Thoughts From Friends: Candy Dish

Holiday Candy Dish

Text and images by
Rodney Kemerer,
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member

We have very few moments of enlightenment in our lives. Sometimes we do not even recognize them. For me, one of my best occurred while staring at a candy dish.

Let’s put it into reverse for a moment. The last real Holiday/Christmas we enjoyed was 2019 - after that, masks killed the mistletoe. Normally during the Holidays my wife and I host various get-togethers, mostly informal with different groups we work or socialize with. The prepping for these events, which last almost the entire month of December, begin with early cleaning and excessive decorating. Part of this tradition was handed down by both sets of parents. A fully decorated house was a requirement if you wanted to participate in the season.

At the end of the 2019 season and the beginning of the dreaded removal of all the decorations, which, by the way, look a lot more silly coming down than they do going up. Enlightenment awaited.

At each end of our house were two antique candy dishes, one silver, one cut glass. As I was beginning to put things away, I suddenly realized that both candy dishes were untouched. In other words, of all the people who came and went that Holiday, not one person sampled the candy in the dishes. The light went on like a brand new LED 100 watt equivalent.

Little did I know that I was carrying on a tradition dating as far back as the 1700’s in England when the well-to-do would offer loaves or cones of sugar for their guests to enjoy and to show off the host’s prosperity and hospitality. The sugar cones morphed into more refined sweets over the years, but the symbol remained the same. When I really thought about it, I realized that I was carrying on the tradition, learned from my parents, who, I am sure, learned it from their parents. Somewhere back there is a dead Englishman with rotted teeth.

So, here I am starring at two full candy dishes, untouched but signaling me as if they were two chocolate semaphores waving in my face. The message was clear, you were now not only your parents, but closer to being your grandparents. I turned to my wife and said, “No one puts out candy dishes at the Holidays, we’ve crossed over, we are the remnant of fading history.” I had to sit down.

This revelation led to a deeper soul searching as to what else was sending a silent, secret message. As my wife and I started creating a list of things, expressions and attitudes that signaled “out of date,” the list became frightening.

By now we had officially coined the term “Candy Dish” as meaning anything that identifies you as a Medicare Card Member. We don’t even say, “That’s so Candy Dish” anymore. We just faintly whisper “Candy Dish” under our breath when the other one says or does something that qualifies for this distinction.

Some of these are easy, others, not so much. The low hanging fruit includes writing a check. Really? Who has not stood in a grocery store line only to see someone ahead of you pull out a checkbook and begin the endless process as the entire line groans in unison. Recently a “streaming series” AKA a television show, included a scene in which a teenager watches an older woman take out a checkbook and begin to write a check. The girl asks, “What are you drawing?” The answer is really, modern hieroglyphics. The corollary to this is, “Bounce a check.” At best, it sounds like a basketball technique. If you think checks date you, get ready, credit card antiquity is lurking in the wings. If Venmo sounds like a planet on Star Trek, you may need to re-evaluate your monetary universe

Phones are the great generational divide. Landlines are kryptonite to younger generations. “Why is the phone tied to your desk, wall, table?” I have been asked this question, more than once. If you say, “I dialed your number” or worse, “I’ll fax you,” you have just received your first Candy Dish. If your landline still offers a busy signal then you are not even a Candy Dish, you belong in the “Riveting and Rationing” generation. For those unclear about this, that would be Rosie The Riveter and food/gas rationing. Super Candy Dish.

Part of phone culture is the app. I am embarrassed that early, but not that early, in the introduction and worldwide acceptance of apps in our daily lives I had the following exchange with my wife. I was looking for a feature to get better weather predictions on my phone that required an app. The exchange went as follows: Wife, “I’ll get it for you at the app store.” Me, “No that’s okay, I don’t want you to have to go out.” Peals of laughter ensued. I learned about apps that day.

Television isn’t television anymore. It’s anything with a screen so the old models and language no longer apply. If you say “When is it on?” or “I’ll tape it for you”, fill up the candy dish, you have arrived.

Candy Dish has opened up a whole new window into the past but the shock is I am still living with a foot in both worlds. This makes my generation conflicted as we live both lifestyles, many times, awkwardly. Like looking for an app to tell me my candy dish is almost empty.

If you look forward to getting your physical mail everyday and do so by driving your stick shift car to the post office after checking your voice message machine while thinking about your “Christmas Card List” and wearing a “sport coat” you may want to stock up on candy for the next Holiday Season. You will need it.

14 Responses

  1. Laraine Newman
    | Reply

    This made me laugh out loud 4 times. A record for me. I love everything about this essay but I didn’t realize that saying “that’s so candy dish” was SO 5 minutes ago

  2. Terry Murkins
    | Reply

    I am still laughing ! Everything you wrote is sooo true! My wife and I have big smiles on our faces from your story Rodney. The candy dish is full….Happy Holidays to you and your family!!

  3. Joanne
    | Reply

    Phone booth, yellow pages, collect call, party line, Thomas Guide, saccharine, Tupperware party. Even knowing what these are keeps my candy dish full. Thank you for making me laugh!

  4. Don Swiers
    | Reply

    Oh . . . that’s dated too!

  5. Vera Dunn
    | Reply

    Rodney, you not only made me laugh, you also opened a wellspring of emotion by turning the pages in my memory book heart. Growing up the crystal candy dishes in my parent’s home were filled to signal the arrival of company, a bridge game, or dinner party was guaranteed when they appeared. Now they are empty but like most good things long gone the memory remains.

  6. Claire Cabrey
    | Reply

    Wonderful article Rodney. Really great observations of our modern life. I miss the Candy Dish days. I want them back! I wish we could have both worlds simultaneously

  7. Lance Lambert
    | Reply

    Every evening I open up a kitchen cabinet to enjoy some of my private stash of Werther’s hard candies that are nestled in a candy dish that belonged to my mother. That combination officially makes me a geezer. As far as technology, I said, “I’m done!” when Twitter became a thing.

  8. William Nguyen
    | Reply

    The part about Venmo had me feeling a bit self-conscious, too.

  9. Gregory Romer
    | Reply

    That is so right on! What a nice piece!

  10. Kay Romer
    | Reply

    I know I would have happily partaken of the offerings in your candy dish, as I’m out of touch and proud of it. ( Nothing gets between me and chocolate.)

    Besides, who would the phone scammers call if we didn’t still have a landline and answering machine?

  11. Barbie Hendon
    | Reply

    Hilarious!! Sent to me by my cousin Kay. Greg Romer’s wife. ?

  12. Pam Falk
    | Reply

    Love this piece! It’s at once delightful and haunting. For I Am Candy Dish. And so glad for those memories. Thank you for this – it brought me back in the best way.

  13. Dave Laverdiere
    | Reply

    So true! Don’t you still have a car that has a fold-up and separate shoulder seatbelt? Love your writing Rodney!

  14. Patty Elias
    | Reply

    Rodney, this gave me a huge giggle. You are a talented writer with a keen sense of humor. Thank you for taking the time to put it all down in words! (I would have said thanks for “putting it on paper,” but then I would have to admit to being a candy dish as well!! Happy to be in the club!

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