Last summer, I spent five long, lonnnnnnnnngggggggg weeks loitering like a bum on my mom’s couch, 2000 miles away from home. Sounds like fun? Yeah, not so much. It wasn’t my idea to be there. At all. I just got all tangled up in the spider webby, complicated, court-ordered crap involving Wednesday and my ex-in-laws—(or are they called out-laws now? I dunno….)—because I’m Wednesday’s mama and I was ordered to be her rescuer-in-waiting, should things turn sour. Which they did. Duh.
(Yeah, it’s complicated, but don’t worry, I’m not going to delve any further into it.)
While I was stuck out there in Seattle, living out of a suitcase, with nothing to do for over a month but wait for Wednesday to need me, I decided to tackle a hefty task I’ve been meaning to do for roughly twenty years. Remember how I was telling you about my parents’ pitiful photo-organizing skills which resulted in everyone in my entire family (but me!) completely forgetting about a trip we took to California in 1986? (Need a refresher? Click HERE.) Well, I decided enough was enough. Before any more memories could go *POOF!* and disappear like M&M’s near a chocoholic, I decided I would round up all the old family photos I could find, scan them all into my laptop, put them all in chronological order, and piece my childhood back together, picture by picture.
People, this was not easy! And, at times, it was most frightening! Ever stumbled upon a full-on crotch shot of your mom giving birth to your little brother? No? Well, I have! And, frankly, I have never been the same since!
Most of the pictures (including the horrific beaver shot) (*shudder*) were found randomly crammed into cardboard boxes. They weren’t labeled, dated, or in any sort of order whatsoever, just a messy hodgepodge of images spanning the 60’s through the 90’s. Totally overwhelming. And the pictures that did make it into the family photo albums were often even worse! I don’t know what Mom was sniffing while she put the albums together, but absolutely nothing made sense. I found pages mislabeled “Christmas” which featured an obvious Halloween party; and barren pages with no pictures at all; and entire albums that skipped back and forth here and there throughout the years, like Bill and Ted on a time-travelling acid trip.
When I came back to Chicago, I brought the scanned clutter of my past with me on my computer with the intention of putting it all in a nice, pretty, labeled, sense-making order so I could preserve all the memories, say “HA!” to my slacker parents, and so Wednesday could laugh at my 80’s hairstyles and my 70’s pants. *le sigh* But…. It’s been seven months and I’m still trying to sort it all out! It’s been taking some effing serious CSI work, my God. I’ve been scrutinizing haircuts, coats, and shoes; counting candles on birthday cakes; matching up missing teeth in children’s smiles; looking for subtle changes in house décor; and Googling information on toys and books littered in the backgrounds of old photos, all to try to figure out when these hundreds of pictures were taken. It’s been one massive, aggravating, puppy-kicking, pain in the ass—*snarl*—but, of course, I have loved every minute of it.
I guess I underestimated what a gigantic journey it was going to be. When I started, I truly had no clue that I would learn so flipping much about my history and that I would spend so much time twirling around in dizzy circles inside old memories that I haven’t stopped to visit in a long, long time. It sounds like a dumb cheesy cliché (and you know that clichés are the only time that I am NOT pro-cheese), but maybe you need to face where you’ve been to understand where you are going. (I know. Deep, huh?) That’s part of the reason I haven’t been blogging or skipping through Facebook as much lately. I’ve been busy in my past. And I’d like to share some of it with you over the next several posts.
We’ll be lingering in the 70’s around here for a little bit, talking about toys, TV, clothes, books, music, wigs (yes, wigs) and just pretty much what life was like back then, sifting through scattered pictures and misty water-colored mem-ries of the way we were.
Can you dig it? Far out.
My parents grew up, met, and married in London. In the late 1960’s, they moved to the US (first Atlanta, then Seattle) because my dad got a job with Boeing. I was their first baby (and the first person in my family born in America). I popped out into the world in the Summer of 1972. Here’s a picture I found of my mom while she was pregnant with me.
Yeah, you read that right: WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT. Mom looked fabulous, no? I don’t know how she pulled that off, frankly. I know I never managed to squeeze out even a mere millisecond of fabulousness while I was pregnant. Instead, I just galumphed around in over-sized t-shirts, while oozing blubbery, nauseous, crankiness, and looking like Louie Anderson in drag the whole nine months. How most unfair.
