What Your Childhood Halloween Costumes Said About You

In celebration of Halloween, we’re pulling this one out of our archives. It’s all in good fun – your childhood costumes meant NOTHING – but it sure is fun to look back at the best afternoon party of the whole school year.

Your childhood never really leaves you. As we discussed in What Your School Portrait Backdrop Said About You, the choices that you – and your parents – made in your early years say a lot about who you were then, and who you were likely to become. This is never so true as with Halloween costumes. What you wore on October 31 really laid it all out there – your finances, interests, skills and beliefs.

The Super Deluxe Tier at Party City

This is either called Georgia Peach or Disgruntled Bridesmaid.

Remember when those Halloween costume mailers would start coming with the Sunday paper?  The company used vague category names so nobody’s feelings got hurt – but kids aren’t dumb. The “quality” costumes were for normals, and “super deluxe” costumes were for rich kids. Scarlett O’Hara, Southern Belle, Pretty Witch – these costumes were the best.

If you wore one of these, you probably came from a family with disposable income or were an only child. But there’s also a chance that your non-crafty parents felt bad they couldn’t make your costume, so they only bought you the best. Or maybe you were just really into Vivien Leigh. Either way, you probably knew that some of your friends were shopping in the Quality tier, but you didn’t let that stop you from going for what you really wanted. You had money, and you had ambition, and you were raised to believe that you deserve the good costume. None of those are bad things.

Elaborate Hand-Sewn Costumes

These costumes really meant you had it all — a high costume budget, a parent with advanced sewing skills, creativity somewhere in your family line, and a parent with enough time to devote to making it. In my day, big plush M & M costumes were in vogue. In fourth grade, one girl was a Queen of Hearts – she was not only dressed as a queen but her face was somehow embedded in a big playing card. One kid was Mini Me from Austin Powers, with a metallic jumpsuit and bald cap. If my awed tone 20 years later didn’t tip you off, these kids were pretty damn enviable. Money, imagination, and a quality family situation – these kids were on the road to success.

Low-Budget Costume You Made Yourself (usually with thrift store involvement)

Faces covered to protect the innocent. I’m the tiny apprehensive one.

As a person whose childhood costumes all came from Goodwill, household items and borrowed clothing, this is me. One thing that cobbled costume kids have in common is a sense of silliness and imagination. How about the year my whole family dressed as a six-pack of Diet Coke? Or in sixth grade, when I created an over-the-top Marge Simpson costume complete with a two-foot-tall hairpiece? My mom even got in on the action in a sort of Andy Kaufman-esque way. She was a teacher and would dress up as Mrs. O’Brien, an elderly ‘substitute’, every year. She had a voice, mannerisms, everything. A good subset of the kids could never figure out if it was really her. The kids who did know were sworn to secrecy for the next year.

It hasn’t stopped. A few years ago I dismembered a cheap baby doll to become Junice from SNL. The year before, I mined a Goodwill to become Clarissa Darling. A while ago, I took my nephew to Salvation Army, where we pieced together a curly-mustached villain from a 1920s silent film. We didn’t break character for hours. Cobbled costume kids: we may not have had the most money or skill in our corner, but we worked hard and weren’t afraid to look goofy.

Dollar Store Costumes

Not even Joanie loves Chachi enough to wear this mess.

Oh, you poor dears. You didn’t have a costume budget, you didn’t have time or inclination to make something, and nobody in your family could sew.  These were the costumes that had a cheap, hot mask was secured with one of those white elastic strings that you find on birthday hats, and it always broke. The worst part was the plastic smock that came with these. It was a tunic that was about the same consistency as a plastic grocery bag and – most offensive of all – it usually had the name of the character on it. Come ON. Spider-man doesn’t walk around wearing a shirt that says spider-man. Holly Hobby doesn’t wear a shirt that says Holly Hobby.  Dollar Store Costume Kids had some good qualities, though. They had to be content with what they had, and appreciate the joy that even a low-budget costume could bring.  I bet most of these kids are non-materialistic, well-adjusted adults now.

Half-Assed “Scary” Costumes

You all were playing lip service to the spooky part of Halloween. You know who you are – the boy with the cheap nylon vampire cape and a single streak of red lipstick as “blood.” The girl with the regular black dress and the witch’s hat. The zombie who was just wearing normal clothes with a latex mask. You don’t shun the crowd – you dressed up, after all – but you don’t get all swept up in it either. These days, you use your trusty Nokia and shake your head at the folks waiting for the new iPhone.  When your friends reminisce about stupid trends they followed, you laugh with them – but you are secure in your knowledge that nothing about you has been so over-the-top that you’re embarrassed later.

