The Harsh Truth of the Past

I am a sentimental, nostalgic person. I have every Hallmark card my husband gave me over the past 24 years, all of the homemade cards and gifts my children made for me in nursery and elementary school, their first written words, pictures, early spelling tests and photos. These days, memories are saved on computers and phones, but for much of my life, photos were printed and held in boxes or albums. And I have plenty of each. A snapshot from every phase of my married life and of my children’s lives.

Each of my sons has a full bin of infant and child memorabilia awaiting them for when they embark on a life outside of our home. Through the years, I’ve saved items I thought they might love to have one day: things I thought important to them at the time, including but not limited to: baby books (each have two, completely filled), plush toys and teddy bears, favorite t-shirts, bibs, pictures and more. They’re going to want this stuff. I just know it.

Wonderful, right?

Wait for it.

My mother likes to tell a story of how I loved a doll so much, I carried the head around even after it separated from the body. That’s right. I carried a doll’s head under my arm. Under the other arm, I carried my bottle. In my mouth, a pacifier.

She tells it with a wistful smile, basking in the memory of my cuteness. I don’t remember this doll at all, but I can recite the story back word for word, it’s so ingrained in me. It’s a piece of my past.

Recently Mom found a box of my childhood memorabilia in her attic and brought it over. Excited, I foraged through it but was quickly disenchanted when I uncovered what waited for me. Inside I found all sorts of pieces I didn’t recognize including these corrective shoes for my severe pigeon-toed problem which, thanks to selective memory, my brain blocked out.

FullSizeRender

I wore this barbaric apparatus

I pulled out old report cards (note to self: hide from boys), school pictures illustrating questionable fashion sense and bad hair. (A perm, Kim, really?), and yes, the infamous, beloved, body-less doll.

This is no longer a sweet story but a creepy glimpse into my neurosis. I took the dismembered head and body out of the box and my children, 17 & 15, recoiled. I think my husband crossed himself but I can’t be sure. I was so totally focused on this horrific display into my past.

 Issues? Who me?

Staring at this disturbing time capsule, I came to the conclusion that some things are better left to the merciful mind, where time and self-preservation nestle reality within soft, rose-colored memories.

I placed the doll back into the box, along with the metal-barred shoes, the lackluster grades, the photo of me wearing a quilted shirt and frizzy hair, and replaced the cover (tightly). This box has a new home in my basement, in a dark corner, under thick cobwebs and hardened paint cans.

Maybe I’ll re-visit the boys’ bins.

Years from now, I’m sure I’ll look back on this new discovery with fondness.

 

 

That Was Us…Then

I am a big fan of This Is Us, the new heartwarming drama on NBC. The show, still in its first season, is about the family lives of several people who share the same birthday. It’s told in a time-hopping fashion, jumping from the 1980’s to present day. Rebecca and Jack (played flawlessly, in my opinion, by Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) are a young couple raising a family in the 80’s and the story of fraternal twins and an adopted brother continues in 2016.

I think one of the reasons I love it so much, in addition to the endearing characters and humorous, emotional storylines, is that the part of the show that takes place in the 1980’s reminds me of times that I loved and miss.

This past Tuesday, the entire episode took place in 1980. It was Jack’s birthday and his wife, Rebecca was extremely pregnant with triplets. My son happened to be in the den with me, working on his laptop as I watched a scene where the couple was upstairs in their new home when their telephone rang. Jack ran downstairs to answer it in the kitchen.

I turned to my son, who was watching.

“Back then, phones were attached to walls,” I told him. “You could walk only as far as the length of the cord. It was not smart. It had one sole purpose.”

He kept watching.

“You had no idea who was calling until you answered and if someone called the house while you were on the phone, they got a busy signal and hung up. You missed the call.”

He looked at me.

“I know,” I said. “Barbaric.”

It was a beautiful episode, it always is, with poignant sides stories involving the delivering doctor and a policeman, but I won’t give too much away. The hour culminated with the birth of the babies, the euphoria and  devastation that Rebecca and Jack experienced.

The final scene showed Jack, Rebecca and their children, at ten years old, watching home movies of the day they were born.

“We used to watch home movies exactly like that,” I told my son who had returned to his laptop. “The films had no sound, you know.” He brought his attention back to the TV to see what I was rambling about. I smiled to myself remembering how my brother and I watched the choppy, silent snippets of our lives while our parents tried to fill in the details. When the screen turned white and the spool let go in a clattered release, we rushed my father, in our delicious anticipation to see more, as he struggled to set up the next film. On and on we’d go until the last reel was wound.

Good times.

“You know,” I continued, “in the ’80’s, when we took pictures with a camera we had to wait for days to get the film developed. Yep, three days to find out your head was cut off or your eyes were closed.”

My son leaned forward and closed his laptop. “I don’t understand,” he said, pointing to the TV. “Who are the kids watching the home movies?”

“Those are the children that were born in the previous scene.”

“Who are the adults they keep showing on the coming attractions for next week?”

I explained. Then added: “The story takes place in 2016 with flashbacks to the 80’s so the viewer gets a full picture of the relationships between all of these people.”

He thought about it. “Good show,” he said. “I have to do some research.” Then he stood, holding his laptop and left the room.

Yes, it is.

Emotionally depleted, as I usually am on Tuesday nights, I pulled myself from the couch. “Hey Zach! Let me tell you about Encyclopedias…”