A Tinful of Memories

Courtesy: Brady's Bunch
Lunch hour found me selling candy to my middle school classmates. With most of them living out in the country, they had reason to envy my proximity to a candy shop, Alger Variety Five & Dime. I could turn a box of Lemon Heads for 15 cents that I had purchased for 10, or a Tangy Taffy for 40 that I had purchase for a quarter.

When I first shopped Big Lots, on a trip visiting my aunt and uncle in Illinois, though, a whole new world of wholesale pricing opened to me. Large bags of candy for mind-bogglingly low prices enticed me to buy a cartload, which I stored in a suitcase under my bed--my own little candy store warehouse. Eventually, the killjoy school principal shut down my enterprise, more concerned with parental complaints, cavities, or classroom distraction--I never figured out which--than impressed by my entrepreneurialism. I reopened once he retired.

My last Lip Lickers Lip Balm tin, which I
thought about selling at Laura's Last Ditch,
though, ultimately, I changed my mind.
At Big Lots, Lip Lickers Lip Balm, on clearance for ten cents each, presented a bargain I couldn't ignore, tempting me to branch out beyond sugary sweets. I bought three cases of Lip Lickers: strawberry, cherry, and watermelon. These, too, I sold to the kids. Going to a small school with seventeen classmates, of which only six were girls, I quickly glutted the market.

I'm a lip balm addict, though, and used the overstock myself. When I finished the second-to-last container nearly a quarter century after purchasing it, I posted the empty tin on eBay. I learned ages ago that people buy the strangest things. I didn't think it would sell for much, but since my 1980s Trapper Keeper fetched a pretty penny, there was only one path to certainty. Multiple bidders pushed the price in excess of $20. Gloating to my friend, Pam, she gushed that she had some, too, complete with contents.

Pam composed an evocative eBay description, celebrating the ubiquitous lip balm's softening to a pleasant consistency when stored in a back pocket, its fruity aroma greeting the nose while the satisfying click of the sliding lid tickled the ears. For her, it was pure nostalgia--nostalgia that she could part with, though, for a price. Hers, with a condition far superior to mine, topped $100 in an all-out bidding war. It might've reached $150, but I can't recall with certainty. I wish I could ask her.

I remember meeting Pam. Socializing in groups of women intimidates me, yet I steeled myself to try the moms' group at my church. While I liked the people there, Pam stood out: we shared an interest in selling online, she was fun, not too straight-laced, and I felt I could be my unedited self around her. When you're as unusual as I am, that says a lot. I enjoyed seeing a friendly, welcoming face at church, someone with whom I could exchange more than pleasantries.

Pam loved the tale of the lip balm tin. To this day, when I first meet someone who knew her, I'm greeted with, "So you're the one who sold the lip balm!" She's been gone nearly a year and a half, having succumbed to cancer, yet she's still breaking the ice, posthumously.

My friend, Pam.
When I think of middle school, I recall my desktop candy and lip balm shop, but mostly I remember not fitting in. When I think of the lip balm, though, it fails to evoke feelings of youthful rejection. Instead I think of Pam, and the feeling of welcome. The sliding lid isn't the only thing that clicked--we did. I regret that we didn't get to know each other better, sooner, outside of church. She deserved to be more than a compartmentalized friend.

It's my nature to sell things. Through the recession, prices on vintage Lip Lickers plummeted, yet I find myself drawn again and again to the lip balm tin, and the temptation of selling it. But a friend is a balm beyond price, so the tin's not for sale, not now. To anyone else it would be just an empty container, but to me, it's full.

It's full of memories.

Next up: Ridiculed for my frugality, I've concluded, Blessed are the Thrifty.


  1. A very sweet story, and so appropriate for auld lang syne. Happy New Year!

  2. I love this! There is always a story behind the things we love. Thanks for sharing yours, and so eloquently too!

  3. Hi Laura, Love the post.... (Thank You) just to follow up... I think it sold for $122. It was someone with the name "blue unicorn". Remember sitting together watching the bidding war in utter disbelief, jaws gaping open, hitting "refresh" every couple seconds.. Pam, who had had detailed conversations of the contents smell, color, an consistency with "Blue Unicorn" was pulling for her, nearing the end yelled out "Come on blue-unicorn!" great memory.....(and a nice pocket of cash too!)

  4. What a wonderful story! You certainly have a way with words.

    SHerry @ A Happy Valentine


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