Legit Scary Costumes

Sometimes a kid would come in looking so creepy that even though you knew who it was, you were still skeeved out by them. These guys had the same creativity as the Goodwill costume kids, but with the budget of the Party City Deluxe Crowd or the skill of the Elaborate Hand-Sewn kids. But they had something else that set them apart — a sadistic joy in creeping out other people. These kids had to be innovative, but they also had to know how to read people in order to know what would sketch people out the most. They took an idea and really ran with it.

Superheroes Or Disney Princesses

You were maybe guilty of a little hero-worship, but you were drawn to charismatic characters and you emulated them. That’s not all bad, and can serve you well in your adult life.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Did you get your Batman costume from the Dollar Store? Did your parents buy the Super Deluxe Jasmine? Your childhood interest in popular characters is only part of the story – you have to look at what KIND of superhero or princess costume you had. It’s like when you’re born at the cusp of two Zodiac signs – you will have traits from both categories.

Occupation Costumes

well this is adorable.

These can be a tough sell with kids: it’s Halloween, not a Social Studies unit on community helpers, right? But kids who went in for these are probably the ones who had researched colleges by Sophomore year of high school, never changed their major, and update their five-year plan every six months. The closest I came to this was one (non-Halloween) day in fifth grade, when my friend and I decided to dress like teachers, with turtlenecks, thick tights, and embroidered vests. I get the appeal — when you’re not a grown-up yet, it’s fun to play at it. Plus, if you actually dressed up as something you became as an adult, that’s adorable.


A Fall-Themed Outfit Instead Of A Costume

Your parents were the reason the school had to change it from a Halloween Party to a “Harvest Celebration.” Your very presence – and the letter your parents sent the school board – reminded us that not everyone celebrates Halloween.  If you were a kid whose parents didn’t believe in Halloween, but you wanted to dress up and trick-or-treat really badly, you probably learned how to do without and then asserted the heck out of your independence once you were 18. If you agreed with your parents, I have to commend a kid who sits out of something that all of your friends are excited about because you think it’s wrong. So, I kind of hate to be the one to tell you this, but Halloween is the coolest. I think you always suspected that, though.


It’s 1996: Let’s All Decorate Our Childhood Bedrooms!

In this Let’s All Decorate, we’re taking it back to 1996 – one of the summers that stands out sharpest in my memory, although I’m not sure why. The Olympics were on TV and I was obsessed with the entire U.S. Gymnastics team and their flat snappy hair clips. My brothers and I knocked a pint of wall primer onto the hall carpet imitating old people at a wedding dancing the Macarena. I spent my days at acting camp, falling hard for improv. Mitzi, my beloved, gentle mutt, slipped out of the front gate and was never seen again. My mission in life was to be the kind of person who owned a bra, and by fall I had one (I concede that it was, and is, completely unnecessary).  Inspired by the summer’s hit film Harriet The Spy, I took to observing my inner-city neighbors and writing down their activities in a notebook … for about two weeks, when I forgot. There were kind of a lot of drug deals, to be honest. And with my older sister about to head off to her first year of college, we were all shuffling bedrooms.

Nothing says “child of privilege” more than getting your very own bedroom, and being given permission to pick out a new bedspread, wallpaper, and accessories. I took the mission very seriously for an almost-10-year-old: I went antiquing. However, most of my planning consisted of flipping through the giant fall Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs and dreaming about the perfectly coordinated tween bedroom.

A Stupid Comforter

THIS EXACT SET. Yes. The back had pink dots and teal bows.

Now, as an almost-fifth-grader, I wasn’t going in for licensed character merchandise anymore. But there was a comforter set for any tv show, movie, or hobby you were into. In my previous bedroom I had Minnie Mouse because my mom predicted that I’d only be into Beauty and the Beast for a year of so (so instead I got a character I was never into ever).

Here, you like unicorns? Of course you do. Enough to sleep under them? Hell yes:

Sports? I don’t get it, but sure, why not:

Maybe you’re just generically the kind of kid who likes to listen to music and eat ice cream, probably? (AKA the “your dad’s new girlfriend helped decorate a room in his new townhouse and things are okay, but sort of weird” set)

Curtains That Match The Comforter A Little TOO Well

I have to go put my head between my knees for a sec. Yikes. That’s a sick Mrs. Potts on the bedside table, though. Also: canopy beds. YES. Yes. Like sleeping in your own secret tent/fort every night.

