);

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: nostalgia

 

First, an apology to those who commented on my Jujitsu post. Something got corrupted and…WordPress ate it. So we are going to switch topics. Hey, gotta love technology.

Ah, summer vacation. I miss it. I remember how the last three weeks leading up to school getting out were sheer torture. The poor teachers probably felt like prison guards trying to keep the inmates calm…only they didn’t have stun guns and a high-pressure hose (those were for the inner city elementary schools :D). Though, now that I think about it, slap a sprinkler on the end of that high-pressure hose and we would have likely loved that.

Did you guys end your year with Field Day? Sorry. I hated Field Day. I think Field Day was invented by the same sadists who thought up Dodge Ball. Every year I spent my last two days of school getting my butt kicked in every sport imaginable. Good thing I was too focused on summer vacation to care. All I had left to do is clean out the 900 pounds of crap I had somehow fit into my desk and locker.

Oh, there’s that protractor thingie that was on the school supply list. What DOES that thing do, anyway?

That final bell would ring and it was over. I would spend the next two and a half months loaded with sugar and wrinkled from water. My grandparents had a swimming pool and when we weren’t there, we were wearing a hole in my parent’s lawn with a Slip and Slide. Remember those things? Good thing I grew up in the days before everyone went lawsuit happy.

Really? You dove head-first off the station wagon onto a piece of plastic and sprained both your wrists??? Well, you won’t do that again, will ya? Stop crying before I give you something to cry about.

Yeah, NOTHING was childproof. All the playground equipment was heavy-duty industrial steel. And back then little girls actually wore dresses, so the first sucker kid down the slide usually suffered second degree burns down the backs of her thighs. So we would put the water hose on the slide and make our own water park. Between that, the dancing in the sprinkler and the Slip and Slide, I have no idea how my parents didn’t have a $600 water bill. Maybe they did, but it was well worth the money to keep the screaming hoard of wild Indians locked beyond the sliding glass door….which, by the way, was actually LOCKED. When cartoons were over at 8:30? Out the door we went.

Need water? Go lap some off the Slip and Slide. See, like the dog. Just drink upstream from him. Go! Before I put you to work cleaning bathrooms.

Gotta pee? Man used bushes for thousands of years. Just don’t let the Robinsons see you.

The neighbors want to take you to Jewish Camp? Okay, but this time, don’t convert. You cannot have a Bat-mitsvah, and you’re going to Baptist Camp next week. The Lutherans have dibs on you after that.

My brother and I had the COOLEST gym set out back. Nowadays it would be considered an Al Qaeda training facility. It was 20 feet tall, had uneven bars, parallel bars, climbing bars, a rope to climb, and iron rings. It was the glorious centerpiece of the neighborhood. ALL the kids wanted to be at my house playing Red Dawn, also known as Kill the Russians.

Oh, we were politically incorrect back then, too.

Those Russians were always taking Cabbage Patch Kids hostage. We knew they had a plan to brainwash them then reinsert them as Cabbage Patch Sleeper Cells that would kill us in our sleep…

…IF we ever slept. No we stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG. It was SUMMER!

Last night I stayed up until TWO THIRTY! Tonight I’m gonna stay up until FOUR. One day, when I’m bigger, I’m gonna stay up TWENTY ELEVEN HOURS! And when I grow up, I’m gonna have a Trans-Am and NEVER SLEEP EVER!!!!

Okay, yeah. We only stayed up that late when we went to my cousin’s house. They were…teenagers. We did all kinds of things we weren’t supposed to. We put on makeup, watched MTV (back when it actually had music) and watched scary movies and played Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

Eh, she never did show, but that didn’t stop us from nagging her every Friday night.

My cousins are responsible for my current aquaphobia. If it ain’t chlorinated, I ain’t swimming in it. Jaws ruined me for salt water and Friday the 13th pretty much ruined fresh water. But it was okay, they had a pool too….and a DIVING BOARD.

Are those things even still legal to have now? We would spend all day long inventing new dives.

Oh, yeah, well I will raise your Cannon Ball a Bazooka Loaded with Banned Nuclear Warheads. TOP THAT, SUCKAH!

The first six weeks of summer were magic. We’d swim and play and go to Six Flags and stay up late so we could walk to that small wooden health hazard shack that served as a snow cone stand for five months out of the year. We’d play in the streets until the street lamps flickered on and beckoned us home. Then we’d beg our parents to let us at least play in the front yard so we could catch frogs and fireflies.

