Since I'm turning 18 in a month and three days, I've been reminiscing a lot, mostly about fond childhood memories, and some of the not-so-fond ones too.
The one constant in all of these memories is this: vitamins. As far as I know, nearly every kid was swept up into the tasty vitamin-craze of the mid-90’s, and I was definitely not exempt. I have extremely vivid memories of my mom giving me a Centrum Shamu and His Crew Vitamin* before bedtime, and running over to a lamp by the couch in our living room to see what tasty character I had received "in the good light." Incidentally, it was always the seal in orange flavoring or dolphin in grape flavoring, rarely the prized vitamin namesake, Shamu in cherry flavoring. I was always wracked with despair over these shapes and flavors, and have hated almost all citrus and grape tasting things since.
Anyways, what I am trying to get at with all of this is that I didn’t really like these. I had no idea what any of these characters’ personality traits were, because as far as I know/knew, there was never a TV show (there was, however, an album). I wanted something familiar, a vitamin whose shapes I already knew and adored…
I wanted Bayer's Flintstones vitamins. Every single time I would go to the store, I would ask my mom for these little classic-cartoon-shaped supplements of goodness, and every single time I was turned down. I'm positive the shitty Shamu ones were either a) cheaper, b) better for you, or c) both. I'm banking on the third one, because my mother was adamant on staying true to our Sea World-based daily doses.
This just made me want them more. I just knew they had to taste a billion times better than these ones, because they had commercials and had been around since the 70's. In my head, these Flintstones vitamins were a slice of fried gold. I had to have them. My Shamu vitamins just weren't cutting it anymore. I was sick of being constantly disappointed by their lack of flavor and familiarity.
I finally got them sometime around my tenth birthday, and I remember this because I used a very specific go-to excuse to con my dad into buying these. My parents were divorced, you see, and had been since I was four years old. My dad had joint custody of me, which meant that he saw me every other weekend and on Wednesday nights. On Friday nights, he and I would go shopping after he had picked me up from my mom's house, so that we could get all of the essentials for our upcoming two days together. This was at the age where I started getting smart, and realizing that I could, like I said, con my dad into getting me things my mom wouldn't normally get me.
So one Friday night, we were walking through the store, when I saw them. I turned to my dad, and asked for these nifty nuggets that I had wanted for ages, and was turned down. The gears in my head started turning, and I said those five words that every joint-custody father dreads hearing: "Mom gets them for me!" This, of course, was a lie, because by this time, I had graduated to bigger, peach-colored vitamins that were shaped like thick coins with animal heads embossed on them that my mother bought me from a catalogue our neighbor at the time had worked for. But how was he supposed to find that out? My mom and dad weren't on the best of terms, so my father was essentially afraid of asking my mom anything having to do with my life at her house. He grudgingly bought me these treasures, and I finally got my first taste that night before bed. And believe me when I say that I made a night out of it. I made sure my teeth were brushed thoroughly before I took my vitamin, that way no foreign food particles from meals past destroyed my virgin vitamin-tasting experience. And I also remember being the creator of my own destiny, and being able to pick my own shape and color for the first time ever; rather than have my mother hastily dump one into her palm at random. I of course chose Fred, the crème de la crème of all things Flintstone, as my cherry-flavored cherry-taker.
So after popping it into my mouth, and sucking on it for a bit, I realized this: these tasted identical to the Shamu vitamins from years past. There was literally no difference at all in palatability. They were exactly the fucking same. I was heartbroken. I don't think I ever finished off that first bottle of Flintstones vitamins, it just wasn't in me. I couldn't taste my defeat on a nightly basis.
Needless to say, I never complained about specific brands of vitamins ever again.
I really want to go to the store and find a bottle of these, just so I can taste them and remember what it was like to be a child. I'm getting too old, too fast.
*For some reason, Google image-searching “Centrum Shamu and His Crew Vitamins” brings up several pictures of The Sopranos’ Meadow Soprano and Paulie Walnuts (on the 3rd and 4th pages, respectively). Weird.