Losing the double-stick Popsicle is more than just losing another childhood memory that goes in the bag called "When I was a kid. . ." I think there is more to the Popsicle company's decision than they will admit. The single-stick ice treat that replaces the double-stick Popsicle speaks to new social views and a new style of relationship among young friends.
The Popsicle purchase of my childhood was a ritual that tested the strength of friendship as well as a means of instruction in social mores beyond what even mothers or teachers could offer.
Choosing the flavor was the first decision. With a Popsicle, you were really choosing the color; the flavor was always the same - cold and sweet. But everyone had a preference - blue, red, grape or chocolate. Dominance in the relationship was shown by the color choice. Would you insist on blue, while she chose red? And who won? Or would you both settle for orange, which seemed to be no one's true favorite, existing only as the compromise choice?
Once the flavor/color was settled and the shift in the relationship was noted, the important challenge of the double-stick treat awaited. It had to be broken in half. The indentation, not quite a crease, was the indication of where it was to be divided. But how was another decision.
You could slap it against the edge of a counter or on the corner of a building or, if you were near home, you could dash into the house to stab it with a dinner knife. However, the usual method was the thumb press - thumbs push in, fingers pull back. But you had to decide who would do the breaking. Was the chief criterion strength? Experience? Finesse?
With a clean break, each friend walked away with half of the treat on his own stick. If disaster struck, there was an immediate friendship test. When the Popsicle broke on the horizontal, who got the bottom with two sticks and who received - or volunteered for - the top half, with two 'sicle nubs to be eaten out of the wrapper? You could tell at 6 who would grow up to be a martyr.
And then how did two friends who had jointly purchased this cold, colorful dessert deal with the wrapper? For several years, the Popsicle company offered gifts and prizes in exchange for a number of the red balls carefully cut from the wrappers. This was similar to the redemption of the cardboard coins that came in Mallo Cup candy bars. By sending in 10 to 20 red Popsicle balls and enclosing a quarter or two, you could get joke books, jump ropes or (for a brief time) small metal airplanes. Did you flip a coin for the wrapper, argue over who got it last time or each make a case for need?
These dilemmas and decisions of dealing with the double-stick Popsicle taught kids the basics of negotiation and joint custody. Sharing a double Popsicle was a true test and mark of friendship. The single stick now replaces it. And with that proud, icy independence, something is lost.
Diane Cameron is a free-lance writer.