Ah, but then that six weeks would be over, and we’d have the Seventh Week Itch. In Texas it is so hot by July that everything, including the kids, start to wilt. We were rested and ready for a new school year. Our parents started having to play warden and make us go to bed by nine so we could get our body clocks reset for school.

BED????? But it’s still LIGHT outside!!!!

As adults, what would we give to have three months to just play? Maybe that’s the secret to world peace. Maybe all of us are just stressed out and we need to have time to scream and yell and ride bikes up a ramp made out of a door someone threw away.

Maybe if the U.N. would just get all the world leaders together for the LONGEST SLIP AND SLIDE EVER!!!!! (Just tape all of Dad’s lawn bags to the end until you run out of space on the White House lawn). Maybe if everyone got a chance to play together and run off all the excess energy, maybe then we’d be too tired and happy to be stressed.

I miss summer vacation. How about you? What do you remember? What summer rituals did you have?

As you guys know, my Great Aunt Iris passed away on Sunday. Been a crazy week, to say the least. My Aunt Iris is probably the largest reason I not only became a writer, but a successful one. Even though this woman started life on a farm in Paris, TX when people traveled by horse, she still read my books and even my blog. Of all the posts I’d written, this one was her favorite. So, today I am running the Junk Drawer blog again in loving memory of Iris Iona (Lamb) Jackson, born September 12, 1913, died October 2, 2011. She will be greatly missed by many people.

Ah, it is time for spring cleaning. This past week I have been on a mission to simplify and organize. Yeah, easier said than done. I began with the refrigerator, battled the Spinach Ooze of Doom and The Casserole that Time Forgot. I stumbled away wondering how the hell I managed to buy 12 jars of pickles. See, that is the thing about being disorganized. It is wasteful. I am the proud owner of 635 pairs of scissors. They hang out with the index cards and bags of rubberbands. Have you ever noticed that? You have to buy a BAG or rubberbands and after using less than FIVE, the bag disappears????

But I digress….

This reminds me of my nightstand drawer. Hey, I’m a Texan! If only I could find the bullets….

So this week I am scrubbing and sweeping and sorting, all the while putting off the dreaded kitchen drawers. See, I happen to be an overachiever. Most people have ONE junk drawer. I happen to have…okay all of my drawers are junk drawers. DON’T YOU JUDGE ME! Thus, the thing I seem to put off most is cleaning out my kitchen drawers. I secretly loathe those people who can open a kitchen drawer and actually KNOW what is inside–Show Offs :P.

One morning, a few months ago, I was doing my early morning walk through the neighborhood, pondering the universe, when I had a profound thought. My life is like my kitchen junk drawer, and maybe that’t why they were so hard to clean. Stop laughing. It’s true. Sometimes, when I put in a lot of extra effort, it is neat and clean and streamlined…and then the Law of Entropy somehow takes over. It is a never-ending battle against my own selfish will to goof off. And yet, I have to admit, my junk drawer is usually one of the most interesting locations in my house.

The junk drawer is always full of things we don’t want to face—an unpaid bill, a child’s bad report card, a letter from some crazy family member we can’t throw away but try to ignore. Something sticky that we just can’t bear cleaning. Do it later. Full of unfinished business. Write that “thank you” note later. Pay that bill later.

My life is also full of these things I don’t want to face—my laziness, my tendency to procrastinate, my harshness with myself and others. Stickiness that I just can’t face cleaning. Will get organized…later.

Junk drawers are also filled with things of questionable value; an extra screw that we just can’t figure out where it goes, a single AA battery that we are too cheap to throw away, but too lazy to put with the other batteries (wherever they are). Oh, and a tiny calendar from a real estate agent that we will never use, but don’t have the guts to toss. Markers that work when you lick the tip and pens with schmutz clogging the end…but if you scribble real hard they still work. Packets of ketchup when there is a full bottle in the fridge. Packets of salt and pepper and sporks from fast food joints.

My mind, too, holds on to things of questionable value. I have all kinds of experiences and bits of knowledge that puzzle even me. I am flypaper for useless trivia, like the end of a shoelace is called an aglet and the element helium was discovered in the late 1800s when scientists were studying the sun, and it is named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do. I don’t know why I can’t find my car keys, but I can remember that Washington Carver invented peanut butter and that the first thing I ever took to Show and Tell in Kindergarten was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (yeah, I am a nerd from way back).

