Before the Internet: A Childhood Flashback

With all this talk of simplification and minimalism going on in the world right now, I’ve taken some time to sit on my cozy bed, in the dark, listening to only the whirr of the fan, reminiscing on what life was like 20 or so years ago. I was always ready to be a grown up, and though I think being an adult is the perfect age for me, there are a few things I miss about the “olden days” of the 90s. Here are a few of them:

Playing Grocery Store

“BEEP.” That’s the sound my make-believe cash register would make as I pulled a jug of milk smoothly over the “scanner.” I loved playing grocery store, because it gave me the chance to click away at the spare computer keyboard my parents let us play with. I’d make receipts, and write special “codes” on them for returns. My sweet mom let me save empty containers and boxes to keep on my grocery store shelves. Even now, I’ll find myself holding a box of Teddy Grahams in my hand for a few seconds too long, contemplating the joy it might bring Maggie and Ruby, who I’ve sort-of recruited to the cashier position that’s been open for 20 or so years. The sight of play food and kitchens and grocery toys still gets me thinking about our next “sale,” even though the reality of adulthood hits me when I drop $400 real dollars at H-E-B.

Collecting Chicharra Shells

Recently, I plucked a chicharra shell from a solitary tree in my parent’s backyard to show Maggie a relic of my childhood summer nights.

That’s really disgusting, Mom.” -Maggie, 4.5

That’s not exactly how I remember our brown paper lunch bags stuffed to the brim with those tiny, crunchy locust exoskeletons we’d throw in each other’s hair. We thought of them more as a treasure, a prize. Whoever collected the most was the winner (of what, I still don’t know), so we’d scour from backyard to backyard plucking, crunching, and laughing. I still don’t hear the sound of a chicharra chirping without feeling the warmth of a memory.

Playing School

“Excuse me, Johnny, will you please sit still?!” I’d scream at my imaginary class no matter where I was – inside my room or outside on the “playground.” My poor Mom probably wondered a few times if I was insane (WHICH I AM, thank you very much!) when I’d spend the afternoon grading papers, writing frantically on the chalkboard, and pouring over that day’s lesson plans. ONE TIME, my mom volunteered to make copies up at the school, and while in the copy room patiently waiting for her, I snuck a triplicate nurse’s slip into my backpack, and basically won the lottery. We never dreamed of writing on that slip until the moment was absolutely right, when a troupe of cousins came to play. When we finally “sent” that student to the nurse’s office, we slowly, firmly pressed our white-bodied Bic Pen ink on the form, letting our letters glide importantly over the lines and check boxes, one by one. Don’t forget the tacky, huge signature at the bottom that every teacher must sign when doing something as important as this.

Coloring the Day Away

I can close my eyes and SEE the box of used, broken, very loved crayons we had at my Grandma Glen’s house next to a stack of coloring books. There were skinny crayons, fat crayons, sharpened map pencils, and even a few pens in that bucket of gold. I had no idea what stresses and worries anyone around me felt, or even the fact that my Grandma Glen was dying from ovarian cancer, because I was in another world. A waxy, beautiful world where the extent of the world’s sadness was just having to stop coloring.

Fun fact: my favorite color in the box (still!) is Cerulean Blue. Thanks, Crayola.

Stealing My Mama’s Coffee

Didn’t everyone drink the rest of their mom’s coffee while she chatted with her mom on the phone every morning? I found out years later that my mom knew I was drinking her coffee, but let me do it so that she could talk to her mom just a few minutes longer. I get it now, Mom. I totally get it.

Playing Outside Under a Street Light

Despite mutant mosquitos and the fading sun, the neighborhood kid bunch carried on, while our parents sat in the driveway in lawn chairs that looked like colorful seatbelt straps woven together, drinking margaritas, eating chips and queso, and playing board games on card tables. The front doors of our houses would be opened and shut, about 25 times each night, while we decided whose house to create our next mess in. I remember playing hide and seek, and almost peeing my pants a few times. We’d play basketball by the glow of the streetlight until someone scraped their knee and ruined the night.

These are things I know I can’t exactly recreate for my kiddos, but I hope to channel the warmth and energy to them through similar experiences. Even when Maggie says, “Hey, Google. Read me a story” when the night finally ends.