Theater Box of Black Licorice
By Karen Clay
Many of the homes on Lee Avenue in Oakland California, had three stories, and maid quarters. Ours also had a ballroom. I don’t know how we afforded to live in such a grand house, on my Dad’s vacuum cleaner salesman salary, but the area wasn’t what it used to be, and we were renting. Plus, many of the homes had been divided into multiple family apartments. Lee Avenue was on a affluent downswing.
My earliest memory is standing outside this house, on the driveway, holding a theater box of black licorice, when I was three.
There was never a photo taken to aid this memory, but that’s how I see it in my mind, like a photograph. I’m looking at myself standing there, in a Shirley Temple dress, Mary-Jane’s, ankle socks, holding the candy, watching my parents leave in our car.
My mother gave the box of licorice to me, a cornucopia of twisted black strands, in a white cardboard box, decorated with red stripes on plastic wrap. Maybe she thought it would last as a distraction until they returned. But I loved, and needed my mother more than the any bribe could salve.
I remember standing alone on the driveway, taking out a strand of licorice as they pulled away, the taste of anise mixed with salt.