Monday, February 14, 2005

Russell Stover's Valentine's

I grew up in a drug store, the old fashioned kind. Before I was 6 or 7 or so, it even had a fountain – that is, a bar with stools and short-order food and cokes and ice cream. And the world’s best hot dog chili but that’s another post. I remember eating chicken noodle soup for breakfast there before going to kindergarten. My dad was the owner/pharmacist.

The store’s front sold the usual things available in a drug store then – the sundries like shampoo and shaving cream, the over-the-counters like cold medicine and laxatives, the things you couldn’t get anywhere else like cameras, film and send-away film processing, and we had a fairly extensive and fairly upscale (relatively speaking) gift section. And we had Russell Stover candy.

Oh, how I love chocolate anyway, and Russell Stover, well, just the cat’s meow. I’d still rather have it than any other upscale chocolate I’ve yet tried. And certainly part of it is what it evokes, the memories, eating cashew clusters with my mother, and turtles, and the hollow chocolate Santa Clauses that I ate unmercifully and still found plenty of them in my stocking! But Valentine’s Day was really invented by the chocolatiers for those wonderful collections, those beautiful boxes, and best of all for a kid, the boxes with a stuffed animal on top, all chocolate.

We had a three tier display table that sat right in front of the glass front doors and from mid-January it had the Valentine’s chocolate on it. People would buy early to make sure they got their girls’ favorite collection, whether it was all nuts or the little ambassadors or soft centers or chews. And I would come from school every day and go over the entire thing with a fine tooth comb, declaring again how nice it would be for whoever got the one with the stuffed puppy on it.

I was probably as obnoxious doing that as my 9 year old is asking for stuff and that is probably why I have no patience for her when she is doing that. Yes, she’s the one who looks like me.

I would keep a lookout to find the box Daddy had hidden in the back but I never ever found it. I was always convinced that this year the stuffed animal would get away, and indeed, a year or two it did, bless my poor father’s heart. He made up for it with a box twice as big, which I might have loved even more than the stuffed animal. He always always always came home on Valentine’s Day from work with boxes of chocolate for his “girls”.

And when I grew up, he still always made sure I had a box of Russell Stover candy for Valentine’s Day. Always. He brought it, he took me out to dinner himself sometimes, he mailed it, but he made sure I got it. Always.

And when I got married, it didn’t stop (although Santa Claus did). I got a box of Russell Stover candy, from Daddy, every year. Husband soon learned that one box was not enough. Smart man.

And when we had children, I got a box and the children got a box. Of Russell Stover candy. Not Brach’s. Not Whitman’s. One for each of us. Mine biggest.

And then he got married. It was ok, or so I thought. She’d been his girlfriend forever and never got in the way. She was nice enough. B-O-R-I-N-G. And then Valentine’s Day came. A notice in the mail to pick up a package at the post office, that’s how rural deliveries are. Husband went in because we knew what it was. And it was these measely little boxes, little teeny boxes, of cheapo crap candy that was mostly paraffin colored to look like chocolate. Horrid. It had cost more to mail it Priority than the boxes of candy had cost.

I knew what had happened. Daddy had asked her to pick up some Russell Stover. She told him there wasn’t any (because that’s what he told me later, “Russell Stover is hard to find these days,” and husband would point out Russell Stover at Wal-Mart and K-Mart and everywhere else it seemed with those words from then on). Daddy took what she brought and mailed it because she would never had paid that much for postage.

Daddy only lived for about three or four more Valentine’s Days after that. I probably cried on every one. Husband promised me that I would never ever be without Russell Stover on Valentine’s Day, and that my children would make sure of that too. But I still cry for my Daddy on Valentine’s Day.

And then I eat another piece of Russell Stover chocolate.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

I know what you mean. Russell Stover chocolate is the best. I cant stand when someone buys cheap chocolate. Its not worth eating making it a complete waist of money buying it.
My favorite was always the Little Ambassadors. Ive looked for them but haven't been able to find them for several years now. I hope there still made.Enjoyed your posting. Cliff (Just a country boy from Dutchess County NY)