For over two years I've been working on a memoir containing some convoluted memories of my childhood dog, and every now and again I'll get another flashback and take to the project. This happened again last night. I was looking at a box of cereal sitting on the kitchen table and then it hit me: Holy Cow, I've got some rib-tickling memories about cereal prizes and gag gifts.
Yes, when I was a kid many cereal boxes contained either small "prizes" or coupons that a kid could send in, along with a buck or two, and in a few weeks receive a small package in the mail. There were many times when I recall asking my mother for a particular box of cereal (Honey Comb comes to mind). Later, she would find me elbow-deep inside the box, raking around in the bottom looking for the prize.
My parents never touched the cereal after that, and I didn't eat it either. When my mom asked me why I wasn't eating certain cereals, I was always honest: I just wanted it for the prize. Or sometimes I'd be more direct: "You don't think anyone actually eats Count Chocula do you?" And I never even bothered to comment on Frankenberry. The dog ended up eating most of this cereal, and he would later barf it up in the yard.
These little prizes and gags were the staple of my elementary and middle school existence. The joy buzzer. The whoopie cushion. The squirting ink bottle. The fuzzy soap. Wow--why don't they make cereal like they used to?
Of course my all-time favorite was the Vomit Mat. Sprinkle a little drinking fountain water on it before class, drop it in front of the teacher's desk, and then I could sit back and watch half the class scramble for the doors when the bell rang. My favorite Vomit Mat had a copious amount of creamed corn in it and looked like the real deal.
I'm not sure why Vomit Mat memories are so strong and vivid, but they are wholly intact. Some day, when I can no longer remember my name, when I'm sitting in the corner waiting for my next intravenous meal, I'll still be discussing my Vomit Mat with my other nonagenarian friends.
And who knows, I might even show it to the nurses.