Ah, but then there are the hidden treasures of the junk drawer; the sweet card from a husband for no reason at all, a photo that missed the baby book, a $20 bill we forgot we had, a rebate check we forgot to cash, ticket stubs from a memorable concert, or even wheat pennies and Canadian pennies that we have sorted from the real pennies since we were children.

Which brings me to my point. Yes, I have one.

Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

With fiction…it all oddly makes sense.

And I will continue filling the drawer with experiences and information and ideas and dreams and heartbreaks and disappointments and tragedies. Then I will sit down and sort and take what will work and then I will toss the remains back in and label them “Miscellaneous” until I find them a home.

Can you relate? Are you like me and a Junk Drawer Overachiever? What do you do with random memories and experiences? How do you use them? Keep track of them? What cool stuff is in your junk drawer? Leave a comment and share.

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.

Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Ah, summer vacation. I miss it. I remember how the last three weeks leading up to school getting out were sheer torture. The poor teachers probably felt like prison guards trying to keep the inmates calm…only they didn’t have stun guns and a high-pressure hose (those were for the inner city elementary schools :D). Though, now that I think about it, slap a sprinkler on the end of that high-pressure hose and we would have likely loved that.

Did you guys end your year with Field Day? Sorry. I hated Field Day. I think Field Day was invented by the same sadists who thought up Dodge Ball. Every year I spent my last two days of school getting my butt kicked in every sport imaginable. Good thing I was too focused on summer vacation to care. All I had left to do is clean out the 900 pounds of crap I had somehow fit into my desk and locker.

Oh, there’s that protractor thingie that was on the school supply list. What DOES that thing do, anyway?

That final bell would ring and it was over. I would spend the next two and a half months loaded with sugar and wrinkled from water. My grandparents had a swimming pool and when we weren’t there, we were wearing a hole in my parent’s lawn with a Slip and Slide. Remember those things? Good thing I grew up in the days before everyone went lawsuit happy.

Really? You dove head-first off the station wagon onto a piece of plastic and sprained both your wrists??? Well, you won’t do that again, will ya? Stop crying before I give you something to cry about.

Yeah, NOTHING was childproof. All the playground equipment was heavy-duty industrial steel. And back then little girls actually wore dresses, so the first sucker kid down the slide usually suffered second degree burns down the backs of her thighs. So we would put the water hose on the slide and make our own water park. Between that, the dancing in the sprinkler and the Slip and Slide, I have no idea how my parents didn’t have a $600 water bill. Maybe they did, but it was well worth the money to keep the screaming hoard of wild Indians locked beyond the sliding glass door….which, by the way, was actually LOCKED. When cartoons were over at 8:30? Out the door we went.

Need water? Go lap some off the Slip and Slide. See, like the dog. Just drink upstream from him. Go! Before I put you to work cleaning bathrooms.

Gotta pee? Man used bushes for thousands of years. Just don’t let the Robinsons see you.

The neighbors want to take you to Jewish Camp? Okay, but this time, don’t convert. You cannot have a Bat-mitsvah, and you’re going to Baptist Camp next week. The Lutherans have dibs on you after that.

My brother and I had the COOLEST gym set out back. Nowadays it would be considered an Al Qaeda training facility. It was 20 feet tall, had uneven bars, parallel bars, climbing bars, a rope to climb, and iron rings. It was the glorious centerpiece of the neighborhood. ALL the kids wanted to be at my house playing Red Dawn, also known as Kill the Russians.

Oh, we were politically incorrect back then, too.

Those Russians were always taking Cabbage Patch Kids hostage. We knew they had a plan to brainwash them then reinsert them as Cabbage Patch Sleeper Cells that would kill us in our sleep…

…IF we ever slept. No we stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG. It was SUMMER!

Last night I stayed up until TWO THIRTY! Tonight I’m gonna stay up until FOUR. One day, when I’m bigger, I’m gonna stay up TWENTY ELEVEN HOURS! And when I grow up, I’m gonna have a Trans-Am and NEVER SLEEP EVER!!!!

Okay, yeah. We only stayed up that late when we went to my cousin’s house. They were…teenagers. We did all kinds of things we weren’t supposed to. We put on makeup, watched MTV (back when it actually had music) and watched scary movies and played Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

Eh, she never did show, but that didn’t stop us from nagging her every Friday night.

My cousins are responsible for my current aquaphobia. If it ain’t chlorinated, I ain’t swimming in it. Jaws ruined me for salt water and Friday the 13th pretty much ruined fresh water. But it was okay, they had a pool too….and a DIVING BOARD.

