First things first – are you all familiar with the site I’m Remembering? If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, get ready to waste half your life on this site. You’re welcome!
80 pages of this site put me in a nostalgic mood. Since it is (almost) Halloween, I thought it’d be fun to share some Halloweens of yore with you.
I have a weird memory. I have to write all my action items at work on a list or else I’d forget my responsibilities and get myself fired. But I remember the most random things from my childhood – where I was when I first heard a song playing, or memories that should have been way too early for me to remember. My first memory is from a plane. My parents were changing me in the tiny stall; there was some turbulence, and I remember almost falling.
When I recounted my memory to my mother as an adult, she frowned. “There’s no way you remember that,” she said. “That happened when we moved from Italy to Virginia. That was March 1985. You were only eight months old. You probably just remember us telling you the story.” BUT I REMEMBER IT, MOM.
So that’s my first memory, but since my mother continues to insist there’s no way I can have any recollection of that event, here is my first “official” memory.
This is little Jenny, Halloween 1985. I was fifteen months old. (SEE? I WAS BORN A BLONDE). I wonder whose idea it was to dress me up as the devil? Maybe Dad’s. I love it, especially since it’s a nickname my family gave me after I would get strong laughing fits during Catholic wedding ceremonies (it’s the way the priest would just start singing spontaneously and so earnestly…how is that not funny?)
I don’t remember much of that night, but what I do remember is hiding behind a couch. My sole mission was to sneak up on my dad, who was sitting on another couch. It’s funny, because I can remember my thought process from that time – even though I couldn’t verbalize my intentions, I remembering wanting to remain hidden – it was Operation DON’T LET DADDY SEE ME. I thought I was so sneaky, apparently not even realizing that my mother was snapping away photos of my not-so-covert mission with the Polaroid.
This was the second Halloween I was spending with Patrick, who was not quite two. I was really excited because my kindergarten class was going to wear costumes to class on Halloween and participate in a parade.
So when did I tell my parents that I needed a costume? The day before the parade, naturally. My poor dad had no idea back then that this was just an early warning sign that his oldest child was going to be a big procrastinator.
After a couple of, “Why didn’t you tell us that a week ago, Jennifer Nicole?”s, my dad promised that he would get me a costume. Back then, he used to be a volunteer EMT on his days off, so he promised he would get me a costume while he was on duty that night. I remember going to sleep, excited about what my dad was going to bring me. It was almost like Christmas! Would I be a princess? A Barbie doll? A witch?
When I woke up the next morning, my costume was on the kitchen table. I looked at it. “Super Mario?” I said, frowning. This was not a girl’s costume. My mom said, “That’s what happens when you wait until the night before to tell us that you need a costume.” Then she guilted me by telling me that all the girl’s costumes were gone by the time that my dad went searching for the costumes. He and his EMT partner had gone to several drugstores to look for the costume. This costume had really been the only one he could find, but Mom told me that he had been excited to see my reaction to it. Even at that age, I knew better than to act ungrateful, so I dutifully suited up in my costume. It was your standard red Super Mario uniform with a plastic Mario mask.
It wasn’t until I arrived at school and saw all the princesses and witches and Barbies in my class that I began to appreciate being different. I was the only Super Mario in my class, and I marched in that parade with pride.
Later that night, Dad took Patrick and me trick-or-treating. Hell if I know what Patrick dressed up as (unfortunately, we do not possess photographic evidence of Halloween 1989). Besides being a budding procrastinator, I was already a huge sugar fiend. I ate as much Halloween candy as I could when we got home, then promptly threw up in my Super Mario mask and all over my costume.
We had a little Halloween party in our second grade class. It was your standard fare – Halloween-shaped treats, classroom games that the kids loved and tested the patience of all the adult volunteers.
My teacher took Polaroid photos of the party, and somehow, I was able to get one in my possession (I don’t know how I got it. My second grade teacher was mean and I definitely was not her favorite student). I’m on the far left. My neighbor Emma is on the far right, and Sarah is the unfortunate mummy (you can tell by her expression that she’s having so much fun, right?) I love this picture because it perfectly illustrates how horrendous early 90’s fashion was.
Let’s analyze this outfit, shall we? First, I’m pretty sure those are high tops that I’m wearing, and I see that I’m rocking the horrendous neon colors on my shoelaces that were so popular back then. I’m wearing acid-washed mom jeans with suspenders – why were my jeans so high? Where was the flood? Why am I even wearing suspenders? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS OUTFIT? WHY, MOMMY, WHY?
This year, Mom and Dad thought it would be fun if we stayed home and handed out treats. Rather than spending money on costumes, we rummaged through our parents’ clothes and decided to wear whatever item we liked. (This is probably why I never buy my costumes now). I asked my mom if I could wear my wedding dress, and, here’s how cool my mom is – she had no problem with her hyperactive eight-year-old wearing her wedding dress. It is a gauzy creation from the 80s. I put on some earrings and dubbed myself a princess. (I guess I felt like I had to make up for my tomboy Halloween of ’89.)
My brother decided to be a pirate. My mom tied a bandanna around his head, then pulled out a gold hoop earring. It was completely innocuous – the stereotypical pirates wear one earring on their ears, and I guess my mother wanted my brother to have the complete pirate experience. No one really expected Patrick to flip the eff out. He was not even five years old, but even back then he knew how to stand his ground. He didn’t care if pirates wore earrings; he would not be wearing one tonight, thank you very much. Mom cajoled him, insisting that there was nothing wrong with wearing an earring, that boys can wear earrings. Patrick stubbornly refused.
I’d love to say that Patrick stood his ground and won, a triumph for toddlers. But…I can’t remember who won that argument. And when I asked him tonight, neither could he. “I know we have a picture,” he said. “I’m just not motivated to find it.”
I kind of think my brother would kill me if I posted the picture of us from that Halloween. Actually, what am I saying? If I had the picture on my computer, I would totally post it. But since I don’t, let me describe how we look. I have my arm around Patrick, my mom’s wedding dress worn over a clearly visible Little Mermaid’s shirt. I wear a grin on my face while my chin is tilted at an unnatural angle. (I went through a stage where I posed with my chin tilted upwards, so all pictures from that year make me look like I have an Adam’s apple.) My brother has a hand on his hip, his little chubby face smug as he smirks for the camera. Perhaps he wears an earring in his ear; perhaps he doesn’t.
I’m going to risk sounding forty years older than I actually am, but I’m so grateful to have grown up in the generation that I did. I really feel like mine will be the last to remember how things used to be back then, when computers and cell phones didn’t rule our lives. Halloween was spooky and scary and fun. The Halloween specials (Garfield, Charlie Brown, Tiny Toons) were required viewing. We’d watch them while eating candy and feeling the cozy chill of autumn. We looked forward to watching the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and get terrified (or was it just me?)
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the responsibilities and stresses of being an adult…but sometimes, all you need is a little walk down memory lane to remind yourself to remember what’s important – family, friendship, love, and the cozy anticipation of a spooky holiday.