Gumby & Peanut Butter Sandwich

I didn’t mean to make my wife cry with this story.

Back to that in a moment.

Before I started kindergarten, I would spend my mornings watching “I Love Lucy” with my grandmother, usually cuddled in a blanket with a bowl of Cream of Wheat and a small can of Tree Top Apple Juice.

By the afternoon I would kneel on the couch, look out the window, and wait for my brother to arrive home from school, which was about one block away. (Back then even the youngest of kids would walk home.) Because my brother often took his time, I’d see a few of his friends pass our house first, one of whom was named Charlie Brown. Some days I would shout, “Hey Charlie Brown!” and then hide behind the couch so that he wouldn’t see me.

Not long after my brother arrived, he and I would jump into my mom’s Chevy Nova and join her as she ran errands. Two of my favorite places to go were the diner in Woolworths, and the cafe in JC Penney, both in the Eastridge Mall in east San Jose.

Sometimes we would go to my third favorite place: a thrift store on Bascom Avenue. I loved it because at the back of the store were a few, very long bins filled with toys. While my mom was in other parts of the store, my brother and I would look for toys. I still remember my feet leaving the ground as I leaned headfirst into the toy bins.

On one visit, my brother found a small rubber Gumby, similar to the one pictured here. While that may not be a big deal today, back then Gumby (and Pokey) were still airing on television. I wanted one so badly that I started to dig, and dig, and dig, looking for another one. Of course, as a four-year-old I didn’t realize that thrift stores didn’t stock duplicate items — like regular stores. To that end, there was absolutely zero chance that I would find another one. Nonetheless, I spent the rest of the time looking for one.

On our drive home, I remember watching my brother play with the toy Gumby in the backseat of the car. I was both jealous and heartbroken.

When I shared this story with my wife, she teared-up. She says that she wished she could reach back in time to help me. I accepted this as motherly instincts.

Shortly after hearing this story, and over forty years after I dug in those bins, my wife bought and gave me a Gumby similar to the one pictured here. To this day, it’s one of my favorite memories.

Similarly, my wife has a story that tugs at my heartstrings.

When she was in first grade, she forgot to pack a lunch. Subsequently, a teacher brought her into the staff area where the food was prepared and proceeded to make her a peanut butter sandwich — using a hot dog bun in lieu of sliced bread. She says the sandwich made her feel even worse, and that there was no way on Gumby’s green earth that she was going to eat it, so she tossed it in one of the campus garbage cans.

She has only recently been able to tell this story without tearing-up.

If I thought serving peanut butter sandwiches on hot dog buns was equal to the gesture she so warmly presented to me by giving me the Gumby, I would make some in a jiffy. But I know the effect wouldn’t be the same.

Occasionally, she’ll call our son Pokey — Gumby’s faithful friend. And I can’t help but smile.

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