I have discovered a new joy: introducing my grandsons to the treats I liked when I was growing up. At 6 years of age, Titus the Honorable is getting a kick out of sampling Poppy’s old-fashioned candy stash.
A year ago, I introduced him to Necco Wafers. You may remember this hard candy, which first came out in 1847. It consisted of a roll of 40 wafers that came in an array of eight flavors: lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice and chocolate. You could buy a whole package of chocolate wafers or the multi-flavor pack, all for the measly price of a nickel. I had three favorite flavors: chocolate, clove and cinnamon.
I wanted to introduce Neccos to Titus because on July 20, 2018, the New England Confectionary Company quit producing this candy, and I knew it would soon be hard to find. Necco Wafers were a big hit with Titus, and on several occasions, we have ventured to find some more, but we always come up empty-handed.
This year, I introduced to him another childhood favorite of mine—Hostess Ding Dongs. For a brief time, they were not being produced, but they quickly returned. I don’t how or why I started doing this, but as a kid, I would freeze these round devil’s food, cream-filled delectables before eating them. Recently, I bought a box and put it in the freezer. When Titus came over, I pulled the treats out to share with him.
When I examined the first Ding Dong, I noticed it was no longer wrapped in aluminum foil; it was now encased in a little plastic bag. It also appeared as if it had shrunk considerably from the Ding Dongs of my youth. I know things look different when you’re an adult, but this looked much smaller than I remembered. When I bit into it, there was very little cream filling, and the icing reminded me of the chocolate you find on those cheap packages of miniature chocolate-covered donuts.
I was disappointed. Titus thought these pseudo Ding Dongs were great, but I felt sorry for him. He will never have the joy of biting into an original Ding Dong. Instead, he has to settle for a cheap knock-off. I looked online to verify what I was experiencing and yes, Ding Dongs have shrunk by two ounces. The recipe has been altered, and the treats don’t arrive in the store fresh, but frozen, only to be thawed out in the store.
I plan to introduce Titus to some of the other popular treats I enjoyed at his age: Black Jacks, Beemans gum, clove gum, Slowpokes, Sugar Daddies, Mary Janes, Boston Baked Beans and Dad’s Root Beer Barrels, just to name of a few. I hope none of these other treats have been radically altered like Ding Dongs. I have touched, tasted and experienced the originals of all these treats.
I have deep embedded memories of my mom giving me a nickel on Saturday morning, when we would go to town for the weekly shopping. She would let me loose in the penny candy section, knowing the struggles I would have in making a wise choice. I think she was pretty smart, because she would do the rest of her shopping, knowing when she came back, I would still be standing there, trying to figure which treats to buy. When you have only a nickel and your choice has to last an entire week, you need to use discretion.
I want Titus the Honorable, Cohen the Goodhearted and River the Peacemaker to enjoy Poppy’s old-time treats, but I have an even greater desire for them to discover the exciting faith that has long been a part of my life. I grew up in a church where the Bible was taught every time the doors opened, and evangelism and missions were emphasized. We cared for each other and were involved in each other’s lives. Church was 24 hours a day, seven days a week; Jesus was our life.
I am afraid the church at large has shifted just like Ding Dongs. Life has become too busy, and we avoid opening ourselves up to each other. Families meet, but they don’t engage. These days, the Bible is often optional when you come to church. It was Jesus who said, ‘”If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32, NASB).
I don’t want my grandsons to have the Ding Dong version of Jesus, but the real Jesus. Yes, Titus, the original Jesus is still available, along with everything He has promised. And when you touch and experience the real Jesus, you will know the imitators are nothing but … ding dongs.