Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 20: Childhood Memories

Oh yes, that beautiful little munchkin in the photo is me.  And today's topic couldn't be any more fitting for the day I'm about to have.

Today, I'm supposed to share some childhood memories.  Which is fitting, because this week is spirit week at school and today's theme just happens to be 80's flashback.  Which was when I was born and was a child.  Perfecto!

I was born in 1982, so while people were rocking their neon mini skirts, leg warmers, and side pony tails - I was wearing cute little numbers like the plaid dress pictured.  Not really.  Well, kinda.  I still got to rock some side ponies and wear my share of neon.  I just missed out on the crazy make-up, stiletto heels with leg warmers, and Madonna-ish lace corsets.  Oh darn!

My most dominant memory of the 80's was making my first trip to America.  Remember, I still lived in England.  Moving to America wasn't even a thought in my parent's brain during the 80's.

Every couple of years, my grandparents would make a trip to Pennsylvania to visit with friends of theirs.  I would remember when they would go, and how much I would miss them.  Then, one year, when I was 8 - so technically 1990, but close enough - my grandparents asked my mom if they could take me with them to Pennsylvania.

It was the coolest thing I'd ever done.  At the time, I looked like this...

It was my first time on an airplane.  And probably the coolest vacation I've ever taken in my life.  For three weeks, I got to explore the mountains of Pennsylvania, see my first Amish village, visit Atlantic City and the ocean, and eat so much buffet food that I porked up about 20lbs on that trip.

During that trip, I would get my hands on a prized and coveted 80's possession.  A pair of Neon L.A. Gear, with 4 neon laces per shoe.  Oh, how I had wanted a pair of those for AGES.  And finally, I was able to buy a pair WAY cheaper in America than in England.  I wore those things until my toes came out of the ends of them.

If I think back earlier in my childhood, I have blips of stuff that happened.

I remember when I was really young.  Probably around 4, because my brothers were around 3 and 1.  We lived in a tower apartment block on the 8th floor.  It was a slummish type place where the elevators smelled like pee and there was trash just about everywhere the eye could see.

One morning, I decided I wanted to break out of our apartment and take my brothers on a little outing.  I yanked my younger brother in to his stroller, grabbed my stool that I used for going to the bathroom and brushing my teeth, ordered my other brother to come with me...and out we went.

I used the stool to work the elevator.  I pushed my brother's stroller.  And we made it all the way down to the small stores located across the concourse of the apartment complex before someone paid attention that a 4 year old was by herself with two smaller children.

And you want to know the worst part?  When I was discovered, nobody called the police or held me until my parents were contacted.  I was told to go straight home.  By the guy who discovered me.  Just go on home, little girl...all by yourself with your two younger brothers.  So, I did.

When I got home, my parents were still sleeping soundly.  I didn't shut the front door when I left - smart, wasn't I?  And I didn't shut the door when I got home... because the noise would wake my parents.  What happened when my parents woke up is a blur.  I remember my mom discovering that the front door was open and that the stroller had been moved.  But, what happened after...whether I was beaten within an inch of my life or it was just played off as a weird phenomenon I don't know.

Another huge memory from my childhood was, of course, moving from England to America.  I was 12.  It was 1994.  I looked like this...

Beautiful little thing, wasn't I?  And slender!!  Ah, what I'd give to have that frame to my face now.  This picture was taken not long before everything was packed and we were jetting off across the world for our new home destination.

At this point, before leaving, I was excited.  I hated the thought of leaving my family and friends behind, but I thought I was moving to the coolest place in the entire world.  I'd watched enough Saved by the Bell and Fresh Prince and other American teen shows to think that America was AWESOME!  I thought of golden coasts and fancy cars and big houses.  I thought all of America was either like California, New York, or Pennsylvania.

Little did I know that there was a place right in the middle of the country that spouted none of the appeal that California, New York, or Pennsylvania had.  That would be Oklahoma.  It was just fields, and cows, and old houses.  The first thought I remember when taking the first ride through the town that was going to be my home...the night we arrived... was "Oh my goodness!  I'm going to be living in a Freddy Kruger movie!"  The streets were dark.  The high school looked like a haunted, run down mansion.  And the streets were lined with little shacks that were passed as houses.

I remember waking up the next morning and just wanting to go home.  That America was nothing like I had pictured.  The people wore big cowboy hats and cowboy boots and said "ya'll" all the time...whatever the heck that meant.  They chewed tobacco.  You had to drive 40 minutes to the closest thing that resembled a city.  I really thought my life was destroyed.  I wanted nothing more than to be packed back up on an airplane and sent home to the busy streets, houses jammed right next to each other, a place where I could walk or ride my bike to my friends' houses or the stores or the market.  And I could get on a bus to go to the city with my grandmother.  And a place where people didn't make fun of me because of how I spoke or how I dressed.

It took some time, but eventually I learned to fit in.  I forced myself to lose the accent that caused me so much attention and grief.  It's amazing how mean kids can be when an outsider moves in to town.  I regret that, now... but it's how I coped.

Now, of course, I wouldn't move back to England if someone paid me.  I love my life here.  I'm glad that I moved out of the town that caused me so much original misery... even though I eventually made some amazing friends and enjoyed my high school years...and I discovered there were some amazing people and amazing towns not so far away.

All in all, I had a pretty amazing and exciting childhood.  I'm glad that I still remember so much about it.  The good and the bad.

And on days like today, I get to relive a little of that past by dressing up in funny clothes, fixing my hair in a funny way... and just having a good time.  Which is exactly what I'm going to do.


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