Back when I was a kid growing up in the
Central Ward, my parents would fix a very good noontime Sunday meal,
and afterwards we would trudge out together and walk the three blocks
or so to Prince Street so my parents could buy their dessert.
We always went to the same Prince Street bakery; I think it was
called Wrigley's, or something like that. I can still remember the
aroma of that place, and the oodles of pastries, cookies, pies and
cakes. For me it was the Toys 'R' Us of bakeries.
In a short time, however, my walk to and from that bakery became
more of an act of penance for the sins I had committed that week.
The Sunday journey became the stations of the cross.
You see, my parents were possessed by some sort of weird, evil-spirited
sweet tooth. They were like the "Stepford Wives" of Sweetsville.
Every single Sunday - and I mean every single Sunday, over and
over again - they would walk into that bakery like zombies, plop
their 59 cents down on the counter and walk out with a strawberry
shortcake. And on the few occasions when the bakery was out of strawberry
shortcake, they would leave empty-handed, despite my protests to
"buy something else."
Eventually, my parents bought a house in Vailsburg in late 1957,
and the nearest bakery they shopped at - Royal Cake Box - didn't
have a strawberry shortcake that suited their tastes. Mercifully,
I was let off the hook, and it reaffirmed my belief in the deity.
However, to this day I cannot eat strawberries in any shape or
form - not even strawberry jelly or strawberry ice cream. As soon
as I eat strawberry, my tongue begins to swell and it gets itchy
to the point that I have to claw at it with both hands - somewhat
of a disgusting, nauseating sight.
I'm sure my strawberry reaction is not a naturally occurring allergy
- that it's a psychological thing having to do with my childhood.
Over the last 34 years, my wife has compiled a hefty list of my
psychological problems - none of which I knew I had until I married
her - but this strawberry thing befuddles even her.
My wife has become a victim here as well, since she likes the
nasty little fruit. Every spring, when strawberries come into season,
she has to hear this same tirade from me.
I have many good memories of growing up in Newark, and the bad
ones I have dealt with. But getting beyond this strawberry thing,
well, it's no cakewalk.