Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The funny thing about being a kid

...is, well, pretty much everything, really. Sometimes, when I think about paying bills and doing boring adult stuff like running errands and getting the car serviced and reading a newspaper that doesn't have comics and being responsible more often than not, it reminds me how sweet we had it when we were kids.

(Plus, I'm way overdue for a new blog post. My youngest brother, aka The Backwards Boy, and I have agreed to update our respective blogs at least once a week and I've thus far done a terrible job holding up my end of the bargain. And those of you who aren't into cooking/reading about how bad I am at DIY projects might enjoy something new for a change).

Ok, back to kid stuff. (I'll see if I can't add some old pictures to this post later, but no promises). Just to get this out of the way, in pretty much the absolute nerdiest way possible, I loved school. Couldn't get enough of it. I loved reading, I loved learning new things and I loved spelling tests (probably because they were a guaranteed A). And to secure my nerd status in middle school, I was in the county spelling bee. Will have to remind myself to tell our future children of what not to do in middle school: namely pursuing activities that shore up nerd status or debuting risky new haircuts like the female bowl cut- though that's a post for another day). Back at the spelling bee, things were going gangbusters for me until I encountered the word "orthographies" and was knocked out. I'd never heard the word before and as a last ditch effort, tried to get all Spellbound on them by asking for things like language of origin and definition-clearly hadn't bothered to learn either so this wasn't exactly very helpful. Now try to imagine how hard the crowd might laugh and how your face might fall when the prompter tells you that the word you're about to misspell means "to spell correctly". Boy, did the crowd eat that up. And I know it's almost 10 years old, but if you didn't see it, do yourself a favor and rent/Netflix Spellbound immediately. One thing I didn't like about elementary school, however, was that I never seemed to be able to get my act together for homework assignments. At around 8 o'clock the night before a book report was due, for example, I'd panic; I hadn't read the book yet and I DEFINITELY hadn't started the project. Cut to me, speed-reading A Wrinkle in Time or Misty of Chincoteague and my mom helping me to sleepily scribble a poster for it at 1:00 am. Hardly ideal.

Another vivid childhood memory-riding to tennis lessons every weekend with my pal Cara. Her parents had a van that, if memory serves, was basically this exact one, called, as I discovered via that link, a Nissan Vanette. The best thing about their van was the fact that at least one of the sliding side doors was broken and would periodically fly open while you were driving, usually at high speeds. So when her parents (or, if you were really lucky, her super cool older high school brothers) picked you up, you immediately threw all of your tennis gear in the back-so it wouldn't fly out if/when the door opened en route and sat poised to use all of your nine year old might to shut the door because, let's be honest, it opened every time. It probably should have been harrowing, but I loved it when the door next to me opened and I sprang into action and held that door closed for dear life the rest of the way there. For much of our time in Ohio, I played at the same tennis facility, Olympic, which put a bubble over its courts to winterize them, something that vexed me to no end. What was the bubble made of? Where did it go in the summer? What was possibly big enough to blow it up? Maybe some things are meant to stay a mystery. There were several coaches there, but two I remember best: Winn (as a kid, it never occurred to me that this might be a nickname, I just assumed his name was Winn because he was a 'winn'er and won lots of matches), who had us hit with nerf balls before we graduated to real ones and used to hold us upside-down over the garbage cans at the net, and Steve, who made us scream "LOW TO HIGH" as we practiced our strokes and gave us posters (Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati were particularly sought after) for hitting the most serves in or squeezing the most balls onto our racquets during pick up. I liked Steve, he was funny and brash and encouraging, but he constantly flirted with the girls in my drill groups (I was young but played with older girls and thought this was something that older girls did. If only I'd paid attention enough to learn some sweet moves. Just going to leave the whole creepiness factor alone).

Outside of tennis (and the one million other activities I was involved in), I spent much of elementary school lobbying to get my ears pierced so that I could wear the dangliest, most glorious earrings imaginable! From the minute I realized that the Pierced Ear Club was something most of my girl classmates-and even some of the boys had already joined (and this happened sometime in kindergarten), I knew I had to get in on it. I cried. I pleaded. I appealed to my parents' sense of not wanting their favorite (and only) daughter to be a social pariah. For the record, this last approach seemed to have no effect. Apparently they didn't care that the only girls who didn't have their ears pierced were the ones who wore long skirts and turtlenecks and spent recess reading books about horses. For hours, I tallied the girls in school who had pierced ears vs. the ones who didn't and reported back to my mom; "Mo-oomm, come on! It's pretty much just me and the weird horse girls!!" (Fortunately, my elementary school was tiny or this really would have cut into my time reading biographies-phew!) Vigilantly, I kept tabs on who had recently gotten her ears pierced and who was "definitely going to in like a week because her parents are really nice and they really want her to get them pierced, she didn't even have to ask them!" Clearly, this didn't work either. One year, sick of my nagging, my mom told me that if I didn't ask about it for a year, she'd relent. (She denies the promise to this day, but she wasn't the one who had so sweetly and patiently x'd off 365 calendar days only to hear, "Well, I know you haven't asked about it in awhile, but I definitely never said that". Beyond infuriating!)

Finally, in fourth grade on my 10th birthday, she let my college-aged babysitter, Mary Kae, take me to Claire's. I picked out "diamond" studs, spent 30 days twisting them while slathering my earlobes with antiseptic and thought my heart would explode with happiness. It was only as an adult I learned that she'd only relented because I'd found a chink in her armor. Though I typically only resorted to lying 'for emergencies only', clearly this was social survival mode; I told the absolutely teensiest white lie that Cara's parents (who shared my parents' views on most things, including ear piercing) had said that she could get her ears pierced. This worked like a charm. Not so much of a charm that my mother actually agreed to take me, but well enough that Mary Kae was allowed to accompany me (since you needed someone over 18 to give permission). It bears mentioning that Mary Kae, who I practically idolized for her permed hair (another on-going battle which I ultimately lost) and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, had a boyfriend named Donnie at the height of NKOTB popularity. And I thought that earrings like these (in nearly every store at the time) would be the perfect gift for her. Things really came full circle when, nearly 15 years later, I took my mom to Claire's for her very first ear piercing, thus ending her long run of unclipping one earring to talk on the phone and forgetting where she'd left it. Even now, like some sort of raccoon or kitten, I'm continually drawn to the dangliest, most glorious earrings imaginable. Feathers? Hoops? Shiny ones? Oui, oui.

Among other things I wanted like burning as a kid: to learn double dutch, a Skip It (remember those?) and cable tv. What was on your kid wish list and how hard did you have to work your parents to get it?

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