I spent a large part of my childhood trudging around with dimes, nickels and quarters, because that's what comic books cost when I was a kid. And candy bars. And those little tiny bags of red pistachio nuts they had in the 1960s.
But what I really lived for were the Marvel comic books, specifically the Archie series. I mulled over Betty and Veronica's mysterious rivalry over Archie and their class war: the rich Veronica always winning out over the middle class Betty which played out over and over again in those pages. And Jughead, Moose; they were like family, along with their world of middle America's high schools. My future?
There was also some fascination with the girls' bodies: nipped in waists and breasts that looked like sideways Mount Everests. Is that what I was going to look like?
My real problem was getting enough comic books. As the child of Holocaust Survivor immigrants, our household budget was pretty much slated for necessities like food and shelter. Comics weren't on the list.
That's when I thought of my nefarious scheme: I wrote to the publisher claiming to be a poor child who'd seen the comic books at a friend's house but who couldn't afford them. Did they have any extras? Maybe some old issues?
I didn't know what would happen with my plot. I know that my sisters and I hatched most of our schemes by poring endlessly over the back cover of the comic books themselves, endlessly analyzing the third-rate ads that appeared there. For a while we sold greeting cards in the neighborhood. We sent away for the world's tiniest camera. We joined the Archie Fan Club. One time, unrelated to the back page, we wrote to Pillsbury claiming to have send money for a Pillsbury Dough Boy and where was he? They said they had no record of any payment. How dare they!
But this time there was a different outcome. One day a few weeks after sending my letter I arrived home to find a pretty big package standing on our front doorstep. Like about two feet high. The comic books for poor little me, the budding con artist.
Did my mother ask where they came from in between her soup-stirring and Yiddish dialogues with all my other foreign-born family members? Of course, because that many comic books were clutter and clutter was part of her territory, the pursuit of cleanliness. And then, just like one lie always leads to another, mine did as well. I said, "My friends gave them to me." Yes, 200 comic books all at once.