Return to the Village of the Damned: The Essence of the Glue

Circa 1975…

Emily: “God, Mom. Why did you bring me here? I thought we were going shopping for Christmas presents.”

Mom: “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Emily: “But I’ve never heard of this place. So I know I don’t want anything they have.”

Mom: “Well, we’re not shopping for you. We’re shopping for other people. Do you even understand what a gift is?”

Emily, rolling her eyes, the signature move of all known pre-teens in the galaxy: “Of course I do. But gifts should be good. And I don’t think we’re going to find them in there. Can we get back in the car?”

Mom: “After we’re done, we can. Here, take these.”

Emily: “I don’t want to take those. What are they?”

Mom: “It’s the books that you’ve been putting green stamps in for the last year. Do you not remember? Do I need to take you to a specialist?”

Emily: “Oh, those. I thought you were just punishing me when you made me do that.”

Mom: “Punishing you? For what?”

Emily, quickly: “Nothing.”

Mom: “Okay, then. Take these. There are 51 books, one for every week last year except the time you went to band camp in the summer. You should be able to get a few nice things for your sisters and brothers. And maybe something for Daddy.”

Emily: “Wait, are you saying these are like money?”

Mom: “It’s not just me saying it. The books say the same thing, on every cover. How did you miss all of that? I love you, honey, but I’m leaning toward the specialist again.”

Emily: “Sorry. I don’t always pay attention when things are boring. I just did what you told me to do, licking and sticking every night before dinner. And for the record, your meatloaf will always taste like glue to me. No offense.”

Mom: “None taken. I’ve never been a fan of meatloaf. But your father likes it, and that’s good enough for me. Now, let’s go see what we can find.”

One hour later, exiting the store…

Mom: “Honey, why the odd face? We picked up some interesting things. Your brother is going to love that lawn dart game, although I suspect the windows of our house will not.”

Emily: “Yeah, we did, but…”

Mom: “What are you thinking?”

Emily: “That we didn’t have to shop here. You were teaching me something, and I think I got it.”

Mom: “Really? Tell me about it.”

Emily: “Some of the people in there, this is it. This is all they can afford. But for me, it was just…playing. I didn’t earn these stamps. You did. You’re the one that buys the stuff that gets the stamps. I just did the licking.”

Mom: “But at least you put the effort into it, even if you didn’t realize what you were doing. Life is not easy for so many people. But as long as you understand that you have to work for what you want, you’ll be okay. Your brother? Well, he might be chasing lawn darts for a while. Now, what should we do next?”

Emily: “Well, we should probably wrap these presents. I even got a roll of wrapping paper.”

Mom: “Oh? I didn’t even catch that. Good for you. I think we should stop for ice cream on the way home.”

Emily: “Really?”

Mom: “Well, that’s assuming you have a few books left over. It takes two for a double scoop.”

Emily: “I know you’re kidding. But I do still have three books. Hang on a sec.” She scampers into the parking lot and holds open the car door of a woman struggling to pull a baby carrier out of the vehicle. The woman smiles and thanks her. Emily smiles and tucks the three books into the carrier. “Merry Christmas.”


Previously published, minutely modified. I realize this story only truly works if you remember the days of Green Stamps. But I think, and hope, that the message is timeless, even if I manipulated things a bit in my sappy little way. And for the record, I once owned a set of lawn darts courtesy of the stamps that my granny made me lick and stick…


40 replies »

  1. Really enjoyed reading this uplifting post Brian. I do remember green shield stamp days from the coop.
    Hope you are well, all well here so far🙏.
    Seasons greetings to you & yours 🙂💁🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember those dang stamps. I don’t think I ever got anything from them. A very sweet story.

    I’ve got a factual sweet story… My Older Daughter once borrowed my (fake) ugg boots to walk to the market on a cold night, and came home barefoot. She gave my boots to a homeless man who had no shoes. I was very proud of her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, now that IS a sweet story, much more realistic than my sleight of hand.

      Truth be told, we gave up on the “licking” aspect of the process after a while, and we would just dab a strip of stamps on a wet sponge and then slapped them in the books. Productivity escalated considerably…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Brian,
    I’ve read, on more than one occasion, that in a study underwritten by the National Enquirer, that licking S&H Greenstamps causes male pattern homosexuality and some body hair pattern growth. Do you think there’s any chance this is true? Also the term “out of the closet” was derived from grandmothers asking their grandsons to get the “Greenstamps out of the closet.” It could just literally be an old wife’s tale, but I think occasionally. And maybe it’s not a tale but a truth to be further investigated by the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover hesitated to engage in a full-blown deep cover operation, but his grandmother used to make him wear an apron and lick her stamps. We don’t need to travel on that road very far to find the root cause of blacklisting of supposed “communists” in Hollywood under his frilly regime now do we.

