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Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

Creep show

After some discussion, I found out a nightmare was what woke Autumn up and brought her to our room at 2:30 in the morning the other day. It seems a certain Spongebob episode had given her the heebie jeebies, so it’s been added to our list of verboten media.

This whole thing got me thinking about some of my fears when I was a kid. I can’t remember what scared me when I was four years old, but I do remember something that scared the piss out of me years later.

I don’t remember how old I was, but it was after my parents had gotten cable TV, so I was probably around ten or eleven years old.  I happened upon an old English horror film starring Peter Cushing called The Creeping Flesh. The film is pretty tame by today’s standards, but there was one element that scared me so profoundly I still remember it today; a black-cloaked skeleton that comes to life.

What happened was this skeleton grew flesh when it came into contact with water.  Peter Cushing’s character figured this out one day while he was examining the thing.  Horrified at seeing the flesh grow upon the skeleton’s finger, he used a hammer and chisel to crack the digit off before the flesh could grow any further.

At some point Cushing finally decides to get rid of the skeleton and loads it into his horse-drawn cart. But guess what happens?  It rains!!! And the skeleton comes to life!!! And he takes Peter Cushing’s finger!!! If I recall, the very last scene of the movie has Cushing in an asylum, pleading for help as his hands (minus one finger) clutch the bars of his cell.

It all seems pretty silly and campy now, but for weeks after I saw this movie I was not able to sleep with my bedroom door open. I can still vividly recall the darkness of my room and the even darker recesses behind the bedroom door, where I was sure the creeping flesh was lurking, waiting to take my finger.

It still makes me shiver to think about it.

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The last time I saw my friend Terri was at my wedding eleven years ago. I met her at band camp just before my freshman year of high school. We became instant friends and were close until she graduated the year before me. She married a guy about a year later and moved to a town about a half hour away. Over the years I’d occasionally run into her mother at the grocery store or the beauty salon and would receive a quick synopsis of Terri’s life. Bev would hand me her daughter’s phone number every time and would practically order me to call. I never did because I suck at keeping in touch with people.

Terri was the first person I looked up when I joined Facebook, and for the past few month’s we’ve exchanged e-mails and the occasional gifts of virtual hugs and flowers. She’s now living in the area again and we finally decided to meet for dinner last night. I picked Panera Bread because it’s one of those places Nathan and I don’t visit much anymore because it lacks an adequate toddler menu.

It was great fun catching up with Terri. I have to admit to being a little worried we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, but those worries vanished as soon as we hugged. She told me I haven’t changed a bit, which was very kind and a huge lie.

We ordered our meals, settled in a booth and brought each other up to speed on the past eleven years. She now has three children, ages 16, 15, and 14. We talked about the kids, our lives and reminisced a lot about high school. I’m normally not that sentimental about my high school years, but bringing up names of people I haven’t spoken to since graduation seemed familiar and somewhat comforting. She told me a guy I used to date is now the band director at a nearby high school and I told her a certain squatty little tuba player has grown up into a lean and attractive father of two boys named Nathan and Noah (ha!)

We called it a night after nearly two hours of talking and made promises to each other that we wouldn’t let another eleven years pass before we met again. I do believe I also committed to attending her 20th high school reunion with her next year.

I had a great time, but since any trip of mine down memory lane wouldn’t be complete without a little embarrassment, I proceeded to look up the former boyfriend now band director when I got home. I sent him an e-mail, a short and restrained piece that lacked the idiocy of the socially awkward e-mail I sent to another former classmate a few months back. I’m quite sure he’s not going to know what to make of me, but I’m kind of looking forward to hearing from him.

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Chapter two

My mother’s birthday was Sunday, but since we were due to dine with Nathan’s “family” we wound up meeting my parents and grandma at my mom’s favorite Chinese buffet near the lakeshore Saturday night. If you want to see something funny, take a couple of old dutch folks to a Chinese buffet and see what they bring back to the table. My father headed straight to the “build your own taco/salad” bar and my grandmother brought back steak and potatoes and neither of them touched much of the Chinese part of the Chinese buffet. Since my mother only married into Dutch, she enjoys battered and sauced pieces of meat and recommended the Kingdom chicken, which I tried and which managed to stain my shirt along with a few errant strands of lo mein noodles.

