Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coca-Cola Memories

Coca-Cola Memories

Finally it's time.

Children's and young-adult literature hold a special place in my heart. I would argue that some of the most important, interesting and challenging topics and themes address in contemporary literature are done remarkable well if not the best within the pages of books targeting these age-brackets. Maybe I'm expressing symptoms of Peter-Pan syndrome, and I'm refusing to grow up, or it's the angst that I feel that provokes within me a wannabe-teen mentality. It could just be that I'm simply immature. Whatever the cause or reason, and regardless of it's value, I'm a fan of books earmarked for young readers.

Of the books I've read since the beginning of this year, two titles have really stood out: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Fabulous, fantastic reads. The protagonists in these two books could not be more different, Callie T. of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a young girl from a privileged family on the verge of womanhood in 1899 Texas. A Long Walk to Water's Salva is forced to abandon his childhood in war-torn southern Sudan in the 1980s and 1990s. The characters are from separate worlds; however, no matter where you are in the world (or in time since 1899) you can always enjoy the fizz and unmistakable flavour of a caramel-coloured Coca-Cola.

These books are beautifully written by highly-regarded authors, and the descriptions of the first time Callie T. and Salva experienced the taste of a Coca-Cola and what it meant to them are the most beautiful adverts The Coca-Cola Company never had to pay for.

Young Calpurnia describes her experience at the Fentress Fair:

I still had fifteen cents left over from babysitting during the harvest... I considered spending some of it on the brand-new drink we'd all heard about, Coca-Cola...

I turned my head back on Mr. Grassel and pretended to study the red-and-white advertising bunting overhead... Then it was our turn, and we each paid our nickel for a Coca-Cola. We carefully carried our fizzing drinks outside. Travis lifted his to drink and exclaimed, "Oh! It tickles!" I held mine up and felt
bubbles dancing against my lips, then sipped it, feeling it burn in my throat, raw and sweet and unlike anything I'd had before. How could you ever drink milk or water again after this? We both downed the stuff greedily and straightaway ran back into the tent to stand in line again... We drank them more slowly, looking at the rising bubbles and making them last. We both felt extraordinarily peppy and, I would say, extremely refreshed.

When Salva is being resettled to the United States from a refugee camp, onboard a flight from Nairobi, a flight attendant offers him a beverage:
She smiled. "Coca-Cola? Orange juice?"

Coca-Cola! Long ago, Salva's father had once brought a few bottles of Coca-Cola back from his trip to the market. Salva's first taste had been startling--all those bubbles jumping around in his mouth! What are rare treat it had been.

"Coca-Cola, thank you," Salva said. And with each sip, he remembered his family passing the bottles from hand to hand, laughing at the tickly bubbles, sharing and laughing together....
Like Coca-Cola or not, you must admit that the brand is responsible for some pretty special and memorable ads. Would Santa Claus be as significant in American culture without the assistance of Coca-Cola? Would we all want to teach the world to sing? These two books, set in different times, with extremely different characters, addressing very different issues and themes demonstrate the signifiant role that Coca-Cola plays in our lives. I'd bet that we all have a special Coca-Cola-related memory. I have many. Grandma always had 'cold Co-Cola' waiting for us in her 'fridge' on a hot summer's day. When we wanted a candy bar from Kirkland's Store, we used to wander the neighbourhood (even plundered neighbours' sheds) to find empty Coke bottles we could return for the deposits.

Our memories provide Coca-Cola's best advertising. In fact, I want to head out to Jazz Supermarket and pick a Coke right now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to visit "World of Coca-Cola" in Atlanta! It's pretty incredible to see the global presence of Coke around the world, and how ingrained it is in our collective cultures and history. Though I can never forgive them for discontinuing Coke with Lime, which was my favorite Coca-Cola product ever. :-(