Granny And The Great Dilemma

I was maybe eight and staying for a few days with my grandparents, who then lived near Terry Park in Fort Myers. I had been given a dollar for “spending money” by my parents, and of course how to spend it was heavy on my mind as Granny drove up to a little market on Palm Beach Boulevard.
Granny collected the bread or milk or whatever it was she really came here for, and I had not yet decided what to buy.

There was an Icee machine at the register with CHERRY! This would certainly have been the prize, but right at the register there was also a small display of little foam airplanes.

The way these worked was that they came unassembled, so you had to carefully separate the perforated wings and stabilizers and then slide the pieces together into precut slots. That was a fine thing by itself when it was just images of airplanes printed on the pieces, but THIS display had a selection of superheroes.

I could get a glider that wasn’t just a jet fighter, but I could get a HUMAN TORCH glider!
Of course, one dollar was not quite enough to get both items. What to do? WHAT TO DO?
Granny wanted to go home, of course, so she offered some sage advice: “Those gliders break pretty easily, I bet.”

Well, she was right about that. The slot for the wing was also cut so close that the resulting toy was really quite fragile. They never lasted much longer than an afternoon, and sometimes much less than that. There was no fixing them once they broke, because even a tiny piece of tape was enough to throw the whole thing off balance and it would never fly again.

That was good advice she had shared with me, but I was still hung up on the opportunity cost of the situation. I had never before seen a flying HUMAN TORCH glider. What if I never saw one again? I hesitated some more.

She said, "Well, I can see that this is important to you. Why don’t you keep your dollar for now and think it over? I’m sure we’ll be back here tomorrow for something, and then you can get what you really want."

I couldn’t believe my ears. I could not imagine leaving the store without spending my dollar.
At this point, she noticed that the superhero gliders were bigger than the plane gliders, which I had not noticed before. She also noticed that the superhero gliders cost more than the plane gliders, which I had not noticed either.

Oh, NO. The superhero gliders cost MORE than a dollar.

I was heartbroken, but old enough to know when I had been beaten down by the cruelty of our modern world.

I shuffled over to the counter and ordered my cherry Icee, which I could easily afford. After all, an Icee is a great delicacy, and the cherry flavor was by far the most intense of them all.

We drove home. The Icee was delicious, but I was still thinking about the Human Torch back there. What if someone else spotted it and bought it? What if the store never got them again?

Granny and I went inside and she put her purchases away. Then she said, “Well, look at this!” and handed me that magnificent Human Torch Glider with a great, beaming grin.

I’m pretty sure I shrieked right in this beautiful woman’s face, but I don’t believe I spilled my Icee. I spent the rest of the afternoon with cherry syrup stains all over my face happily flying the Human Torch over the hedges in her front yard, and surely the envy of every other kid in the neighborhood.

That was a long time ago. The glider is gone, and so are the hedges, and so is Granny. I am still here, though, and I still I remember how she made me feel that day, and I am still grateful.

— J.F. "Jeff" McCullers