Saturday, June 27, 2009

That Stuff We Used to Drink at Your Grandmother's House

I overheard that phrase when my daughter was on the telephone the other day. She tends to talk on speaker, in the room with me, so eavesdropping is almost mandatory. In fact, it's not unusual for her friends to ask whether they're on speaker and then address something to me. A couple of days ago, I just caught this reference to "that stuff we used to drink at your grandmother's house" from a girl who moved out of state two years ago. It turned out to be Ovaltine.

It made me smile. I could picture the girls, back in fourth and fifth grade, sitting in my mother's kitchen and drinking chocolate Ovaltine. It was funny that something so universal should be specifically associated in her mind with my mother's house. And I liked that this child, who's had a tough life since she moved away, had such clear memories of those days. But I was also reminded of a conversation with one of my childhood friends.

We were in our early thirties, at the grocery store together, when I spotted Necco wafers and reached back to grab them. She said she'd never had them. "Impossible," I scoffed. "There's no way that you were around my father all those years and never had a Necco wafer." I tried to describe them, to no avail. She'd never seen them, heard of them or tasted them.

Later that afternoon, I cracked open the roll and offered her one. A pink one. No sooner had she popped it into her mouth than her eyes widened. "We used to eat these in the convertible!" Indeed we had, a full three decades earlier, sitting up on the back of the backseat in the years before common sense and seatbelt laws. It wasn't the only conversation we had like that, either. One lazy summer Sunday morning as we contemplated brunch she asked, "Do you know how to make those eggs?"

And I said, "yes". With no elaboration, at least 25 years after we'd last eaten them together--and as far as I could recall, we'd never discussed them before--I knew that she was talking about the fluffy baked omelette with deviled ham inside that my father had made when we were children.

It made me think about the way we're forming memories in all of the little, seemingly meaningless things we do with our children, or that they do themselves. I'm sure that my friend never sat at my parents' table and thought "I'll remember these eggs for the rest of my life." My daughter and her friends just drifted through the days, carefree and taking each moment as it came, like children should. Did they know that the day they tangled themselves up in yarn in the front yard would stick in their minds for years to come? That my daughter would know years later what song they had on repeat the day they sat on lawn chairs on the back patio and read Girl's Life together?

I suspect not. Yet somehow, it's these ordinary pieces that form our lives, our memories, and our relationships. And in a way, that's a relief--because it's easy, as a parent, to get caught up in trying to make memories. It turns out, they take care of themselves while we're just living everyday lives.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Okay, Michael Jackson is a Freak and Everything...

but dead? Seriously? Come on.

It was bad enough when I heard this morning that Farrah Fawcett was dead. I was 10-12 during the Charlie's Angels years, so in my mind she'll always be frozen in time, racing after a bad guy in high heels and a bikini with a gun in her hand and sharing significant looks with other beautiful women.

But Michael Jackson--he wasn't just an icon of our youth: he was young with us. We watched him grow up. We watched him gradually turn white and his nose shrink and change shape. We listened to his music nearly as religiously as we voiced our denials.

33 million people bought Thriller in the initial rush, but no one I ever met in my teen years would admit to having purchased it. A few admitted to owning it, but always with a roll of the eyes--they'd gotten it for Christmas from an aunt or their sister had wanted it or they'd found a copy laying on the street and taken it home just because it seemed a shame.

But lie as we might, Thriller didn't rack up a record 7 top-ten songs because nobody was listening to it--and it isn't still making pop-culture appearances in current movies because everyone cringes when they remember it.

"Rock With You" was the skating song of the early 80s--the one where the lights dimmed and swashes of gold swept across the floor. There are certain teenage boys I can still clearly see gliding around the floor to that song. I sang "Billie Jean" in Pizza Hut the night my best friend got me drunk in high school (though it would be 18 years before I found out there had been vodka in the 7-Up and understood why I'd been singing). And, of course, even those of us who couldn't dance to save our lives could recreate the entire "Thriller" video--and did so at the drop of a hat.

I haven't followed Michael Jackson's career as we've both aged, and I wasn't planning to head out for the new tour. But somehow, he was part of the landscape. The "Thriller" scene in 13 Going on 30 made me smile, just like it did when I'd see a clip of "ABC" and a tiny Jackson with his improbable hair on television. And his death came as a shock--so much of a shock, in fact, that I initially thought it was the opening of one of the many Michael Jackson jokes I've heard over the years.

It's strange how you can feel the absence of someone you weren't paying any attention to.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Burning Question of the Day

Why is the Google Chrome logo red, yellow, blue and green?