    Heaven knows we need more deceitful news coverups and fictional elections to spice up a very boring holiday season stuck home cooking the 742nd recipe with crepes and creme de menthe while binge watching Schitt’s Creek for the 11th time in a row. Thanks Don you super spreading fuck toad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Ilene,

      Thank you for these insightful insights. A new day has dawned, and I feel truly liberated for the first time in 55 (almost 56!) years. Too bad I spent all those years in therapist offices, wherein snooty men with bad haircuts forced me to stare at spilled-ink images and talk about my dark feelings. I could have just given you a call and all would be right as rain.

      Actually, the therapy angle is a bit of a fib. I never felt the least bit of angst or personal shame about the kind of stamps I wanted to lick. My issue was always with those wretched, bible-thumping idjits who did their very best to make me feel small. Luckily, society is shifting and those enclaves of idiots are shrinking in number, though the do tend to run out from under their fetid rocks from time to time. It gives me great pleasure to know that the younger crops of special-stamp lickers out there are finding the world more accepting than it used to be. In fact, I feel an interpretive dance is in order, something festive and colorful. Join me?


      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I do spontaneous interpretive dance! I do it to embarrass Craig but I so enjoy a rousing interpretation of psycho dramas.

        After a long while on my own at 14 – mommy thought I was mature enough to leave me on my own! – I interpretive danced my way to a psychiatrist and at 6’ tall could pass for 18 and waited tables, all the while in my mind saying “you will be successful” I was. So much for that. Cancer. I said “Don’t die, do something” so I do. It’s a connection of my mind being stronger than the rocks thrown at me.

        If not for my grandparents I wouldn’t be as strong as I am now. I would be a freakin mess. Probably dead. Miami in the 80s was a disco 8 ball of drugs and drinking at 18. And I had cash and I decided it was best after my second grandfather died to go to university so I begged the superintendent of the state of Florida university system to “gimme a chance, buddy! I’ll be a big star some day!” Read like Judy Garland. So on the first day of school I get the letter saying okay keep a c average and we will give you an opportunity. I took the most insane classes but got an a average and graduated with honors. The rest as they say is not yet history. Still living this out. We all have three options – give up, be a loser, or try goddammit. So I keep trying and I keep going and you keep trying and keep going no matter what people expect of us we expect more.

        Put your tap shoes on Fred Astair.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I do remember those stamps. S&H plus Blue Chip. Since my mother was shopping for a family with ten kids, she got a LOT of stamps. We pored over the catalogs to get birthday and holiday presents, moaning bitterly about the unfairness of having to put up actual cash in addition to stamps for the more desirable items. She had a little dish with a sponge in it so we didn’t have to lick each stamp. And luckily, with her power grocery shopping, she got a lot of the big stamps (that only needed a handful per page as opposed to the little stamps that had to cover the redemption book pages). Good times!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep, those Big Stamps were treasures that my sister and I would fight over. There were always contractual negotiations with Granny during our indentured sessions. (Granny: “As soon as each of you fills three books, you can go outside and play.” Me: “How about two books?” Sister: “How about none and I run away from home?” Granny: “Three books. It’s what Jesus would want.”) Then the race would be on, with Sis and I stabbing each others hands whenever a Big Stamp was spotted in the nested tendrils of the drawer where Granny would toss the strips upon returning from the grocery store. Sis would usually win and be out the door first, as she would slap the stamps on the page in any which way whilst I would lose time being careful with my alignment and artistic presentation.

