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Ding Dong! Twinkies are dead -- and our kids will never know the joys

Bret Hartman / Reuters

So long, Twinkies and Ding Dongs: Shelves lay empty at a Wonder Bread Hostess Bakery Outlet in Glendale, California, November 16, 2012.

A world without Twinkies! How can it be?!

I haven’t eaten a Twinkie since the third grade. But, when the demise of Hostess was announced last Friday, I, along with most of America, got swept up in Twinkiestalgia. Watching the six o’clock news, it dawned on me that my kids had never had and might never have a Twinkie in their young lives. What kind of life is that? What kind of mother would I be if one of those infinite-shelf-life treats never passed their lips?!

“Come on, kids. Get in the car. We’re going to the gas station to get some dessert!” I announced at a time when we’re usually starting their bedtime routine. I could feel a quintessential part of American childhood slipping away from them: forget bedtime and rules.

I'd had ample opportunity to let my children, ages 5 and 3, sample this flavor of Americana, but I’d just never done it. In this age of organic foods and general health-consciousness, Twinkies have become a symbol of preservatives and unhealthy eating – not something I can imagine bringing during my shifts as preschool snack mom.

The Hostess shelves at the gas station were stripped bare. Back in the car, kids, we’re going to the grocery store! By now, my kids were excited by the quest for this mysterious Twinkie – an apparently rare and very special dessert sold in gas station convenience stores.

Practically running, we pounced on the Hostess shelves at our local grocery store. Gone. All gone. As we sat there, contemplating our loss, we were joined by a father and his two elementary school-aged sons. This dad and I started laughing, we’d both had the same thought: It was now or never for our kids and Twinkies. He then showed me a picture on his phone of the barren shelves of yet another store he and his sons had tried earlier. He wandered off to call Safeway and check on their supplies. As we left the store, my daughter sadly told a guy walking in, “They’re all out of Twinkies.”

Although our adult tastes have largely outgrown Hostess, so many parents fondly remember those individually wrapped bakery items. Hostess cupcakes were the staple dessert in my lunch bag in the fourth grade. I can remember wadding up that little foil wrapper. I remember what a good bargaining chip they were during the big dessert trade at the lunch table. Those little chocolate gems with the squiggly-white icing on top guaranteed me just about anything I’d like come swap time.

This weekend, the Internet was filled with parental remorse as we realized this part of our childhoods was gone and our kids would never know the joys.

Writing at Mommyish, Maria Guido lamented, “Okay, so it’s not the most nutritious snack you can give a child. Not even close. But I am still totally bummed out that my unborn child will never get to eat the preservative-ridden, shortening-filled snack cake of my childhood. Of course, I am talking about the Twinkie. I’m also weeping silently for the death of the Ding-Dong.”

Deep-down, I’m sure most of us recognize the sense of loss is really more for us than for our kids. As Guido wrote, “I’m sure both of my children will have their own favorite, horrible snack foods. Those foods will become a part of their memory of childhood, just like Twinkies are a part of mine. To be honest, I probably never would have consumed another Twinkie again. I guess there is just something a little sad about staple images from your childhood – like Wonder Bread and Ding Dongs – disappearing forever.”

Trying to reconcile our nostalgia for such a deliciously terrible treat with our desire to be “good parents,” Liz Kozak at the Huffington Post writes, “Parents, we don't know what to feel. We want to give our kids the nostalgically happy Ding-Dongy-iest, McNuggety-ist childhood we all remember with such fondness, but we're torn. I felt like a criminal when I snuck my daughter 1/100th of a fun-sized candy bar under the cover of night on Halloween. In public, I give her organic vegetables and talk loudly about the big batch of squash I steamed and pureed that morning. But at home, my husband and I think it's pretty darn cute the way her eyes light up when she eats nougat.”

Of course all of this fret and angst may be for naught, because there are already reports that Twinkies may be bought up by another company. As the TODAY Show reported earlier this morning, a number of prospective buyers have expressed interest in continuing the Twinkie tradition. I wonder if I’ll bother to buy one if they do survive…

Did you feel the desire to run out and buy Twinkies for your kids (or yourself) when you heard the news?

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who wonders what childhood treats her kids will fondly look back on one day.

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