In May 2009 I went to Spain for a brief visit, and among a few other things, I brought peladillas home. Peladillas [literally, little baldies] are sugar-coated almonds, and are still extremely popular in Spain, of course. Despite knowing that nuts are not allowed at school, Clea was so insistent that she should take a pair of them in her lunch box that I made her promise she would not share them with anyone. I can very well imagine her showing them off and explaining to her friends about the Spanish origin of the lollies she was eating, and carefully pronouncing peladillas for their benefit.
Lollies and children go together. Their faces light up when they see the sweet treats. In our house, the Easter chocolate egg-hunt used to be an incredibly exciting event, both in Yass and in Canberra.
Clea tasted chewing gum only once in her life. It happened on Lalomanu Beach (Samoa), in the late afternoon of September 28, 2009, the last day Clea lived to see the sun set. And what a sunset that was! Beautiful beyond description. Having spent almost all the afternoon on the beach, we took a walk towards the village; it was hot, so we were looking for an ice cream shop; no ice cream was to be found (it is a difficult product to sell in a country where blackouts are normal).
Not far from the beach and the resorts, we found a shop by the road, just around the bend, right on the seashore. We bought something: a few lollies and potato chips, probably (my memory might be failing me on these details). The lady who ran the shop chatted to us and then she insisted on giving the children some chewing gum. The children had never tasted chewing gum before, so we explained to them that it was not to be eaten, but chewed on and on until all flavour was gone, and then wrapped back and disposed of properly.
Now, I prepare Clea’s brothers’ lunch daily; sandwiches, rice crackers, cheese, fruit, dried fruit… and sometimes, more often than not, I will include one sweet treat, which I call the ‘surprise’. After all, I keep telling myself, why shouldn't they be allowed to enjoy all those lollies their sister will never be able to eat?
I fondly remember how special my grandparents would make me feel as a kid when I was given sweet treats. My maternal grandparents owned a groceries shop in the working-class barrio where I grew up, and invariably I would be given the choice of picking one thing to eat, every time I went there. They did not sell lollies, however, but those sugar-coated donuts or chocolate-filled croissants were amongst my faves.
On the morning of 29 September, that shop on the Main South Coast Road in Lalomanu was wiped out in seconds, just like everything else on the beach. Unlike the resorts on the beach, it was not rebuilt. These days, only the remains of the cement floor tell the visitor that there used to be a small building there. The rusty remnants of a crushed car nearby could prompt your imagination (if you tried) to create a mental picture of the terror of those minutes. I don’t know whether the lady who gave Clea her first and only chewing gum survived or died.
I wish we could all have a never-ending supply of peladillas, and so bring a smile to a few friendly faces.