Old chewing gum was a treat

We were not far from the central hub of the commune. It was a short walk to go get our rations at “The Store”.

The Store

I thought it was far and that it was a big deal to go there. It was a big one room octagonal building filled with cardboard barrels. The barrels had things like beans, flour, and oats. I would seek out the oats and sneak a handful while my mom was at the counter getting a really special ration like a small bag of sugar that she never let us eat. The dry oats were such a treat.

There was also a small village of several room sized coolers where the canning food was stored. I loved these canning rooms filled with food and covered with brightly colored paintings. Also in this area was the soy dairy where they made tofu and soymilk. I didn’t like the soymilk much. It didn’t taste very good and my mom wouldn’t let us have sugar in it like other people.

Next to the soy dairy there was a dehydration building. It hummed and was dark and hot with trays and trays of things drying.There was also a kindergarten school attached to the soy dairy where the bigger kids went to learn and play. I was very impressed with how much fun they seemed to have running around screaming and climbing their little metal jungle gym thing.

On visits into this busy area I would sometimes watch ladies talking in Spanish to Gautemalan people. I was entranced with how fast this strange language flowed from their mouths and noticed how the hippy lady would nonchalantly flop a flip flop on and off her foot while talking, displaying how effortless it was to speak this alien language so fast. The Gautemalan’s didn’t speak English and I felt like they were shy, even the grownups. I wanted to be friends…but the kids would hide behind their mom’s skirts.


There was a truck type thing that served as the mail room. I knew I had a sister who worked with the mail. Everyone loved her. I didn’t know where she lived and barely ever saw her. She was very popular and was like a far off superstar that I could have the honor of knowing she was my sister but was out of my reach, untouchable.
My mom was always busy. She was always washing dishes, chopping wood, washing our clothes on a metal washboard, hanging clothes to dry, working in the fields.Image

Sometimes she would wake us very early to go to the woodshop where she’d prepare breakfast for the construction workers. They were special because they worked hard “off the Farm” and got to drive vehicles. It was still dark when the workers were served their food. I didn’t like getting up that early in the dark, I was too tired.
One of the places she worked at a lot was The Bakery nestled in the woods near the potato barn cellar and the tractor barn. The ladies bustled around making bread made from flour that was grinded at the nearby flour mill close to the main road where the dangerous S curve was and the where the big, huge metal storage bins loomed which were fed by a machine with a really long arm that would pour millions of beans into an opening at the top of each one.

In the backgroud from L to R: the Greenhouse, Flour Mill and silo’s (behind the silo’s in the woods was the tractor barn, potato cellar and The Bakery)


At The Bakery I got to make a few braided loaves of bread and watch the huge mixer arm relentlessly stir the dough but mostly I played outside. This was where you could find a treat. The forbidden chewing gum. It was all over on the ground. Because this is one of the places visitors would come to. Only visitors chewed gum. And I suppose that in their anticipation of eating some bread, the ones chewing gum would spit it out before entering the bakery. My brother and I would find the hard little pieces of flavorless naughty treasure embedded into the dirt and rocks, extract them from the ground and pop em in our mouths to soften them back up for a few minutes of chewing nirvana. But somehow our mom always seemed to magically know when we did this and would march out of the bakery demanding we spit it in her hand.


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