Tag Archives: Childhood

Small town living: cruising?

26 Mar
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Kind of like this, but with crappier cars and less reason. 

The other day I was wishing a childhood friend a happy birthday on Facebook. “Happy Birthday, old man!” I wrote. “Hop in your car and go cruise the McDonald’s to feel young again!”

As soon as the words came out, I cracked up. They struck me as absurd – not only imagining my 42 year-old friend attempting this, but also because the entire concept of “cruising” seemed so ridiculous.

Unless you’re from a small town, you probably have (at best) only a vague notion of what cruising entails. I know this because – after cracking myself up with my Facebook post – I asked Alan if cruising was a thing in Northern Virginia when he was a kid.

He gave me a blank look. “What kind of cruising?”

Which basically was the confirmation I needed that cruising was not, in fact, a universal THING.

After I explained it, he asked if we also hung out at sock hops, then returned to the book he was reading. (I think he’s suppressing his jealousy.) 

If, like Alan, you grew up in a semi-urban area where cruising wasn’t a thing, I’ll offer a quick description: Cruising was the main Friday/Saturday night activity for high schoolers in our small town. It involved hopping in a friend’s car – usually with a few other people – and driving a repeated loop of town, waving at other kids doing the same thing, and occasionally stopping at McDonald’s to have an actual conversation with someone.

There’s really no way to describe it that makes it sound even remotely as fulfilling as it somehow was. And if it’s something you’ve never experienced, it probably sounds both weird AND boring.

I say that because as an adult who is now living carless in a large city, the idea even strikes ME as ludicrous. The environmentalist in me also cringes thinking about the gas that we wasted, going exactly no where.

And before you ask: No, we did NOT tip cows for sport. That’s tacky. We were too busy tp’ing each other’s houses for that.


New year flashbacks.

1 Jan

Image Source: http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2012/galleries/dick-clark/dick-clark-660.jpg

Happy new year, everybody!

For the first time in a long time, I was awake when the ball dropped last night. If you weren’t able to make it up that late, here’s all you need to know to participate in the water cooler talk in your office tomorrow: Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy hosted; there was significant discussion (on our part – not on air) about Dick Clark’s status (dead or alive); the only conclusion we all agreed on was that Casey Kasem is, in fact, dead.

You’re now up to speed. Go forth and discuss.

We celebrated at some friends’ house, and their kids emerged from their bedrooms around midnight for the ball drop. It reminded me of one of the most infamous new year’s eves of my childhood, when my parents left my sister and me home with a babysitter.

Alicia – who was in middle school at the time – was allowed to have a friend over, and my parents told the babysitter that we could stay up to watch the ball drop. I’ve always been a sleepy person, however, so I called it a night around 8pm, wishing everyone a good night and pulling my door shut on Dick Clark’s smiling face.

When I woke up the next day, I quickly was brought up to speed. Apparently while I slumbered, quite a little drama had unfolded. The babysitter had made Alicia and her friend go to bed early as well, and once they were in Alicia’s room with the door closed, the babysitter called her boyfriend and invited him and some friends over.

I’m not sure if Alicia was upset about the babysitter breaking the rules and having boys over, or if she was simply pissed that she’d been relegated to her room and missed the ball drop, but she wasted no time in telling my parents how she’d spent HER evening. I’m not sure how the situation was addressed with the babysitter, but I’d have to imagine it was awkward since she was one of my dad’s students. I can only imagine she wanted to crawl under her desk for a good portion of the next semester.

And so on that note, I wish you a happy new year. If you left your kids with a sitter, I’d suggest interrogating them to make sure no one threw a party in your house. Or maybe they can at least tell you if Dick Clark is still alive.

Touch my monkey.

27 Oct

With Halloween approaching, my sister and I were recently chatting on Facebook about costumes. She was planning to go as Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter.

Me: That’s a bit obscure. How would people know?
Alicia: Long wig. Flowy Mexican dress. Uni-brow. Mustache. Monkey.

Me: Got it.

Fortunately, she lives in Ann Arbor, so most of her (well-educated and artistic) friends would be able to put that together. If I tried to pull that off in DC, where things run a bit more political and less cerebral, I think people would just think I was aiming going as a transvestite with a monkey fetish.

A few days later, I chatted her again.

Me: How is the costume progressing?
Alicia: It’s not. Too expensive. I’m at $35 already and I don’t even have the wig or the monkey. Pulling the plug. Besides, I don’t know where I would get a monkey.
Me: What about that monkey you had when we were kids?
Alicia: ???
Me: The puppet. Where you velcroed its arms around your neck and stuck your hand up it?
Alicia: I had this monkey?
Me: Yes. It had a squeaker in its mouth you could squeeze.
Alicia: Sounds like you were jealous of my monkey. You remember it a little too well.
Me: I was. You wouldn’t let me play with it.
Alicia: Had I known, I would’ve worn it around constantly.

Me: No doubt.

And because older sisters never outgrow their urge to taunt and get a rise out of their younger siblings, the next day this is what she posted on my Facebook Wall:

In case you’re curious, her latest costume idea is even better than Frida and would play well anywhere. Any guesses?

That’s right – she’s going as a bad ventriloquist. We’ve already decided that has the potential for sheer comedy after a few glasses of wine.

The best part? She’s been practicing saying, “Who’s your daddy?” through gritted teeth all week, which – even without the puppet – is pretty awesome.