After we left the buffet, we headed north for a bit to drive by the old chair plant where we used to work. I hadn’t been down that stretch of road in years, probably not since I worked at the plant. Along the way we pointed out various landmarks and argued about the location of a particular bar where I once inadvertently started a fight between two Laotian women I worked with. If you can imagine Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan as two Asian girls, you can imagine the kind of rivalry those two had and I chose the worst time and the worst location to tell one what the other had said about her. Not one of my finer moments, and yet I can’t help but look back on that night with a little fondness now that I’m able to recognize how silly it all was.

As we drove towards the entrance to the old plant, I asked Nathan to pull into the drive. The company no longer builds chairs there. They sold it quite a few years ago, but I wanted to see what it looked like. As we traveled down the drive towards the plant, I was amazed at how foreign it all felt. I used to drive into the plant that way for nearly six years, but I’m now six years removed from the last time I was there. It could have easily have been a hundred years.

We drove around the parking lot for a bit with Autumn contentedly watching “Sesame Street” in the back seat. The new owners had built a huge addition to the plant and Nathan said they build airplanes there now. All the trees that used to line the front walk into the building were gone. The awning under which we took our breaks and lunches in the summer was also gone. I wanted so much to go inside to see if there was any part of that plant that looked the same as it did the last time I was there.

An intense feeling of sadness and longing overwhelmed me as I looked at the building. The job was rough at times; I was on my feet for eight, sometimes ten, hours a day. The summers were brutal since the building had no air conditioning. I was an unskilled laborer, and while I was there I had always hoped I’d move on to better things.

“Why do I miss this place so much?” I asked Nathan.

“The people,” he said.

I nodded. The people I worked with really made the difference. Never before had I worked with such a warm, diverse group and thinking of them has made me realize how very alone I am at work now. While my salary is quite a bit more than it was then, the dividends of good relationships amongst coworkers made up for whatever was lacking in my paycheck. I cared about them and they cared about me. I haven’t had that kind of relationship with anyone I worked with since I left the factory.

Back then my work life and my personal life were intertwined. Nathan and I worked at the same factory and drove to work together. My friends at work were my friends outside of work and it all came together rather seamlessly. Now? Not so much. Work is work and I’ve chosen to look at the workplace as where I make my money, not my friends. Sometimes it sucks, but in this office I’ve found that mentality to be a necessity.

As we turned back onto the long driveway to head out, I took one last look at the building. “I can’t go back,” I said. “Even if I could handle a job like that now, I know I can’t go back.”

I have a good job with great benefits and make a decent salary, and yet I can’t stop thinking about upholstering chair cushions to the beat of god-awful repetitive dance music while the most adorable Vietnamese man I’d ever met taught me how to count in his native language.

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Did you know that the internet is, like, FULL of potentially incriminating information? Stuff you thought you’d never see again can pop up unexpectedly. If you don’t believe me, Google your name. Or better yet, Google your MAIDEN name.

If I Google my name I don’t come up with much, not even this blog actually. The first thing that comes up when I Google my name is my Amazon.com profile and that’s only because I recently posted a review for book #12 in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The rest of what comes up is a bunch of crap that doesn’t pertain to me at all.

When I Google my maiden name, however, I get a treasure trove of ancient newsgroup posts that made me cringe the first time I read through them because the person who wrote them could not possibly have been me. You see, back in the day before blogs and MySpace and pretty much anything on the internet, the only way to communicate with others who held the same interests as you was through newsgroups. I’m pretty sure they’re still around and that people still use them, but the internet has grown so much that you really don’t have to go far to find what you need.

So as I said, the first time I read though these old, old posts I was both amused and embarrassed because I had only vague recollections of ever having written them. We’re talking about stuff dating back ten years or more when I was unmarried and shacking up with Nathan and two ungrateful cats in a two-bedroom apartment. Just to give you an idea of the kinds of things I was writing about, here’s a selection of the groups to which I posted:

alt.books.ann-rice (way before Tom Cruise ruined Lestat for me)

alt.tv.er

alt.tv.friends

alt.tv.sliders (Remember that show? You know…with that guy who just married that model who used to be married to that guy from “Full House?”)

rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap (Still love this show. Rented the season one DVDs recently)

rec.collecting.dolls (my Barbie collecting phase)

rec.sports.skating.ice.figure

alt.tv.x-files (Some day I’ll have to write about my Mulder dream)

soc.couples.wedding

It is truly amazing the lengths to which I could discuss Barbies and the plot lines of “Friends.” But the best and possibly most damaging piece of drivel is this beauty from “rec.arts.tv.soaps.misc.”

