Circling like it’s 1996

IMG_2775

It would appear overnight: rows and rows of paperbacks, “chapter books” and illustrated classics. When the Scholastic Book Fair rolled into my middle school, setting up shop amidst the short stacks in the library, I didn’t even try to act cool. Who can act cool in the face of a veritable literary buffet?

Having some of my parents’ cash in my pocket and the autonomy to choose any book I wanted was intoxicating. I remember obsessing over the flyer sent home, tallying up the costs for stories I wanted to share with Mom and Dad (I always went overboard — imagine). I’d come home clutching a new purchase like Walk Two Moons, an all-time favorite. Then I’d collapse on my grandparents’ couch after school and get lost in another world until dinnertime.

My husband casually dropped the first Scholastic flyer sent home from the kids’ preschool on the kitchen counter with all the other mail and detritus, like it was just another piece of paper.

IMG_2774

I wasn’t ready for the buoyant whoosh of emotion that hit me when I saw it. I’m talking serious, legitimate excitement … I mean, as excited as a frazzled 34-year-old mom with a pinched nerve in her back can get, anyway. I sat down with this thing like it was a particularly juicy bit of gossip I wanted to absorb in great detail.

And absorb I did. I started circling books like it was 1996, y’all. Curious GeorgeLittle Owl’s SnowDinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes! Few stories were safe from my Sharpie.

Never mind that we have stacks and stacks of children’s books already — some I began collecting long before Oliver and Hadley were even born. But as my sister correctly pointed out, the collection we have now features baby-approved or extremely “young” stories. As we get closer to Ollie learning to read himself, I’m investigating the early readers and beyond.

I chose two new stories to add into the bedtime rotation, placing our order online (hello, 2019!). I’m definitely more excited than they could possibly be.

And now, the hardest part … the wait.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas tree


Though I’ve been listening to my Michael Bublé holiday station on Pandora since before Thanksgiving (shh), I’m just now getting into the Christmas spirit. Eh, I guess it’s just been a little whacky around here lately.

And now I look up to discover the holidays are upon us. With our nuptials no longer zapping every ounce of energy from my body, I’m finally open to drinking hot chocolate, digging out beloved Christmas ornaments, lighting evergreen-scented candles and generally basking in the warm glow that is our first holiday season as a married couple. As we put up our Christmas tree on Saturday, I was reminded of all the milestones we have yet to reach — and how exciting it is to be doing these things together.

The holidays have always been celebrated loudly — and proudly — in my family. We put on Hanson’s “Snowed In” as we throw tinsel and set up the Christmas village, lining shelves with artificial snow and hanging our stockings with care. I have such fond memories of Christmas a kid, especially the prep work, and I wanted to extend those traditions to the home I now share with Spence . . . which meant finding my favorite ornaments for our tree.

Though I kept many special ones with my parents, a few bearing personal significance made it to the new digs — including my pink Power Ranger circa 1994, many cupcakes and the wooden cable car Spencer and I picked up in San Francisco on our first big trip together last year. As my mom and dad honeymooned in California on their honeymoon and picked up a very similar ornament in the ’80s, I almost fell over when I saw this little gem at the Cable Car Museum two summers ago.

It seemed like destiny. I had to have it.


IMG_1374

Our cable car, 2012

Mom and Dad's ornament

Mom and Dad’s cable car, 1980


Given how much we like to travel, it’s no surprise that many ornaments come from past vacations — especially London. I have a slew of English ornaments I purchased abroad or bought when I got home to bring back happy memories. And they definitely do . . . like my William and Kate wedding ornament! I picked it up at the Buckingham Palace gift shop (otherwise known as my happy place) in 2011.


IMG_1414

IMG_1381

IMG_1417


Since we don’t have the biggest tree in the world, we had to be selective with what we hung from our noble branches this year. We tried to include a healthy mix of Spencer’s childhood classics, including some porcelain Grinch ornaments, as well as newer additions commemorating our marriage. We made as much as space as we could — especially my favorites from childhood.

I’m big on continuity — and tradition. Keeping old ones, making new ones . . .

And drinking hot chocolate all the while.


IMG_1423

IMG_1369

IMG_1382

IMG_1296

IMG_1387_vintage

IMG_1408_vintage


Cloud-watching

Clouds


I’m a cloud-watcher.

Though I was rarely one to lay on my back in summertime, imagining shapes and patterns in a cloudy sky, I am fascinated by weather — and tend to document anything unusual I see. (This leads to lots of cloud-related chaos on Instagram, but I’m all right with it.)

