Like me, my kids are gum chewers and often chew a piece until they arrive at school, where they’re then required to throw it in the trash before class starts.
Handing the pack to them in the back seat, our nine year old son announced, “Today is G-day, Mom.”
“What’s G-day?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t another half day off from school.
“Gum day,” Sam explained. “We get to chew gum all day at school today. But not you, Daisy. Just the grade fours.”
Interesting. I didn’t remember seeing that in the newsletter.
“That’s not fair!” his six year old sister burst out. “I wanna chew gum all day, too!”
Good grief. As if school mornings weren’t challenging enough, we had to throw the unfairness of G-day into the mix.
“Just hide your gum under your tongue,” suggested Sam. “Like this,” he said, showing her how it was done.
Happy for the instruction, Daisy tried his little trick. “Hey Mom!” she said, grinning. “Can you even tell that I’ve got gum in my mouth?”
“Nope,” I replied. “Can’t tell at all.”
“Sweet!” she said, delighted once again.
Now, perhaps I might seem like an irresponsible mom condoning the hiding of gum under tongues at school. But I’ve got a bit of history with the sticky stuff.
My grandfather, who we called Papa, was one of my heroes growing up. He collected Chiclets gum and he was generous with his collection. Every time we went to our grandparents we could count on finding an endless supply of them. Papa’s office smelled like a Chiclets factory. Packs upon packs of all sorts of flavours were stacked in glass jars for all his grandkids to see. And because we all knew of his fondness for Chiclets, he would get inundated with even more every birthday, Christmas or Father’s Day.
My parents were gum chewers too, but there wasn’t an endless supply like that with them. And they didn’t chew those sugary candy coated squares like Papa. They chewed the boring new sticks of the sugar free stuff. When we scored a piece of gum from them, it was supposed to last us all day. But with its limited flavour, we’d only chew it for awhile.
When I was really young I remember putting an old dried-up gob of gum in my mouth that I’d found stuck under a restaurant table.
“What are you chewing?” my mother inquired.
“Gum,” I replied happily.
“Where did you get that?” she asked, knowing that she hadn’t given it to me and Papa was nowhere in sight.
“From here,” I said, hunching down and looking under the table.
“Lori Anne White!” she exclaimed holding out a napkin. “Spit that out! That’s disgusting!”
I couldn’t see why”¦ it seemed perfectly fine. Even if it was blander and far firmer than Papa’s Chiclets.
I started looking for more gobs of gum after that, feeling for them under tables wherever we went. When I found one, I’d chew it with as much discretion a little kid could muster.
“What’s in your mouth?” my mom would ask after seeing it moving.
“Nothing,” I’d say, hiding the contraband under my tongue and opening wide enough to prove my innocence.
I don’t know when I outgrew that disgusting habit. But I’m pretty sure, looking back on it now, that it was just the first sign of the rebel in me.
When I got older the rebellious behaviour continued when I’d break my parents’ “one piece rule” and I’d try to shove the whole pack of Hubba Bubba in my mouth. My jaw would get so sore I’d swear off gum forever.
Of course there were other drawbacks to gum too: it’s been popped in my face; stuck in my hair; washed with my clothes; sat on, stepped on and leaned against; and even melted down the side of my dad’s truck when I threw it out the window once. And then there was the anxiety after I swallowed it. Oh boy. It takes seven years to digest, you know. Or so I was told.
But for all the pitfalls of gum, I still like it, and so do my kids. For them it’s about blowing bubbles, for me it’s about having fresh breath. So who says G-day can’t be enjoyed by Daisy too? As long as she’s discreet – and hides it under her tongue.