But did anyone have parents who bought the whole curtain/rug/bedding set? Because my mom was always  like “come on, Moll, you can have the comforter but I’m just getting white curtains from K-Mart.” Unlike this nerd (who is probs really great at Carmen Sandiego):

A Bed That’s Trying To Be Something Else

Today my bed is just trying to be a bed. Well, I made the headboard out of an 1800s barn door, so I guess it’s trying to be that, but it’s mostly just a bed. But in 1996, your bed could be anything! It could be a race car, a doll house, or – as I had c. 1999 – a bookcase. I don’t know why beds couldn’t just be themselves but it was sort of a weird time socio-culturally.

Like, look at this lucky freaking kid. You just know that in 2015 she’s one of those girls who has a ridiculously lucrative job doing something vague in marketing and who actually enjoys bridal and baby showers, because her life has been blessed from day one:

By the way, I slept in my nephew’s race car bed last year and it was just like a tiny, awful bed with static electricity on the sides.

A Desk You’ll Never Use

Yeah, you’ll never use that desk. You do your homework at the dining room table.

Above is Abbi Jacobson’s childhood desk, and who knows, maybe she DID use it. Maybe that’s how she became who she is today, by being the kind of person who actually uses her desk.

A Regrettable Chair

Hey, former 90s kid, current adult person! How’s your back feeling? Not awesome? Yeah, that’s because we sat on bean bags and, like, pool toys. The inflatable chair was more late 90s and the bean bag was more early-mid, if memory serves.

Fun fact: my cat used my inflatable chair as a litter box (as it should be, honestly) and then my dad sloshed cat pee everywhere getting it downstairs. So not worth $21.99 from the Delia*s catalog.

A Shelf For Your Treasures and Collections (AKA Beanie Babies and Creepy Porcelain Dolls)

In the 90s, children and old ladies alike were really into collecting useless things. I actually still have a mix of mine and my grandma’s 90s porcelain doll collections in boxes in my attic that I won’t open because they’ll probably start haunting me. Like Kirsten Dunst, pictured above, you probably used your shelves to “express your personality” and stash your Dottie the Dalmation and World Book collection, plus maybe a Sand Art creation or two.

Maybe A Rug That Looked Like A Road?

As far as I was concerned, these were strictly for rich kids and dentist waiting rooms.

Where Are They Now: Every Kid From Your Second Grade Class

My oldest nephews, who were born in February 2007, finished second grade this week. That is absolutely astonishing to me. It’s hard to grasp that people who didn’t exist until 2007 can walk and talk, let alone read chapter books and multiply two-digit numbers.

Looking at these big kids (up to my shoulders!), I’m reminded of the Up Series.  In the early ’60s, British filmmakers interviewed seven-year-olds from different backgrounds and social classes. The premise: “to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.” They were testing the Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” The filmmakers have followed up with the participants every seven years; they are now approaching 60 years old.

There are other Up series filmed throughout the world. The first installment of the American version was released in 1991, so when I watch it I’m seeing kids grow up in the same time I did. The really amazing thing is that in many cases, the child at seven does tell you a lot about the adult they’ll become.

So how about those kids we all seemed to have in our second grade classes? Do you think we can accurately predict where they are now? Maybe not – but it’s fun to try.

The Nose Picker

Also known as the Gross Kid. As a child, I lived in fear that I was the Gross Kid even though I was hygienic. And as an adult, I sometimes still feel like a grown-up version of the Gross Kid.

But you know who doesn’t feel like that? The actual grown-up version of the Gross Kid. Because the hallmark of the Nose Picker/ Gross Kid/ Smelly Kid was that they were utterly oblivious to their own filth. This kid has not become an appealing adult. He has become that guy at your office with the rumpled shirt who is always faintly smelly, or the sticky guy who you hope doesn’t chose the elliptical next to you. She’s that person whose apartment may be surface-clean, but the sink always has a layer of grime.

If the Nose Picker was an unappealing kid because his parents just didn’t care, though, not because the kid was oblivious, then he is probably very tidy and fastidious now.

