I never expected it. It was all because we both remembered that the best thing a dime could buy was a chocolate covered ice cream cone. It was a sugar cone filled with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream that was covered in a crisp chocolate coating topped with nuts.
I remember sliding the dime across the counter at eye level and then having to stand on tiptoes to reach into the freezer to find it. It was the true treasure of the ice cream chest surrounded by the lesser popsicles, freeze pops, fudgsicles and ice cream sandwiches. It was truly the best, and best of all, nearly impossible to share.
A popsicle could easily be broken in half, as could an ice cream sandwich. Once outside the store any child in sight would run up and plead for half in exchange for half of their future purchase. It was the neighborhood code to oblige unless the person asking had reneged on their last obligation to share, but a Nutty Buddy was exempt. It couldn’t be broken in half and anyone who wanted a bite might break off the chocolate coating and cause it to fall to the ground, so they were denied. Someone lucky enough to have a dime could enjoy all the different tastes it offered, right down to the bottom point of the sweet sugar cone.
I think I surprised him with my question. “What would you buy with a dime when you were a kid?” I didn’t ask the woman with him, who was closer to me in age, and I suspected she was his daughter. I see adult children and their parents regularly when they enjoy lunch during the week or Saturday brunch.
Sadly, it is rarely both parents. Sometimes generations come together and I’ll be introduced to grandchildren and great grandchildren. We have regulars and those who bring their parents in as guests while they are visiting. When I have the privilege of talking with them, I learn about their current, and former, lives. Best of all is how willing they are to take a moment to share their thoughts and in that moment so are their children who are otherwise rushed due to the necessity of their lives.
They were on their way out when I asked the question. He hesitated and then came over to pick up the dime I had on the counter. Then he pressed his fingers to his throat to activate his voice box. “The ice cream cone,” he stopped, and then gave a broad, satisfied smile. “The one that was covered in all the chocolate.”
We reminisced about the delights a dime could buy long ago, which included a bag of chips and a bottle of soda, two candy bars, 10 (or more) pieces of penny candy or a comic book and penny candy. He remembered that it would also buy a full loaf of bread; when I was a kid bread was 25 cents. I told him I had just bought a half loaf of raisin bread made by a Concord bakery for $5. He was 20 or maybe 30 years older than I and it seemed inconceivable that the increase in bread prices between his childhood and mine was only 15 cents, when between my youth and my children’s the price of bread increased more than tenfold.
He shook his head in disbelief at times, but mostly smiled as he shared his memories. His eyes were a clear blue that lit up as he spoke, and when I looked into them, I tried to imagine him when he was much younger. Maybe that is what he sensed; maybe that is what moved him.
That I saw him beyond his age or that I genuinely enjoyed laughing with him. Or maybe, it was just that we both loved hoarding a Nutty Buddy. I’ll never know because he leaned in quickly to gently kiss my check then pressed his voice box to quietly say, “I hope you don’t mind.” He headed toward the door then turned to me and waved, gave a last smile and said, “Thanks.”
He was gone before I could reply. My first thought was that he must have been a real charmer in his day or a scamp with a roving eye. Either way, after more than a year in business, the man who stole a kiss wasn’t someone who had too much to drink and forgot who he was. It was someone who very much knew himself.