Are those things even still legal to have now? We would spend all day long inventing new dives.

Oh, yeah, well I will raise your Cannon Ball a Bazooka Loaded with Banned Nuclear Warheads. TOP THAT, SUCKAH!

The first six weeks of summer were magic. We’d swim and play and go to Six Flags and stay up late so we could walk to that small wooden health hazard shack that served as a snow cone stand for five months out of the year. We’d play in the streets until the street lamps flickered on and beckoned us home. Then we’d beg our parents to let us at least play in the front yard so we could catch frogs and fireflies.

Ah, but then that six weeks would be over, and we’d have the Seventh Week Itch. In Texas it is so hot by July that everything, including the kids, start to wilt. We were rested and ready for a new school year. Our parents started having to play warden and make us go to bed by nine so we could get our body clocks reset for school.

BED????? But it’s still LIGHT outside!!!!

As adults, what would we give to have three months to just play? Maybe that’s the secret to world peace. Maybe all of us are just stressed out and we need to have time to scream and yell and ride bikes up a ramp made out of a door someone threw away.

Maybe if the U.N. would just get all the world leaders together for the LONGEST SLIP AND SLIDE EVER!!!!! (Just tape all of Dad’s lawn bags to the end until you run out of space on the White House lawn). Maybe if everyone got a chance to play together and run off all the excess energy, maybe then we’d be too tired and happy to be stressed.

I miss summer vacation. How about you? What do you remember? What summer rituals did you have?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Early last week I finally got my unread e-mails down to zero, which of course lasted all of a minute and a half. Yesterday alone I had 200 e-mails. I find myself glued to my phone, checking messages regularly so I can keep a handle on all the information and not get a twitch. I suffer from vacaphobia…fear of vacations. I cannot imagine being unplugged for more than a few hours. I don’t know if I could undig myself.

Yes, I have a problem.

In a way, I love this problem. I get to connect with amazing people like you guys. I mean, let’s face it, ten years ago, I couldn’t have afforded to be friends with most of you. Technology has so many advantages and we live in incredible times. But, sometimes, I think back to when I was a kid and it makes me smile. It seems so alien to remember a time when people couldn’t reach you any time or anywhere, where summer days were quiet and boring but oh so precious. Maybe I play Wonder Woman now, balancing writing and being a Mom…but that seems so far off the Wonder Woman I wanted to be when I was 5. She had a way better uniform. Mine is an apron and a laptop.

My son will experience things I only dreamed of as a kid. But, in a sad way, he will never experience an age of innocence that we so took for granted.

I grew up in Fort Worth, TX. Montgomery Wards was a staple in my childhood and every time I drive down 7th street I see this beautiful building (now fancy high-end condos) that brings back so many memories, namely the toy department. I know I am dating myself, but when I was little the idea of the “mall” was in its infancy.

When I was a kid, we shopped at department stores where, like Vegas, there were no clocks, no windows, but always loads of smiling salespeople to help you part with your money. My little brother and I would dash between racks of clothes and dive into the “core” where we could have our own “clubhouse”….well, until my mother had enough our antics and yanked us out, swatted our butts, then swiftly detoured to Housewares—UGH! The Floor of Death. There were few things that could suck harder for a six-year-old than being banished to the World of Kitchen Appliances and Yard Tools. My mother could spend an entire day—I kid you not—looking at refrigerators. The only thing worse was FABRIC STORES.

Ah, and then there was the waiting room for the Sears Catalogue Department.

Take a number please! I remember sitting for hours in horrible burnt orange chairs playing with the sand in the ashtrays (until Mom caught me). I would peruse the catalogues, making lists of all the crap I wanted for my birthday (Lite Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie Cosmetics Set, Hungry Hungry Hippos Game, Twister {I linked to all the old commercials if you want a flashback :D}).

Meanwhile, my parents waited in line for the clothes they’d ordered for us–turtleneck shirts and orange corduroy pants with reinforced elbow and knees. Über-fashionable.

My father would stand outside chain-smoking while my brother and I took turns checking the candy machines for loose change and petrified pink Chicklets left in the metal dispenser (Hey! I was a kid!). And then they had those “treasures” that came in a plastic bubble. We could buy JEWELRY for a mere .25?! I knew my mother was bad with money in that she could not see the value. She never once gave me two measly quarters to try my luck at landing the gold princess necklace….or a tattoo.

