Once my brothers and I reached the age when we thought about giving up something for Lent, that’s about all we did — think about it.
It’s no wonder that we adults have such a hard time when we decide to try to give up something. We picked that up when we were kids.
How many exercise machines are gathering dust in basements, attics and garages because people wanted to give up being out of shape? The most exercise most of us get is hauling the exercise equipment to our basement, attic or garage.
The same could be said for diet books, calorie counters and willpower self-improvement DVDs purchased in a hunger to lose weight when the only thing lost is the resolution to drop a few pounds.
For us kids, Lent had a few passing similarities with Christmas and New Year’s. There were, however, major differences.
My brothers and I still had a lot to learn, but we did know that we wouldn’t be able to give up aggravating and instigating each other for 40 days of Lent. (Truthfully, 40 minutes would have been pushing it.)
Besides, we were reasonably sure there would be a candy-loaded basket on Easter morning no matter what we did.
Santa Claus keeps a list of those of who have been naughty and those who have been nice. The Easter Bunny is much more laidback. He delivers candy to every kid no matter how badly that kid has behaved. It’s where they got the idea for participation trophies in youth sports.
There were two reasons why we didn’t compare Lent “give-ups” to a New Year’s resolution. We knew it would be a minor miracle if we could give up something for six weeks. A year of abstaining from something we liked was beyond our comprehension.
The second reason was a simple one. We had no idea what a resolution was.
We didn’t go the easy route of giving up something that we didn’t like in the first place. (Liver and onions, and succotash surprise.) However, we also didn’t go the hard route of giving up something we really liked.
One item that we definitely did not want to give up was snacks. In our house, meals were something that we ate between snacks. Meals were the appetizers for snacks.
The main attraction of snacks was that they held all that we loved and admired about food — sugar, salt and empty calories.
That’s not to say that we did not eat nutritious snacks, such as apples, oranges and bananas. However, it is to say that we did not bite into a Macintosh apple with the same enthusiasm that we bit into a chocolate bar.
Mother kept a box of sandwich cookies in the breadbox in the pantry. Each of my brothers and I would grab one every time we went by the box — and we went by the box as often as possible.
It was sort of like grabbing the ring on the merry-go-round every time we rotated through the pantry. The only difference is that I might miss the ring, but I never missed a cookie.
However, our folks did their best to keep us from spending non-school days in a snack-feeding frenzy. After we reached our snack quota on summer days, Mother would shoo us outside, and we weren’t allowed in except for drinks or water or bathroom visits.
The problem was that there were about a dozen mom-and-pop candy stores within a three-block radius of our home. With a few pennies and an occasional nickel in our pockets, we liked to spread our business around for two reasons.
Each store had some candies that the others didn’t. Also, we didn’t want one store owner buying a Caribbean island as a result of all of the business that we gave her in buying snacks.