At least I didn’t scream “GO!”

11 Aug

Because during the day, an alligator avoids eating children.

The other night I whipped into Safeway on my walk home from work to pick up a few items for dinner. On my way in the door, I passed Melissa, the woman who bought my old condo. (I still live in the neighborhood so we shop at the same store and bump into each other occasionally.)

Naturally, I tapped the glass, waved and said, “Hey stranger!” as we passed each other.

She caught my eye, smiled, and — as soon as the door held still — said, “Hey back! It’s been forever! How are you doing?”

And as she said that, my mind finished its computer-like body scan of her and realized she was NOT, in fact, the woman living in my old place. She was a complete stranger. Albeit one who bore an uncanny resemblance to Melissa and was willing to humor me, but a stranger nonetheless.

Embarrassment must’ve registered on my face, because just as I started to say, “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! You look like someone I know –” she broke out in a huge grin, saying, “Wow! I totally thought you were someone I used to work with who lives in the neighborhood!”

And then, with the best-timed “jinx” ever, we both shrugged and said, “Small world!” at the exact same time. Had we met under different circumstances, I’m sure we would’ve been BFFs.

It’s always awkward when you mistake a stranger for someone you know — I think it harkens back to childhood, when (without looking up) you accidentally took a stranger’s hand, thinking it belonged to your mother. This instance (with the Melissa-look-alike) was about the best case scenario because we BOTH were confused.

Now let’s jump into the Way-Back Machine to check out the other end of the spectrum.

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A Non-Pithy Post: Welcome to the World, Natalie!

28 Oct

Dear Natalie Ellen,

I learned via a text message from your mother that you arrived in the world this afternoon. From your mom’s perspective – it was not a moment too soon. She’s been ranting for the better part of a week that she was ready to have you.

In fact, just yesterday she publicly stated that she was going to “plead her case” to the doctor. I, on the other hand, have been hoping you’d take your sweet time and come on Devil’s Night so I could pass the cool birthday baton to you. For your sake, I’m glad you arrived today!

But enough about your entry into the world – I’m sure your mom will never let you forget it, so I’ll leave that to her.

I want to tell you about the family you’re joining. Your mother is my oldest friend – we’ve known each other even before we started nursery school together – so I think I can paint a fair picture.

First, be prepared to be photographed. A LOT. Your mom comes by it honestly and can’t help herself. When you get irritated by it, ask if you can watch one of the old VHS tapes of her playing softball, swimming or at a dance recital – and then you’ll realize it could be much worse. And if she EVER tries to make you take piano lessons, ask her to play something for you first. I assure you: that will end the conversation.

Second, let me tell you now: You WILL be a Spartan fan. Some of your favorite childhood memories will be of tailgating with your parents in East Lansing and hanging with the children of your mom’s college roommates. You will learn from an early age how to “Sparty On!” and you’ll be able to sing the fight song before you enter kindergarten.

Her text from the hospital said, “We’re all doing fine. I’ll be home for the big game Saturday!” (For the record, MSU is currently ranked 5th in the nation and is 8-0 thus far this season. You’ll appreciate that when you’re older.)

As for your grandparents on the Dickinson side… they were like second parents to me for much of my childhood. They took me on my first trip to Cedar Point in second grade – when I was still too short and skinny to technically ride the Gemini. Your grandpa rode that ride with me and held me in the seat the entire ride. That’s the kind of guy he is – he likes a good time and wants the people around him to have a good time too. (Oh, and there’s the time when I completely ruined the cream colored upholstery in his new Oldsmobile Cutlass – because I’d gotten grease all over my ass at a McDonald’s – and he didn’t even raise his voice when he saw the damage.) That one is a very cool cat.

And your grandma – who doesn’t like to be called Grandma because she’s entirely too young for that – is one of the craftiest people I know. Had it not been for her sewing skills, I would’ve been fated to dress as a ghost every year for Halloween because my mom couldn’t sew. Instead, I always got to wear your mom’s costume from the year before – a dog, a dinosaur, a witch, a clown, a tea bag… (I know, that last one doesn’t quite, fit, does it?) She also taught me to cross-stitch and how to make a “Triscuit pizza” in the first microwave I ever laid eyes on.

As for your dad… make him your ally. Your mom is a pretty tough customer, but your dad has mastered the art of giving her what she wants and getting what he needs. That’s a subtle art, and you will undoubtedly need to call on it – especially when you’re in high school and hate your curfew. (If he sometimes embarrasses you because we owns binoculars and goes birding, let me tell you: you will one day find that AWESOME, so go with it.)

Your brother? Well, I’m sure initially he’s not going to be your biggest fan because you’re new to the scene and stealing his thunder. BUT, about the time you hit middle school and kids are jerks, you’re going to be VERY glad to have Nolan hovering around ready to kick some asses. Oh – and when he’s 21 and you’re not yet legal – you’re REALLY going to appreciate him.

There are so many stories to tell; I could write for hours. But you have years to hear the other stories, and trust me – the older you get, the better the stories we’ll tell you. One day you’ll fully appreciate what it is to be the granddaughter of a BOM. Just wait for it.

In the meantime, just know that you couldn’t be luckier. The world welcomes you and I can’t wait to meet you.


“Auntie” Alison

PS~ It is a LOCK that your mom is drinking a Miller Lite tonight to celebrate, if I know her.