Christmastime was especially magical. Of course every year all the department stores would have a cameo appearance from the Big Guy, himself—Santa. I must have been one of the most annoying children ever in that I never fully bought the whole one guy bringing toys to all the children of the world in 24 hours just out of the goodness of his heart thing.

Me: How old is Santa?

My Dad: No one knows.

Me: How can he visit all the children in the world in 24 hours?

My Dad: Santa is the only thing capable of traveling at light speed.

Me: What’s light speed?

My Dad: The speed Santa travels to give toys to all the children in the world in 24 hours.

Me: How can there be a Santa at Sears, Monkey Wards, and JC Penny’s?

My Dad: They’re clones.

And we wonder why I am warped?

Department stores like Montgomery Wards held so many fine memories, but their age passed and it was time to say good-bye.

There are other businesses like this. Arcades are still around, but not like the old days when we could spend 11 minutes and 43 seconds blowing through our allowance playing Ms. Pac Man or Space Invaders. There were no complex story-lines in these games like today. No, these games accurately reflected life—they got faster and faster and harder and harder until you DIED.

Drive-in movie theaters are pretty much extinct as well. I remember riding in the back of my father’s pickup as we drove down I-30 (no, that wasn’t illegal back then). I always knew we were out of town when I saw the large silver screen nestled in the hills. If it happened to be nightime, we’d be able to catch glimpses of the newest movies. 

I remember falling in love with Burt Reynolds while lying on a quilt spread over the hood of my father’s orange Chevy Ford pick-up (Why was everything orange in the 70s?). Anyway, I knew Burt and I would marry, despite the age difference. I was four and he was older than I could count at the moment using all fingers and toes, but love knew no bounds. 

There was the dancing hot dogs and soda. How can you not love dancing food? There was also a swing set where we could play when we got bored with the movie. You had to walk a half a mile to go pee…but the drive-in was pure magic.

Not a lot of roller rinks anymore, either. Who among you over the age of thirty DIDN’T fall in love at least once while gliding across polished wood under the light of the disco-ball? Stop skate, change directions, and maybe the hokey-pokey, is, in the end, what it’s all about. I still get chills when I hear Summer of ’69 or anything by Journey or Toto.

There was also this Skating Rink Hierarchy. The low guys on the totem pole (me) wore those horrid clunky brown rental skates with orange wheels. And you had to get back in line at least six times to get a pair that fit AND worked AND had shoelaces that were still in tact…well, until your mom had to cut them off you at the end of the night. Oh, but to one day be cool and have white skates with pink wheels and glittery laces like all the high school girls. That would be when I knew I had finally made it.

This is me when I grow up….or not.

We waited all week for Saturday cartoons, and most of us learned basic English skills via Schoolhouse Rock.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?

It was a world where feathered hair ruled and a Trans-Am was the pinnacle of coolness. We all dreamed of one day growing up and owning Firebird, never suspecting that it too, would go extinct, left in the Age of the Department Stores. I am glad I got the chance to grow up in a world still so innocent, where walking to a snow cone stand was the only way to pass time on a summer night. It was quieter, slower, and I miss it dearly.

What are some things you guys miss? I don’t care how young or old, what is some piece of yesteryear that you want to share? Maybe you’ll jog our memories!

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Just so you guys know, the contest results will be delayed. I had all of your names printed off in nice little slips of paper and in a pretty jar…that I managed to knock off the counter late last night.

*bangs head on desk*

So I have to print off all the names again today, or any results wouldn’t be fair. Stay tuned for the winners. Will get that announced soon.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

Montgomery Wards was a staple in my childhood and every time I drove down 7th street in my home town (Fort Worth, TX) I would see this beautiful building that brought back so many memories, namely the toy department. I know I am dating myself, but when I was little the idea of the “mall” was in its infancy. We shopped at department stores where, like Vegas, there were no clocks, no windows, but always loads of smiling salespeople to help you part with your money. My little brother and I would dash between racks of clothes and dive into the “core” where we could have our own “clubhouse”….well, until my mother had enough our antics and yanked us out, swatted our butts, then swiftly detoured to Housewares—UGH! The Floor of Death. There were few things that could suck harder for a six-year-old than being banished to the World of Kitchen Appliances and Yard Tools. My mother could spend an entire day—I kid you not—looking at refrigerators. The only thing worse was FABRIC STORES.