If the writers really wanted to put us through agony and prolong this
Carrie, Austin, Sammi, Mike love square, they should have just done this:
Sammi, desperate not to lose Austin to Carrie, agrees to have another
blood test taken to prove once and for all who Will’s father is. The
whole gang goes to the hospital, formal attire and all. They sit in
suspense while the test is administered by Dr. Mike Horton. As he
prepares to stick a needle into Sammi, his mother Mrs. Bates…I mean
Laura Horton leans over and whispers into his ear “Carpe Diem”. In a
moment of selfishness, Dr. Mike Horton doctors the results of the blood
test to make everyone believe that Austin IS Will’s father. Carrie is
devastated, Austin is dumfounded (as usual) and Sammi is triumphant. Mike
decides not to wait any longer and tells Carrie he loves her. Carrie
finally realizes what a gem Dr. Mike Horton is (he’s cute plus he’s a
doctor in Salem…can’t get better job security than that!) and gives him
a long, loving kiss. Since the minister was at the hospital (hey, he was
curious too!) Sammi talks Austin into finishing the ceremony there.
Finally, a wedding is finished in Salem!
I just have to say that I’m really getting sick of Laura Horton. I may
just be a fledgling “Days” viewer (since last December), but she just
seems too pushy. I think it’s great that Mike Horton is showing some
integrity. I think he and Carrie would make a cute couple, but he
realized that Carrie loves Austin and he doesn’t want to come in between
them. I know Laura has been through a lot. I felt real sympathy for her
when everybody thought she was crazy, but she has got to lighten up.
Somebody on this soap shoud be happy for crying out loud!

Jesus, who is this psycho and why does she care so much about Carrie and Austin?

As much as I’d like to forget I ever wrote this, I actually do remember the days when I worked second shift at the factory and tried to squeeze in just a few more minutes of melodrama before having to leave for the half-hour drive to the plant. Back when I was still in my 20s and having a house, let alone a child, seemed like an impossibility. Back when Nathan and I would clock out at 11:00 pm, hit Arby’s at 11:30 and stay up to watch Conan O’Brien with Jamocha shakes and onion petals weighing heavily in our stomachs.

If I sound a little nostalgic, I guess I am. Like any parent, I miss the flexibility of a child-free life, not to mention Jamocha shakes and Conan. I wouldn’t trade my girl for anything, but if I could go back 10 years I’d certainly make better use of my time because the post above is just one of many like it.

And no, I’m not going to tell you what my maiden name was.

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In my room

Yesterday afternoon my mother called just before I left work to tell me my dad had to go to the hospital for an ultrasound because he might have apendicitis and could I please let Daisy out at 7:00? Daisy is their Cocker Spaniel and has lately been suffering from the same affliction as Molly; Squatus Oncarpetus.

It turns out my dad just had a kidney stone. I say “just” because I’ve never had to pass one, but a kidney stone sounds a lot better than apendicitis. At 7:00 I drove the four minutes from my house to my parents to let the dog out. Whenever I walk into my parents house the first thing I do is check for the goodies above the fridge. There were some there, but not as many as usual because my dad was just recently diagnosed with diabetes, so as soon as I let Daisy out I proceeded to paw through their snacks.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in that house alone, so while Daisy was outside I took my mom’s bag of cheeze curls and walked from room to room. I was especially interested in my old bedroom. I never get to go in that room anymore because it has pretty much become an extension of my mother’s closet and she hates it when we go in there. It’s also the local warehouse for QVC merchandise and it’s nigh impossible to even open the door to look inside. To be totally honest, it was no cleaner when I lived there so I can’t really say much about it.

My first impression was how small the room was. Sure there was clutter scattered everywhere, but it was obvious to me that Autumn’s room was quite a bit longer than my old room. Autumn only has one window in her room while my old room has two, but the difference in size was noticeable. And I had always believed Autumn’s room to be small.

The thing that got me the most was the twin bed. The low, narrow twin bed that was only as high as my knee. I used to sleep in that? Really? Nathan and I used to fool around in that bed? Granted we were a lot younger and a lot smaller, but holy crap.

With the exception of said tiny bed, the furniture in that room was my mother’s when she was growing up. She had a full-sized four-poster complete with a canopy that I inherited when I was young. The four-poster was eventually replaced by the wee twin bed, but the dresser with the mirror and the dresser with the hutch remain. The nightstand has somehow disappeared. My mother thinks my brother may have taken it, but so far it hasn’t turned up in his old room or where he’s living now. I have the feeling it will be found some day when my mother finally gets around to having that huge garage sale I’ve been begging her to do for years.