Growing up, I wanted to be a meteorologist — a passion that persisted until I realized how much math is involved in the science of weather. Long fascinated by hurricanes and tornadoes, I used to sit at my grandparents’ house watching The Weather Channel (or TWC, if you’re cool like me) for hours. As this was the ’90s, I’d track the storms on their primitive radar, listening for the first rumble of a storm and informing family if we could expect nasty winds.

My uncle Jim, one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known, used to pop by to see us at my grandmother’s when we were young — and he wouldn’t get two steps in the door before asking with a cheeky grin, “Megan, what’s the weather this week?”

I always had an answer.

Uncle Jim gave me my first farmer’s almanac, and I carried that tattered paperback around everywhere. It was great supplementary material to my frequent TWC viewings, and I loved “predicting” winter storms when hurricane and tornado season had passed.

Tornadoes were the best.

Being such a cautious worrywart now, it’s funny to think I once fashioned myself a storm chaser. I dreamed of moving out to Oklahoma or Kansas, wandering free in Tornado Alley, and reporting back to headquarters like Helen Hunt in “Twister.” In fact? Helen Hunt was my idol. Spencer and I watched that movie again not long ago, and it was still so awesome.

I went down a different path, obviously — editing and writing and studying Shakespeare. My dreams of meteorology dissolved sometime around high school. But there’s still a little part of me that appreciates and studies and daydreams about the weather . . .

. . . and can’t pass up a good cloud photo.


The things we keep

Taz_shirt


Despite the fact that my closets get cleaned out pretty regularly, you still never know what you’ll find in there.

After picking up my wedding dress, I quickly realized my overflowing childhood bedroom didn’t have space for that ginormous garment bag. As I continue to lose weight (now down 14 lbs.!) and go through my wardrobe, I’m realizing that many of the clothes I once loved have become . . . well, less exciting. And baggy. Or old. I need room for new things, so the old things must be redistributed. On a recent weekday night, I began to pull old stuff from my closet and bag up what I no longer need.

It was pretty therapeutic, actually.

One of my recent finds was that ensemble above: a long, wool nightgown featuring Taz the Tasmanian Devil. My “Looney Tunes” phase, circa 1995, was interesting; I still have the miniature Taz backpack I used to sport. I’m thinking my mom picked this little number up for me one Christmas — and it still had the tags.

As I prepare for the married life, I’m sure I’ll have a few breakdowns — and more “look what I found!” posts. As a twenty-something who still lives at home, I have quite the accumulation of materials. I’ve already purged the old ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys-emblazoned teen magazines, donated bags and bags of old T-shirts and corduroy pants and other ’90s-era fashion choices . . . and generally brought my room up to the 21st century. My space is, for the most part, pretty tidy — but I have a lot of stuff.

Stuff that will soon buddy up with Spencer’s stuff. And our stuff will just . . . throw a big party.

I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve kept and the things I’ve given away — especially now, being confronted with childhood memorabilia all over again. My old Minnie Mouse sleeping bag; a lopsided globe I won after being named champ of the fifth-grade Geography Bee; old trophies and lamps, Hanson shirts and yearbooks. An entire adolescence in one bedroom. My personal history distilled into . . . objects.

And they’re just objects. I’ve watched enough episodes of “Hoarders” to know these things are just things. But I think it’s safe to say that, you know, the items I’ve kept over the course of 27 years must be the ones with real meaning. These are the belongings I have to make room for in the next phase. Amidst all that will change, this is what I must keep.

Maybe not the Taz shirt.

But everything else.


One of the most exciting gifts of all time

Puppy Surprise


Thinking about gifts this week, I remembered one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time: Puppy Surprise, a stuffed animal that kept her “babies” in a belly pouch. Kind of like a kangaroo but, you know, a dog.

My little sister and I were absolutely nuts over these things — and I remember begging for one for months. I probably saw it in a catalog or something. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was desperate in my pleas for the dog family — and probably none too quiet about it. My grandparents always let us open one gift apiece on Christmas Eve, and when we ripped into that colorful paper? There she was: my white dog and her multi-colored pups. Surprise!

As you can see from Kate’s photo above, we. lost. our. minds. And this photo was taken after we actually opened the toys at Gram’s, guys — not even a live-action shot. My sister has always been a cat person, so her kitty variation was a huge hit. I remember being so excited over Puppy Surprise that I woke up multiple times in the night, peeking into the darkness to make sure she was still by my bed.

And then, eh, Santa brought some more stuff — and a merry Christmas was had by all.

But nothing could top that fluffy dog.

I found the photo above when flipping through some old family albums; that gem came from 1992. Though I often pitched a fit as a kid, I’m so glad my mom had us pose for countless photos at all the right moments.

