The Art of Curiosity
When I was a child my family lived next door to Aunt Betty. She moved into the house where my grandparents had lived when I was still young. She never married and had no children of her own but she had a warm heart and my brother and I adored her.
Well before she became our next door neighbor, Aunt Betty had travelled the country from coast to coast. She had also been in the navy during World War 2 and after that had worked in town. She always had interesting stories to tell about her days at the Quartermaster Depot and working as a medical secretary at Veterans Hospital. She dressed sharply, could type better than 80 wpm on an old typewriter and worked the crossword puzzle from the newspaper every day.
Not only was her competency interesting and appealing but her curiosity was contagious. She liked to try new things and encouraged us to try them too. While Aunt Hen was a master at traditional recipes and cooking techniques Aunt Betty liked to buy new and interesting food products to share with us. The fun factor definitely appealed to her.
Aunt Betty was the one most likely to buy us kids our favorite variety of breakfast cereal and even in those cute little single serving boxes. Not only was she willing to splurge on our whims, she was as eager as we were to cut open the boxes as recommended to use them as serving bowls. In that time such versatile self-serve packaging was an enigma. We were delighted with such uncommon adventures.
Aunt Betty also brought home other interesting finds from the grocery store with my brother and me in mind. She stocked up for our visits and for other occasions when she could spoil us with these curious indulgences.
Over the years perhaps her most anticipated indulgence came to be known as a “Spoiling Bag.” Whenever the family made plans to go on a road trip Aunt Betty would gather a brown grocery bag full of interesting snacks and diversions to occupy us backseat passengers and keep us from getting hungry. In it we would find snacks both savory and sweet as well as novelty candies and long cellophane packages of gumballs. She would also include small travel games, toys and magazines filled with puzzles. We looked forward to Aunt Betty’s spoiling bags and spent many happy hours exploring the contents on the long way from one place to another.
These days fall is the perfect season for remembering Aunt Betty’s delight in novelty products. Not only was her birthday in October but cruising the seasonal aisles at a local market I am always amazed by the new ideas in flavor combination and packaging applied to autumn decorations and Halloween treats for Trick-or-Treaters. I can seldom resist adding a variety of appealing products to my cart.
Now that my children have grown up my choices have evolved somewhat as I share these discoveries with the young adults in my life who are on their own this season. This year I focused my product search on comfort items and energy snacks, including Emergen–C packets, Kleenex in holographic Halloween packaging, seasonal teas, mini fruit snacks and granola bars, not to mention warm socks and packets of Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa. I used treat-sized packets of Pirate’s Booty like packing peanuts and nestled a bag of homemade Soft Peanut Brittle in the center. After introducing a collection of plastic spiders, squishy mice and friends to the contents I taped up the boxes and shipped them around the state. Within a few days Aunt Betty’s legacy of curiosity and good humor had brightened the journey of a few more young people I know would have adored her.