      Good times, they were. Mmm hmm.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I do remember Green Stamps. My mother collected them, I dutifully licked and stuck them and then they went into the drawer where they were supposed to grow. We never did exchange them. They were thrown out when we moved to Maine. Now I find out you can still redeem them online. Damn, I could have had a Ferrari by now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, yes. The infamous green stamps. Neither the general store or the drug store had these when I was growing up in Texas, but the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in South Carolina made a believer out of me with the stamps.
    Sweet story for the holidays, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m quite pleased that you know of Piggly Wiggly. When I mention that chain in my stories, most folks assume that I’m just being whimsical, but they really existed all over my part of Oklahoma in my childhood, mostly in the smaller towns, of course. I used to love people-watching in the Piggly when I was a wee urchin, as that was a real slice of American pie up in that mess… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hilarious! I still have a book of S & H green stamps. I’ve been looking for a place to get something with them. I thought maybe I could buy a horse or a camel. Oh well. Alas, so far…I haven’t found anywhere.
    In the before time, one display had a tree, an old Santa and an old sleigh. I filled it with toys and things from days gone by, (childhood tops, yo-yos, pistols and their holsters, coon-skin caps… and yes…something for the deserving lady of the house….that book of S & H green stamps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the concept of decorating with S&H booklets during the holidays, as we really would save them up all year and then get presents with them. Sadly, I no longer have any of the booklets. But at least I found the miniature Green Stamps store featured in the opening shot. It took me a while to track that puppy down, but I’m glad I did and now it’s in The Christmas Village forever…


  8. I love they included an S&H redemption center in the village collection. I remember the stamps well, though can’t recall a single thing we ever got with them. (Isn’t that always the way?)
    Meanwhile, your ending is beyond perfect. You old softie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I adore the little Redemption Center. I mean, as a good parent, of course I love all my little village houses, yet this one is special. It’s not the fanciest or the brightest or the most whimsical or the most musical. (Have I ever mentioned my miniature of Graceland has its own remote control that allows one to play Elvis tunes? Mmm hmm.) But this one sings its own fading song.

      And I fully admit the softness. I’ll happily take that tag every time… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Okay now all I want for Christmas is a jumbo box of Kleenex. I got some more of that irritating smoke in my eyes from this beautiful and poignant post. We were a “Green Stamps” family too, and I remember how much fun I found it to fill up a book! My mother got a lot of stuff through that program. *sniff* Those truly were kinder and gentler times, weren’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, they were. And I think the Green Stamps are a perfect example of how it used to be, where you did whatever little thing you could to get some of the things you needed. Unlike today, where there are so many folks who just EXPECT things to be given to them and wouldn’t know hardship from a hole in the ground.

      Wait, that sounded a bit bitter, so let’s lighten things a bit. How about we run outside and play lawn darts until dusk comes, and then we’ll chase after fireflies…


      • Yes! Let’s! You know I’ve never seen an real firefly, Utah is far to weird in climate (I guess) to let the little guys thrive here… O_o OTS: How is your progression via “Just After Sunset” coming along ? I’ve reached “N” … that long novelette at the end and am reminded why I failed to remember the book. That particular lengthy bit of Kingesque grotesquery is far too close to reality for some of us, who count things (sometimes) and believe reality is thin in others…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, I’ve actually finished “Sunset”. I meant to pace myself so we could chat along the way, but I got in one of my binge-reading modes (you know the feeling) and I zipped through the second half. I was enraptured, as usual, with most of King’s words. But I also hit the story that maybe explains why I initially didn’t remember reading the book previously. That last tale, “A Very Tight Place”? It’s just too… vivid. The plot is fine, but the ooky details just go on and on. I’m not sure why he decided to make that story the final image, because it left a bad taste, so to speak, and I presumably shoved the book aside and forgot about it for years…


          • I suspect “word count” was why “a tight place” was shoved in there. And thank you. I’m finishing up where I am. I do NOT wish to re-visit that ick filled little ‘gem’ either. I already have a huge phobia of such places and will burst rather than use one…

            Liked by 1 person

  10. LOL. Emily said, “……I didn’t earn these stamps. You did. You’re the one that buys the stuff that gets the stamps. I just did the licking.” Emily is obviously too young to understand licking is really hard work and an essential part of relationship in the social pecking order.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I do remember those green stamps. We’d always have to lick and stick them. I once got in big trouble when I was a kid, because I stuck a bunch to the inside wall of the closet. Also later on I had a job at the S&H store. I worked at the counter and had to count and flip the pages of all the books people would bring in. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very curious about why your kid-self would plaster a wall inside a closet with stamps (An art project? A protective magic spell?) but I’ll let you reveal the details when you feel comfortable about doing so… 😉

      In northeastern Oklahoma, it can get very humid. So there were times when the stacks of stamp sheets would stick together before we had put them in the books. Granny would get out her iron, set it on steam, and wave the wads of stamps in the steam until they started to separate. Granny never let anything go to waste…

      Liked by 1 person

      • haha! Who knows why I did that. Maybe bored of sticking them in the booklet? No rhyme or reason, and those stamps stayed there for years, too. That’s a neat trick your Granny would do to separate the stuck together stamps. I don’t think we had the humidity problem here. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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