Ah, and then there was the waiting room for the Sears Catalogue Department. Take a number please! I remember sitting for hours in horrible burnt orange chairs playing with the sand in the ashtrays (until Mom caught me). I would peruse the catalogues, making lists of all the crap I wanted for Christmas (Lite Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie Cosmetics Set, Hungry Hungry Hippos Game, Twister {I linked to all the old commercials if you want a flashback :D}). Meanwhile, my parents waited in line for the clothes they’d ordered for us–turtleneck shirts and orange corduroy pants with reinforced elbow and knees. Über-fashionable. My father would stand outside chain-smoking while my brother and I took turns checking the candy machines for loose change and petrified pink Chicklets left in the metal dispenser (Hey! I was a kid!). And then they had those “treasures” that came in a plastic bubble. We could buy JEWELRY for a mere .25?! I knew my mother was bad with money in that she could not see the value. She never once gave me two measly quarters to try my luck at landing the gold princess necklace….or a tattoo.

Christmastime was especially magical. This was back in the age when store-front windows were all the rage. All us kids would have our faces pressed against the cold glass and watch the mechanized puppets and the toy train that wound its way through cotton batting that was supposed to be snow. Every time we went in a store, we’d have to strip off 600 layers of clothes to keep from cooking to death, only to have to put them back on 20 minutes later. And, by the end of the night we would, of course, be missing a glove. Thus, we would have to wear old socks on our hands until mom ordered a new pair….from the JC Penny’s catalogue. It was a vicious cycle.

Of course every year all the department stores would have a cameo appearance from the Big Guy, himself—Santa. I must have been one of the most annoying children ever in that I never fully bought the whole one guy bringing toys to all the children of the world in 24 hours just out of the goodness of his heart thing.

Me: How old is Santa?

My Dad: No one knows.

Me: How can he visit all the children in the world in 24 hours?

My Dad: Santa is the only thing capable of traveling at light speed.

Me: What’s light speed?

My Dad: The speed Santa travels to give toys to all the children in the world in 24 hours.

Me: How can there be a Santa at Sears, Monkey Wards, and JC Penny’s?

My Dad: They’re clones.

And we wonder why I am warped?

Department stores like Montgomery Wards held so many fine memories, but their age passed and it was time to say good-bye.

There are other businesses like this. Arcades are still around, but not like the old days when we could spend 11 minutes and 43 seconds blowing through our allowance playing Ms. Pac Man or Space Invaders. There were no complex story-lines in these games like today. No, these games accurately reflected life—they got faster and faster and harder and harder until you DIED.

Drive-in movie theaters are pretty much extinct as well. I remember falling in love with Burt Reynolds while lying on a quilt spread over the hood of my father’s orange Chevy Ford pick-up (Why was everything orange in the 70s?). Anyway, I knew Burt and I would marry, despite the age difference. I was four and he was older than I could count at the moment using all fingers and toes, but love knew no bounds. There was the dancing hot dogs and soda. How can you not love dancing food? There was also a swing set where we could play when we got bored with the movie. You had to walk a half a mile to go pee…but the drive-in was pure magic.

Not a lot of roller rinks anymore, either. Who among you over the age of thirty DIDN’T fall in love at least once while gliding across polished wood under the light of the disco-ball? Stop skate, change directions, and maybe the hokey-pokey, is, in the end, what it’s all about. I still get chills when I hear Summer of ’69 or anything by Journey or Toto. There was also this Skating Rink Hierarchy. The low guys on the totem pole (me) wore those horrid clunky brown rental skates with orange wheels. And you had to get back in line at least six times to get a pair that fit AND worked AND had shoelaces that were still in tact…well, until your mom had to cut them off you at the end of the night. Oh, but to one day be cool and have white skates with pink wheels and glittery laces like all the high school girls. That would be when I knew I had finally made it.

It was a world where feathered hair ruled and a Trans-Am was the pinnacle of coolness. We all dreamed of one day growing up and owning Firebird, never suspecting that it too, would go extinct, left in the Age of the Department Stores. I am glad I got the chance to grow up in a world still so innocent, where walking to a snow cone stand was the only way to pass time on a summer night. It was quieter, slower, and I miss it dearly.

What are some things you guys miss? I don’t care how young or old, what is some piece of yesteryear that you want to share? Maybe you’ll jog our memories!

I want to hear your comments, and to prove it…

Leave a comment and I will put your name in for a drawing, and you can win an autographed copy of my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I’m going to gather all comments until Halloween and then the winner will be announced November 1st. Trackbacks count as an entry, so you can double your chances to win by leaving a comment and then linking to any of my blogs.

Happy writing!

Until next time…