I grew up in a three bedroom ranch house in what’s known as the “New North End” of Burlington, Vermont. It’s not even remotely “downtown,” but a ten minute ride from the bustle of Church Street. I lived in a quiet neighborhood bordered by a cemetery on one side and “the woods” on the others.
I was five when we moved there, and made friends rather quickly with the other kids on the block. There were plenty. One of my friends, Chris (who died in Iraq last year), made a point of telling me that I had moved into the house directly across from the neighborhood’s own good fairy–Mrs. Turner, the Lollipop Lady. Every Tuesday Mrs. Turner would hand out lollipops to all the neighborhood kids. And not the cheap ones, either. She handed out these babies: Lifesavers Swirled Lollipops. I don’t know or where she got them from, as this was about 1979 if I’m doing the math right, but oh, did we love those suckers. Every so often kids from the other neighborhoods would try to horn in on our action, and as a collective youth we’d make them leave one way or another. Every so often Mrs. Turner would run out of lollipops and have to turn kids away–but never, oddly enough, me. She would specifically save the Blueberry/Cream suckers for me alone. To her I was never Jamie, but always James. I mentioned once how much I liked them, and I remember her mentioning that they were her son’s favorite as well. She also told me that there were never very many of that flavor in the bag. As I grew older she’d talk to me about her children and grandchildren, and I think she missed them dearly. They lived far enough away that it was a grand celebration when they came to visit, and I only remember the Turners having a strange car in their yard a very few times in the ten years that we lived across the road from them.
I saw the Turners while out grocery shopping a few years back, and while they were both taking a long time going about the store, Mrs. Turner’s eyes–always that icey blue that offset her silver hair and made her look magical to the young boys–lit up as she recognized me, now an adult losing his hair. She even remembered my name. Out of the hundreds of kids she’d given candy to over the years, she remembered my name. Mr. Turner was going a bit deaf, but he remembered me as well. “You’re the boy that shoveled our driveway when it was so bad out, aren’t you?” We had an awkward and a bit stilted conversation (blocking the aisles is bad form in Price Chopper) but I came away happy to have seen them one more time.
And all of that came flashing back to me when a co-worker left a Lifesavers Blueberry/Cream Lollipop on my desk this morning. So I just had to share.