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Cecilia

A box of Honey Nut Cheerios angered me the other night. I was sitting there watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” when the sudden need for sustenance swept over me. In other words, my tummy was hungry.

As I made my way to the kitchen, I spied three brand new boxes of breakfast cereal sitting on top of the refrigerator. Depending on the milk situation, I was going to be in sweet, sugary, blissful heaven. You see, I’m kind of finicky when it comes to milk usage. The newer the better is my motto. If the bottle is within a week of the upcoming expiration date, I consider it to be possibly toxic.

To my delight, a brand new, unopened, pristine plastic jug of pure white 2 percent was sitting on the top shelf just waiting for me. I imagine that a broad smile crossed my face as I removed the lime-green plastic bowl from our cupboard because I was about to immerse my taste buds in cerealy-pasteurized heaven.

As I surveyed the brand selections that night, there were choices that had to be made. I could go with my regular standby of Sugar Frosted Flakes because as everyone by now knows, they’re grrrrreat. Or I could have eaten some of my daughter’s cereal, but that would have just caused trouble down the road when I would have had to explain my motives for breaking into her box of cereal.

The third choice that evening was the aforementioned Honey Nut Cheerios. Along with a smiling bee, there was also a picture of a heart on the box, so I naturally presumed that it was the healthy choice for my middle-aged body. I felt kind of proud that I was looking after my own well-being as I pulled the box down off of the fridge. My life was perfect at that moment. I had new cereal, new milk and a lime-green bowl at my disposal. It is at this point where my tale turns tragic.

I don’t know what they’re making cereal boxes out of these days, but there is no way it can be the same stuff that they made them out of when I was a kid. I defy a person, when opening a brand new box of cereal, to not rip, tear, rupture, shred or rend the cardboard top in some way, shape and/or form. Cereal box cardboard has been getting thinner and thinner, and I’ve had enough.

This complaint has been boiling up silently under my epidermis for several years, possibly decades. That night, I carefully took my index fingers and slid them between the overlapping sections of cardboard, pulling in an outward fashion toward the perimeter of the container. Ever so slowly, inch by agonizing inch, I separated the microscopically thin layers of cardboard from the glue that held them together. As I approached the outer edges, it appeared as though victory would be mine. But alas, it was not to be because when I pulled the flaps back, the box ripped on the corner. I could not have been more careful, and the box still tore. I swear that the Honey Nut Cheerio Bee laughed as he stared up at me with those eyes of a maniac. Stupid bee.

When I was a kid, cereal box cardboard was some of the sturdiest stuff on the planet. Does anybody remember when they actually put records on the backs of cereal boxes? For those youngsters out there who have no idea what a “record” is, you might as well stop reading now because I really don’t feel like taking the time to explain it to you. Just get out your cell phone and Google it.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, I had a complete cereal box cardboard record collection. Well, actually, I had two. I had “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies and something with the bear from the Super Sugar Crisp box on it. There may have been a Bobby Sherman record in the mix, but I’m blaming that one on my sister.

I used to sneak up to my older brother’s room to use his stereo, which was a pretty nice piece of equipment in those days, to play my music collection. If I remember correctly (and I usually don’t anymore), he was very particular about how his stereo should be used. He had an extensive collection of albums (made out of actual vinyl as opposed to cheap cardboard), that he would play at extreme decibel levels. For what seemed like a six-month period, he used it to loudly play Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. My parents still get twitchy when they think about it.

I can still picture lowering the expensive diamond-tipped needle down on to the cheap piece of cardboard I had cut out of the back of the box just minutes before. I was such a rebel. I think that my brother was curious as to why his precious turntable was sometimes covered in Froot Loop dust. With any luck, hopefully the statute of limitations has passed on this particular crime. I guess I’ll find out when he reads this.

But I digress. My point is that cereal packaging used to be much more substantial. It could actually withstand the force of cereal. Nowadays, there is merely an ever-so-thin, fragile membrane separating my Lucky Charms and Crunchberries from the outside, disease-ridden world. I try not to ask for much, but I beg and plead for thicker, tear-resistant cereal boxes to come back into our lives. If not for me, do it for the children who don’t know any better. Especially the ignorant ones who don’t know what a record is.

When I get home tonight and sit down in my chair, I’ll gaze over to our refrigerator and that’s where I will see him. That cold-blooded Honey Nut Cheerio Bee on his slightly-torn cereal box staring back with those cold, hollow eyes, always mocking me.

And the bee, never flitting, still is sitting, sitting over my refrigerator door.

Quoth the bee, “Nevermore.”

You can contact Wallace at gwallace@bcrnews.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

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