I know my mother would love nothing more than to see her granddaughter use her old bedroom set, but every time she mentions using it I hem and haw because I’ve always been sure it would never fit in Autumn’s room. It also isn’t exactly what I’d buy Autumn if I was going to spring for an entire bedroom set. We did buy her an amoire, changing table and crib, but we bought them knowing we’d probably wind up replacing them as she got older. They’re functional, plain and, best of all, they were cheap as far as baby furniture goes.

As I looked at the room, I remembered how much that furniture meant to me as a kid and thought perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to at least bring the twin bed home when Autumn outgrows her crib.  Of course the bed doesn’t go with her current bedroom set so I might as well take the dresser as well.  I looked at the mirror on the dresser and saw the labels my mother had cranked out on one of those dial-a-letter label makers that you never see anymore.  The name “BRUCE” was pressed into a strip of orange acrylic label and stuck to the top left corner of the mirror.  On the top right corner was the name “MARY.”  My mother had probably put those there when she was dating my dad and still living with her parents.

In the middle of those two names, on a clear sticker was my name printed in dark script.  I remember those stickers.  I went through a sticker phase and my grandparents gave me pages of them with my name printed on them in all sorts of fonts.  I stuck my name on the mirror in an effort to lay claim to it as my mother had.

I’m starting to think it would be cool to bring that furniture home.  Not only does it hold lots of memories for me, it holds a lot for my mom.  It would also be a great way for her to finally clean up that room.

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Saturday morning my mother called and told me to set my DVR to record TV Land because at one ‘o clock in the morning the network was going to take a break from their “That Girl” marathon to show the feel-good, liberal hippie children’s special “Free to Be…You and Me.”  She told me this because I absolutely loved this feel-good, liberal hippie special when I was a kid and wore the LP out from continuous playing.  If you don’t know what I mean by “LP”, get your iPod carrying self over to Wikipedia and read this entry stat because I really don’t want to have to explain vinyl and feel all old and stuff.

“Free to Be…” was all about diversity, acceptance and, most importantly, breaking out of gender roles.  The record and corresponding TV special were produced in 1974 and were really big around here, at least in my elementary school. The record included songs and skits meant to help kids accept different ideas and was pretty much my generation’s introduction to feminist ideology.  There’s the boy baby (voiced by Mel Brooks) who insists he must be a girl because he wants to be a cocktail waitress when he grows up and is devastated when he finds out he’s bald.  There’s William, the boy who wants nothing more than a baby doll to play with and Rosie Grier singing “It’s all right to cry.”  Our school sang the songs and performed the skits and I drove my parents wacko playing the record over and over again.

I sat down with Autumn and watched the special yesterday.  Since she has the attention span of a fruit fly, she didn’t sit for long but I could tell she was enthralled with the songs. So was I. Would you believe I still knew the lyrics to many of them?  I can’t remember the last time I played that record.  I believe I still have it, but it’s been ages since I owned a turntable and by the time I was a teenager I had pledged my devotion to the ultra-portable cassette tape.  Can anyone say Walkman

Watching “Free to Be…” took me back 25 years and made me nostalgic for the old days.  Pretty much anything that takes me out of the present is welcome right now because Autumn is cutting her molars and has turned into a shrieking, irritable hell-child.  I’m probably exaggerating, but Nathan and I are planning a date night that we hope will happen soon because we both need to get out of the house for some alone time.

So, feeling nostalgic, I checked on iTunes and wouldn’t you know the “Free to Be..” album is there to buy in its entirety. I was tickled and added it to my mental music wish-list.  I received an iTunes gift card for my birthday but have already used it to download mostly Motown and Christmas tracks so I’ll have to wait to see if Santa’s going to give me more free music for Christmas.

Anyone exposed to children’s music for any period of time knows how hard it is to get that music out of your head and “Free to Be…” is no exception.  I went to bed last night with “William’s Doll” stuck in my head and had a hell of a time getting to sleep.  I woke up with the “Free to Be…” theme song and have had varying chords and melodies floating through my mind since.  It’s been driving me crazy, actually, and I’m starting to wonder if I want to download the album.  The thought of passing something I loved on to my daughter is part of the trill of being a parent though, even if it means jeopardizing my sanity to do so.

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