The Dinosaur Kid

How about that one child who knew everything about dinosaurs (or fighter jets, or bugs, etc)? Chances are this kid is the expert in some super-specific field, but has left the dino t-shirts behind. But if you go see Jurassic World with a former Dinosaur Kid this summer, be prepared for a tirade on the inaccurate skin folds of the velociraptors, because once you amass that much knowledge about a subject it doesn’t go away, it just gets locked up for a while.

That One Kid Who Showed Up Halfway Through The Year

Remember how one kid would show up halfway through the year, introduced by the principal, and then they’d be gone at the start of the next school year? That kid made friends fast – in part because everyone was so taken with the novelty of an unfamiliar kid, and in part because if you switched schools a lot, you sort of had to know how to make friends quickly. So it would come as no surprise that That One Kid Who Showed Up Halfway Through The Year is now a person who instantly gets involved in a new workplace or neighborhood.

The Kid With The Healthy Lunches

Well, they’re probably thin, but good God, at what cost?

Actually, I take that back. The kid with the aggressively healthy lunches raided his friends’ Dunkaroos and Pop Tart Bites every time he went over to to play – I should know, my friend had the good junk food and I did the same. By high school, they probably developed a Claudia Kishi complex and snuck unhealthy snacks. This kid is now an adult who buys lunch from a vending machine at work.

The Kid With The Good Lunches

You know how some children were destined to a life of Lunchables and Handi-Snacks when your lot in life was bologna sandwiches and lukewarm yogurt? Those Good Lunch Kids had 20 minutes of joy in the middle of every school day. I like to think they still create happiness with little things, like as adults they have a living room with one really unexpected piece of art, or they’ll wear a normal weekend outfit with a punchy pair of shoes.

Or, childhood Type II diabetes. One of those.

The Kid With The Statement Piece

It always seemed cool when a child had one thing they always had with them. Think Harriet the Spy with the tomato sandwiches. Or the boy with the purple socks, also from Harriet The Spy. Or Punky Brewster’s mismatched shoes, or Blossom’s hats. By now, this person has outgrown their statement piece. The boy who always wore suspenders is not still wearing suspenders. But they still like to get noticed right away, so look for a gregarious personality or some chunky jewelry. In second grade, the kid with the statement piece knew his own mind, so now they’re adults who have to have their house, car and workspace just the way they want it.

These are the people who have customized license plates.

Dress Girl

I went to Catholic school, where every girl was Dress Girl. However, I still knew some of those girls who even in their free time insisted on wearing dresses. All dresses, only dresses, every day. Sometimes it was a religious thing but usually it was just a preference. Dress girl is not someone who works in fashion. Dress girl just chilled out at some point and realized that pants are useful for things like exercising, or windy days. But she’s mostly just someone who wears a lot of dresses, still. Sorry.

That Kid With A Ton Of Siblings

Your eyes don’t deceive you, that’s Jamal Lyon and Jess Merriweather in the best show nobody seems to remember.

If the Kid With A Ton Of Siblings was the oldest – or one of the oldest – in their giant family, there’s an excellent chance that this person is now an Adult With No Children, enjoying the blissful sounds of silence and sharing their wardrobe with nobody. In the immortal words of Kevin McAllister, when these kids grow up and get married, they’re living alone.

The Two Kids Who Look Alike But ARE NOT SIBLINGS

They never talked to each other again. But one has a spouse who looks like them. When they have kids, nobody can say “he looks just like his dad” or “that’s his mom’s nose!” Instead it’s like “yeah… that’s the only face those two faces could have created.”

Any other ginger kids out there? Then you know the very real struggle of being asked if you’re twins if there’s another random ginger in the class.

The “Half Hour Of PBS” Kid

Often a crossover with the Healthy Lunch Kid, remember that one kid who was allowed a single half-hour of public television once a week? Yeah, she spent a lot of time playing outdoors, developing an imagination, and getting acquainted with her local library, but she never knew what the heck was going on on TGIF. And like the Healthy Lunch Kid, this child binged on SNICK and Tiny Toons as soon as a play date began.

This could have gone one of two ways. Either this kid is now a TV blogger, or she’s one of those people who manages to drop the fact that she doesn’t own a TV into every conversation, relevant or not.

He Had A Rat Tail

He doesn’t, now.

The Kid God Forgot To Color In

Me, ’90s, skiing cow sweater, you’re welcome internet.

