Back in The Day
The eyesore arrived at our house on the evening of November 22nd, 1963, when I was eight and Joey was eleven.
At school that day, the loudspeaker crackled to life, and Principal Edwards announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I’m not sure any of us third graders knew what that meant, but we figured it was bad – especially when Mrs. Green let out a howl and dropped her head in her hands, shoulders shaking with each loud sob. The second that happened, all of us girls and a couple of the boys cried, too. About an hour later, Mama came to my classroom to get me. Her eyes were red and puffy. Then we went to Joey’s sixth grade class to pick him up. Mama said she was taking us out of school early because she “didn’t want to be alone on such a terrible, terrible day.” When we were in the car, I asked Joey if he knew what all the fuss was about; he lifted his shoulders, let them drop, and said, “How should I know, Debbie? You ask the dumbest questions.”
We spent the afternoon in our rooms playing while Mama sat staring at the television set, watching news reports of the terrible event.
That night, Daddy came home early. He was on the road a lot with his vending machine business, so it was a special treat for us. He told Mama to take us down to the basement until he said it was okay to come back up; said he had a surprise, something that might make us feel better after such horrid news. While we were downstairs, we heard a bang, bump, bang then a thud. A couple minutes later, Daddy called down for us to come into the living room. He’d skooched the furniture over to make room for a large, rectangular object. We couldn’t tell what it was because Daddy had it covered with one of Mama’s favorite sheets.
“My favorite bed linen! What’s gotten into you, Frank?” Mama asked. “And look what you’ve done to the living room!”
As usual, Daddy grinned and waved her off as if he were swatting a fly. He walked over and pinched the sheet at the top of the object. Eyes sparkling, he yanked the linen off and said, “Ta da!”
Oh – my – goodness; it was our very own candy bar vending machine! There were Nestle’s Chocolate Bars and Sky Bars and my favorite, Zagnut. There was some other stuff Joey liked, too, but I didn’t care about that. I remember jumping up and down and clapping, but when I looked at Mama’s face, I calmed down real quick.
She’d crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes boring a hole through Daddy. “Have you lost your marbles?” she asked. “You can’t possibly think that eyesore’s going to stay in the house!”
Well, it did.
The first time Daddy opened Eyesore to fill it with more candy, I was fascinated. Joey was, too. He lost interest once he’d seen how it worked, but I never did. Daddy knew I loved that machine as much as he did, so he made sure to tell me when he was going to “feed” it again.
To hear Mama talk, she wouldn’t be caught dead near “that beast.” Truth was though, when Daddy worked late and Joey and I were supposed to be sleeping, I’d sometimes hear her slide the lever on Eyesore. I’d wonder what yummy treat Mama selected then I’d remember she’d probably pick Necco Wafers. Or Chuckles; she loved those fruit-flavored jelly candies, even though I thought they were yucky.
Mama dreaded the neighbors finding out about Eyesore, but it turned out they thought it was pretty cool. They’d come over during the day to buy candy and chat with her. Even Joey and I ended up with more friends than we thought possible.
Once Eyesore jammed, and I watched Daddy take it apart to fix it. Again I was fascinated. I couldn’t keep my fingers out of Daddy’s toolbox, so he let me use his screwdriver to take out one of the screws. That was fun.
When I got older, I went out on the road with Daddy. He taught me the ropes as he called it, and I learned to love the life he’d built. When he passed away years later, Mama asked me if I’d be interested in “a unique focal point” for my own living room. The first thing you’ll see when you walk into my place is the Eyesore – where memories of Daddy and childhood make me smile.