When I was little, spotting a gumball machine at the store, at the gas station, or even at my dad’s work was an amazing experience. It was like a pirate finding a treasure chest filled with gold. In this case, it was nothing more than little colorful balls of chewy sugar, but it had the same effect on a kid. The only thing that stood between you and your treasure, however, was a single coin. When I was really young, the barrier was simple a single penny, however, this quickly changed into a nickel. Though admittedly, like anything they sell that I used to put in my mouth, gumballs were much smaller then. Truthfully, the gum wasn’t amazing, it was simply the process of actually being handed a coin and then being able to purchase something for myself. I loved feeling like I was an adult for just a brief moment and handle the transaction by myself. Now, I just spend days wishing I could be a kid again, so everything has come full circle.
Most of the gum in these machines were simply good for chewing. By that I mean, they lacked the necessary construction to blow a really good bubble. But bubble gum was really fun and cool so any gum I jammed in my mouth would have to succumb to my attempts to turn it into a bubble. Even creating a tiny bubble counted as a success, but when the gum was truly engineered for the act, it was awesome. I remember having contests with my friends to see who could blow the largest bubble. The “winner” would end up being the one whose bubble would explode all over her face, making it look like she was melting. It wasn’t pretty. But it was incredibly fun. I can still feel the incredible suspense as I’d begin to blow the bubble and it slowing started to increase in size. I remember willing it to stay intact and continue enlarging until I was blinded by a giant pink ball. Then, sensing it had reached its limit, the suspense in waiting to see when it would pop and suffocate me. Good times.
These days, gum has become sugar-free to save our teeth from exploding and moved well beyond the lowly gumball. So I rarely have it anymore. I think, in the end, I never really liked the taste. I just adored the experience of purchasing it in a gumball machine and using it to amaze my friends with my bubble-blowing prowess. It was more about the experience and like so many things, without anyone to play the game with you, it just isn’t the same anymore. While my dentist is pleased that I’ve moved on to other forms of entertainment part of me still longs for the days of blowing bubbles. Thanks to a rather healthy imagination, though, I can still enjoy the experience in my mind. And even make an attempt to make one appear on a page of my sketchbook. Nothing more than a dream now. But a wonderful dream, taking a moment to imagine a world of gumball machines.