured foil. They came to my place whenever my Grandpa paid a visit.
If we knew he was coming, I’d sit on the front veranda of our old weatherboard house with my sister or the brother just a few years older than me. I’d wait for a glimpse of his wiry frame striding down our street, clad in his grey suit, thin dark hair neat and oiled, head held high. I had to be the one to see him because, being the littlest, without a head start I’d never make it to him first and get his arm around my shoulders before the others, and have the honour of carrying the brown paper bag of chocolates back to our house.
Sometimes he turned up unannounced, but no less welcome. A knock on the door, one of the others in the hall, and an exclamation; “Grandpa!” Then his mellow laugh, enjoying the surprise, and the inevitable rustle of the paper bag full of Roses as the rest of us jumped up to greet him.
He loved to watch the ritual of sharing out. All five siblings sitting in a circle, the chocolates on the floor categorised by type, and my eldest brother presiding. First, one of each variety was doled out to each, till we sat with five identical piles of shiny mixed treasures before us. Then the bargaining with the left-overs began.
The best ones were always first on the agenda; the soft oval caramels wrapped in burnished orange, the chewy square caramels in gold, and strawberry creams in red. Then the lesser prizes; Turkish delights and peppermint creams (both liked by only one or two) and solid chocolate swirls in purple. Then the also-rans like fudge, and hazelnut pralines. (What’s a ‘praline’ anyway?)
“Only four soft caramels left. You like peppermint. You can have one of those instead.”
“No! I like caramels better. Give me a chewy caramel.”
“But there’s only three of those left.”
“So? I want a soft caramel or a chewy one.”
“Alright. But now we’ve only got two chewies and two strawberries for the next round.”
“I’ll take a Turkish delight and a chocolate swirl instead.”
“No, too much!”
“Okay, a Turkish delight and a fudge then.”
Any leftovers at the end went to Mum.
I wonder now if watching this ritual was the reason he brought Roses.
There were the occasional times the paper bag was replaced with five different blocks of Cadburys chocolate. Maybe the shop where he bought the Roses by the ounce had shut before he got there. Everything used to close at midday on Saturdays back then. It was easy sharing those out, one block each, and everybody had a favourite. Sometimes we traded rows. We were happy; chocolate is chocolate. But Grandpa didn’t seem to enjoy it nearly as much.
Now when I receive a box of Roses, or on the rare occasion when I buy one for myself just because I can, I don’t have to divvy it up five ways. But there’s always the memory of Grandpa’s arm around my shoulders as he handed me a brown paper bag, smiled, and said, “Make sure you share”.