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What did you give up for Lent?


Lent has arrived.  As has been my custom and practice for decades, I am again off cotton candy for the duration. 

No giggling or guffawing.

Growing up in Chicago, Lent usually began about the same time as the Shrine Circus began its run on the near North Side on Wabash between Ohio and Ontario.  That extravaganza was followed in quick succession by Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey.

My parents took my sister and I to one — or both.

With the exception of most of the clowns, I really loved the circus — the high-wire acts, especially.

And of course, there was cotton candy for sale.  Cotton candy had the most important ingredient — sugar.  It also was light, easy to hold and very sticky. Flavoring and coloring [not pink] made it as heavenly as my mother’s divinity, a soft vanilla candy with pecans.

 My parents indulged this very real sugar addiction at the circus, amusement parks, carnivals, etc., and my dad at White Sox games, definitely after a hot dog.

How did this “sacrifice” of a taste treat come about?

Probably in the second grade, before First Confession with all of us 7-year-olds having reached the “age of reason” — knowing right from wrong, as Lent began.

It was a world without “King Cakes” or Mardi Gras — “beadman, beadman, beadman” to mark the passage of time from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday.

The School Sister of Notre Dame teaching the 40-plus kids in the room asked each member of the class what we were going to give up for the next 40 days after we got our ashes. A similar in-class poll continued through eighth grade.

[Maybe it was later than second grade, but no later than fifth]

I blurted out “cotton candy.”

No one giggled; no one guffawed.

Sacrifice was sacrifice.

It’s a sacrifice I have kept ever since — even though Ringling Brothers Circus is no more and the Medinah Shrine Temple was, the last time I looked, a Bloomingdale’s home furnishing store.


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