Being fabulous when you’re pregnant has a price though, I suppose. After Mom sloshed down drinks at a party five weeks before my due date, I, clearly, took offense at her marinating me in alcohol and I kicked so hard that her water broke. She went into early labor and then magically found herself the surprised mother of a five pound itty bitty preemie who failed the Apgar Test and had to be whisked away to an incubator immediately. Oops.
This was me the day I was born, looking exceptionally pissed off and already plotting my revenge.
It’s a good thing they put me in mittens, so you can’t see the middle finger I’m brandishing there. But anyway….
These days, everyone gasps in horror, of course, when they hear about Mom knocking ‘em back while she was pregnant, but she assures me that it was no big deal at the time because, hey, it was a party and that was the norm in 1972 and it’s what everybody did. I guess life was like that bar scene in Hairspray back then. (“Wow! They’re so glamorous.”) But I’m not complaining; I survived.
Unlike these days when the hospital kicks you out the door 24 hours after giving birth, back then moms and babies got to live it up in the hospital for four whole days before going home. (Again, so unfair.) Once they got me home, Mom and Dad were eager to fatten me up, it seems, because here they are, shoveling baby food in my face while I was trying to sleep.
I seem really perplexed by the whole thing—and rightfully so, I think, because, obviously, I was waaaayyyyyyyy too young to be eating solid food. (Hell, I was a preemie, and I shouldn’t even have been born yet!) But, again, it was the 70’s and there were no rules on… well… anything. After eating? Yep, they gave me a bath. And I was most displeased.
This is me, after being force-fed and dunked in water, further planning out my forthcoming revenge.
(”Well, that settles it. Now I am SO going to be a shit when I’m a teenager. You have no-one to blame but yourselves.”)
But I guess I eventually got the hang of the whole eating thing, because I was as round as a beach ball just a couple of months later.
Mom thinks I’m laughing jovially with her in that shot up there. But I’m pretty sure I’m really laughing at her sagging beehive wig. My mom had a whole collection of bizarre wigs back then. She even had a gray one! (Seriously? Who voluntarily gives themselves gray hair?!?!) She seemed to have a different hair color and hairstyle each and every day of the week. I wonder if I knew it was all the same woman or if I thought I had a whole battalion of mothers coming and going?….
There aren’t really any decent pictures of what my nursery looked like back then, but I know from the bits and pieces in the backgrounds of various pictures that there was a lot of yellow in it and that I had a cute hand-painted wooden Irmi Mother Goose mobile hanging over my crib.
I have vague memories of that mobile. I Googled the heck out of it and found out that Irmi mobiles, lamps, and light switch covers were everywhere in the 70’s. My one played Rock-a-Bye Baby and had cute wooden nursery rhyme characters hanging from it. These days they sell on eBay for about $10 each. Here are some close-up shots of the old, long-gone mobile that I borrowed from eBay and Etsy.
Ahh, the glorious 1970’s! When people put wooden objects the size of grapes in their babies' beds and the term ‘choking hazard’ hadn’t been invented yet. Fifty bucks says that was lead paint too.
I was about five months old when Christmas rolled around. Here I am with my dad (who looked like a young Alan Alda) who gave me a teddy bear.
I still have that bear. He’s a threadbare old man now. Like, literally. These days, he’s dressed like Dumbledore and sitting in my den. See?
Here I am with my bear and the rest of my Christmas presents back in 1972. Mom opted for a black wig that day, but I’m pretty sure that’s the same purple dress as before!
See the little pink doll just beneath the bear? That was my Baby Beans Doll. Baby Beans was made by Mattel in the early 70’s. She had a vinyl face and hands with a floppy, soft body that was stuffed with orange plastic “beans”.
According to family legend, Baby Beans wasn’t with us for long because, one tragic morning, my mom found me sitting in my crib, eating the plastic “beans” that had poured out when I had ripped open Baby Beans’ seams. Whoopsie! Even forty years later, Dad still loves to tell the harrowing tale of the Battle of the Baby Beans. (Apparently, the next several diaper changes were quite beany…. and orange…. and interesting to say the least. Ugh!) Here’s a better picture of Baby Beans that I borrowed from eBay.
These days Baby Beans goes anywhere from $5 to $50 on eBay. $50! Can you believe that? And that’s ONE MORE reason I shouldn’t have eaten those beans!
In the next post, I’ll be telling you what I’ve discovered about 1973—that magical year when I rocked out to the Stylistics, rode a motorcycle, discovered the joy of birthday cake, and taught my grandpa a valuable lesson on when NOT to play horse-y with a baby.