—–

What’s the most exciting gift you remember from childhood — something akin to “A Christmas Story’s” Red Ryder BB gun? Or one of your most memorable holidays?


No one forgets their first love . . .

. . . and mine was Peter Brady.

Listening to Matthew Dicks’ Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend on audio, I’m reminded of all the places I took my own imaginary friend as a kid. In Dicks’ novel, main character Max has a buddy named Budo, his protector and watcher of all things, and I felt like that about my own friend . . . although he was rather familiar-looking to many of us: Peter.

I was probably around 5 when the Brady family came skipping into my life. Spending summers at my grandparents’ house, my sister and I watched nightly re-runs of “The Partridge Family” and “The Brady Bunch” (this was the early ’90s, after all). Having decided I wanted a brother, Peter became his immediate stand-in. As the boys at school and I got older and paid me no mind, Peter was the one who made me feel accepted. He was a little mischievous, much like his character, but he never led me into any trouble.

In Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend, Budo’s protective nature and understanding of Max is written incredibly well — and Budo definitely reminds me of Peter. He’s sweet, kind and supportive, and I can’t help but want to hug Budo for the way he makes Max feel loved. Listeniing to Dicks’ novel, I have to keep reminding myself that Budo isn’t real. He’s a figment of Max’s imagination: the representation of something he deeply craves. But given how human he seems, I can’t process that Budo doesn’t exist.

Or does he?

I’m only on disc three, so we’ll see.

—–

Did you have imaginary friends growing up? How old were you when you “outgrew” them? Do you remember much about them?

 

What you wish you’d known when you were 10

{Mom and me at my fifth grade promotion, 1996}


When I was 10, I was captain of the safety patrols. My hair was thick and tangly, and I wore red Sally Jesse glasses. I had already outgrown much of my wardrobe and was actually borrowing blouses from my tall, pretty mother. I was on the math team, wore multicolored moccasins I picked out from Kmart and was obsessed with tornadoes.

I had a wicked crush on a boy named Matt who was “dating” a pretty curly-haired girl named Andrea, and I fell asleep at night praying he would eventually like me back. Despite my crush-to-end-all-crushes (Jessica Darling-style), I thought kissing a boy would be gross — and couldn’t actually imagine doing such a thing. I had friends who were just about as awkward as I was, and we agreed that kissing was really disgusting.

My fifth-grade teacher realized I liked to write, and she read one of my short stories — “Night Of The Twisters,” title shamelessly ripped off from the Devon Sawa made-for-TV movie of the same name — to the class. Though I was proud of my work, I was embarrassed when Mrs. Smallwood tried to read lines like, “Get away from me, you morian [sic]!” aloud. I’d actually meant “moron,” which was some pret-ty unkind language for a 10-year-old, but we didn’t have spellcheck in 1996. “Morian” it was.

On Monday morning, I got a really interesting call: a local elementary school asked me to be their keynote speaker at a fifth-grade promotion ceremony in June. The event’s theme, “Turning the Page,” dovetails nicely with my job as a newspaper columnist — and the school’s vice principal was actually my second grade teacher (she of the “I’m proud of you” note). Without thinking, I agreed to come and speak — and have already drafting my five-minute speech. I’m a teensy bit nervous.

Despite the fact that I have approximately .4672 ounces of patience in my entire body, I’ve always thought teaching would be a really rewarding profession. (The teachers out there might be cutting me the eye, but I’m sure it is sometimes — right?) In my daydreams, the opportunity to help kids seems awesome. I think about how much my own teachers inspired me, and the chance to encourage other kids at such a tumultuous time could make a difference.

Of course, the story has already been written — and I’m a writer. I wouldn’t — and couldn’t — have it any other way, but I still jumped at the chance to live out my teacher daydream for a few minutes: speaking to today’s youth and encouraging them to be brave, bold and kind.

I know it’s, like, 10 minutes of the kids’ lives — and that much of my own, too. But I remember my fifth grade promotion ceremony like it was yesterday, and I definitely remember all the people who encouraged me to do great things as I grew up.

As the Rod Stewart song I always have stuck in my head goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now . . . when I was younger.” So here’s the question I have for you, friends: given the chance, what advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

Like any commencement speaker, I want to be inspiring, pithy, funny and . . . quick. No one enjoys some long-winded old bag talking endlessly about the “good old days,” and I refuse to go down in flames. Those 10-year-olds are going to be give me a standing ovation.

Unless, you know, I suck.

So please help me not suck.


What advice would you give
your 10-year-old self?