Family · Life · Parenting

By Gum

My niece Keely is in her twenties and has given birth to the cutest baby currently on the planet — do not argue with me about this; you will lose — but that does not mean I do not remember all the things she did when she herself was a child. Because I need to retain baby privileges, I don’t dare tell you some of them. Also I don’t need to give my children ideas. But some things are too fun to keep to myself.

When Keely was little, she went to church with Grandma every Sunday. Oh my lands, she was cute. Two little puffs of black hair like Minnie Mouse ears. Big dark eyes you could drown in. All dressed up in her Sunday best, she was impossible to resist.

She’s really too young here for the gum story, but it gives you a grip on the utter cuteness.

Our Aunt Deenie was her devoted captive. Who wouldn’t be, if a little girl like that ran to you, arms up, squealing your name? And there was only one thing for Aunt Deenie to do. She went digging in her purse. It was a purse of wonders — nobody had a drippy nose near Aunt Deenie — but in this case, she came up with candy.

Keely, not being notably dumb, managed to find Aunt Deenie every week, and one week there was no candy, but there was gum. Our mother hated gum, but what was she going to say? Keely was so cute, and Aunt Deenie enjoyed her so much. It’s hard to be the Gum Grinch.

Keely, gum-deprived in every other area of her life, fell into the habit of asking for gum every Sunday morning. This went on until Grandma actually witnessed the request, and then Keely got a talking-to from her mother.

We do not ask people for treats.
We do not go find people and look cute and pathetic in hope that they offer us treats.
Do. Not.

Twenty years later, I would have to have the same talk with my children. One supposes Keely will be delivering it herself soon enough.

Keely was disappointed but knew when to throw in the towel. For a few weeks, there was no gum when she got home from church. And then one Sunday as she ran into the house, her mother saw her jaw moving.

“Keely,” she said, in that ominous voice all wise children know to attend, “is that GUM in your mouth?”

“Yes,” Keely said, and then quickly, before anyone else could speak, “but I did not ask Aunt Deenie for gum. I did NOT!!”

Her mother took a deep breath.

“Okay,” she said, all reason and patience, “but then where did you get it?”

“Oh,” Keely said, breaking into a grin. She couldn’t have been prouder. “I didn’t ask anyone! I found it on the bottom of my shoe.”

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