I quickly divert the conversation to chat about their family, catch up on the latest news and learn which grades the kids are going into this year. We pull out cell phones to share pictures of each other's dogs and swap stories about all the years of summers and vacations and what it was like long ago in this town.
They have a list, sometimes hand-written, sometimes synced to their home computer and right there on their ipad. We find all the varieties of licorice mom requested, the odd sour hard candy for Uncle Paul that they can only find here, discuss what size gummy candies would be suitable for a younger child, and I pull out a few samples so they can decide on Huckleberry or Watermelon taffy. They aren't staying around here this summer, some of the relatives wanted to be further up the coast so they are 45 minutes north but they tell me, would of course, still make the trip here.
They are ready to go and I still haven't told them. I wish there was a way to hand envelopes to my beloved customers and ask them to open later when at home so I can say goodbye without really having to talk about it. But they tell me they will look forward to returning next summer and I have to say something; I have to thank them for being such devoted fans, for sharing their summer memories with me and for making this a part of their vacation. I hand them a card which has a variety of ways to stay in touch, just in case I relocate. It's a very slim hope but I would hate to lose touch with so many of these people - perhaps there is a way we will meet up again next summer for coffee or ice cream. Many don't see the line of text on the card that says simply "R.I.P. <store name> 1979 ~ 2014" and I'm grateful for that. I hope they'll see it later when they get home and will understand.