Chew On This

While I consider myself to me a relatively intelligent human being, fairly competent at most tasks, gum chewing proved to be a bit of challenge for me in the earlier part of my life.

I remember the first piece of gum I ever had. I don’t remember how old I was but I remember still feeling quite small. I believe the piece in question was an individually wrapped blue stick that came in a box of Cheerios. I begged my mom to let me have it. So she and my sister, 3 years my elder, sat on the steps while I stood in front of them as though about to partake in a spelling bee.

My mom opened it for me and handed me this sacred new candy. Her instructions were very clear. She said “Don’t swallow it, do not swallow this. Chew it, but don’t swallow it.”

As I recall I chewed it once and then swallowed it.

Throughout my youth (after I stopped swallowing my gum) my mother would only let us chew half pieces of sugar free Trident. We would ask for a piece of gum and she would tear us a half of an already pitifully small piece of Trident. As though a whole piece of Trident was more than our little mouths could handle. You may consider this to be foreshadowing.

Somewhere around elementary school a rumor started going around that the Trident that came in the multicolored paper could be eaten without being removed from said paper, and that said paper would dissolve in your mouth.

I can’t tell you how many gum wrappers I swallowed that year.

I would chew and chew and chew, periodically removing the gum from my mouth to examine what looked like a very gnarled piece of green trash, and then pop it back in to continue working this paper until it dissolved.

Gullible and determined are a terrible pair to be.

When I would query about said task, the answer would always come back, “oh it takes a while.” Sure it takes a while, after a while ANYTHING will disintegrate in your mouth. I’m sure if I put a Raptor fossil in my mouth that too would disintegrate after a “while.” But my excitement at the sheer possibility of success far outweighed any ounce of rational reasoning I might have applied to my task.

But probably the biggest moment in my gum chewing life came while I was still in elementary school. These were the days when Bubblicious and Bubble Tape (6 feet of bubble gum… 6 FEET OF BUBBLE GUM) were popular amongst the gum chewing crowd. Perhaps it was the fluorescent colors, or the fruity flavor that made them popular. Maybe it was just the sugar.

I of course chewed these gums without prior consent or knowledge of my mother.

I discovered something different though, something better. Somewhere on the bottom shelf of my candy store I found a little gem called Big League Chew. I’m not sure what Big League Chew was actually made of; I’m guessing the ingredients list went something like this;

Artificial Flavor

That stuff was addicting. Especially the strawberry flavor. Oh man to this day I still get goose bumps thinking about it. It came in a package like chewing tobacco would, and was even cut into tobacco like strands; everything about it was tobaccoish – except for the bright pink coloring.

It was great because you could help yourself to the perfect portion of fluorescent colored strands to suit your needs.

This for me, was invariably the whole package.

Oh it started out innocent enough, putting a pinch in my mouth, and then another pinch, and another, but the taste was so good that I was soon jamming fistfuls into my gullet. Over and over, I dipped my sugary paw into the pouch only to push a pile deep into the depths of my mouth.

By the time the package was empty all I could do was sit there in catatonic state, my mouth impossible to close, while a thick stream of pink drool slowly made its way down my chin and onto my t-shirt.

This by the way almost always took place while sitting on my front porch. Yes I know, not only could I not talk and chew gum at the same time, but I also couldn’t stand and chew it either. To me, the only appropriate activity that matched Big League Chew was sitting on my porch staring at passing cars.

I would sit there like I had just shot up, who knows how many grams of sugar coursing through my veins as I slowly started to zone out and see rainbows and unicorns and mystical tiny Martians hoola-hooping on my lawn.

Ok it wasn’t that severe, but it was close. That Big League Chew was as close to the 60s as I would ever be.

Even today I get a little giddy if I see a package of big league chew. Granted I don’t go candy shopping much… or….at all any more. Believe it or not Trident is still my sugarless gum of choice. And if you offered to split a piece with me, I would most likely oblige, not nearly as outraged as I was as a child.

But you can bet your ass that if I ripped open a package of Big League Chew, it would be only a matter of minutes before that pink drool had found its way out of my mouth and onto my dress shirt.

Some things never change.