Oh, bless. That kid with pasty skin and pink-rimmed eyes is now an adult with slightly less pasty skin. For some reason, this child eventually ended up allergic to everything, as well. The quote from Community comes to mind – it’s like God spilled a person. The pasty child is now a grownup who doesn’t leave home without sunscreen, Zyrtec, eye drops, an inhaler, and maybe an epipen. And tissues, because for some reason frequent nosebleeds go along with this whole setup.

And yes, this kid is me. Now excuse me as I fish my flonase out of my purse.

The Girl Who Knows Everything

Nobody in the world knows more than a seven-year-old girl. Especially THIS seven-year-old girl. Unfortunately, knowing everything is not the best way to ingratiate yourself with your peers.

The Girl Who Knows Everything probably forgot that she knows everything for a few years there – junior high or high school – but her Hermione Granger tendencies won out and now she’s in an upper-level position in the Ministry of Magic got a pretty good job.

The Kid Who Wants Everyone To think He’s Rich

God bless typecasting. I feel like our child-selves should have been friends.

What’s more insufferable than a rich kid? A kid who wants everyone to KNOW that he’s a rich kid. This is the girl who told everyone that she got her Halloween costume from the deluxe tier, or the boy who referred to his pool as an “olympic-sized swimming pool.” I’m not saying that this kid is rich now, but they probably have a subprime mortgage on a flashy McMansion and lease a nice car that’s beyond their means to own.

Characters From My Inner-City Childhood

For some reason or another, I grew up in the inner city.  Long before I was born, my parents bought a house in a neighborhood of elderly Italian people. This makes sense: they were only about 4 years out of law school and grad school at the time, and it was inexpensive. Other young families had the same idea, so your main demographics were crazy-old people and families with kids. Except for the octogenarians, it looked like Sesame Street, all happy and diverse. Then, the elderly Italian people started dying, as really ridiculously old people are wont to do, and the houses were bought up by slum landlords. With low rent and zero landlord supervision, the “wrong element” was attracted to the neighborhood. The wrong element, of course, is drug dealers. There was a dealer across the street from me and one next door, and that’s just what I could see from my bedroom. Gang activity skyrocketed.  Did you know that, according to the graffiti I saw there a few years back, there is an Upstate NY branch of the Crips? I don’t know if there’s reciprocal admission with the West Coast Crips or if you have to apply and get re-jumped in.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school, my parents had decided it was time to move. It was a shame, because except for the people engaged in a life of crime, some of the best people I’ve ever known were ones I met on that street. It was a good life, don’t get me wrong.

The reason I tell all of you this is just to set the stage. Here are the characters.


“Princess” was not really named Princess, but I don’t know how this girl is with Google these days, so I felt a pseudonym would be appropriate. If you want to know her real name, it is based on the novel Push by Sapphire, if you know what I’m saying (and I think you do). Anyway, Princess had only one leg. Or two, but one was plastic. She was also absolutely indomitable. She rode her bike and played tag with the rest of us, and since we were all just kids, her plastic leg was just one thing about her, like my freckles or her sister’s green eyes. Sometimes she had the prosthesis on backwards, but what do you expect, I couldn’t even tie my shoes at that age! You know how everyone complains that band-aids aren’t really flesh colored? Well, Princess’s leg wasn’t either. It was white. Not the band-aid approximation of a Caucasian person’s skin, but ivory-colored plastic. While it never occurred to my five-year-old self to think that Princess’s missing leg was unfair, I thought the fact that they couldn’t make prostheses for people of color was pretty much the most unjust thing I could think of.

The best thing ever? One of my friends spent the first years of his life a few blocks from me, though we didn’t know each other as kids. We got to talking about the neighborhood, and he knew Princess too! You don’t really forget something like that, after all. We tried to look her up, but apparently there is no “Princess” in our hometown with “having one leg” as an interest, so that one died in the water.

The would-be kidnappers

One day, I was biking down the street when a group of men sitting on their porch pestered me to come into their house. I threw down my bike and ran. I brought it up as a very casual aside in an unrelated conversation with my mom, probably a week or two later. She was pretty upset that I hadn’t mentioned anything. Thing was, do you remember elementary school? They prep you like crazy for what to do if a stranger tries to take you somewhere. That’s a good thing, but it also made abductions seem like a commonplace event. Oh, an attempted kidnapping? Happens all the time, I thought! I mean they talk about it on, like, Reading Rainbow. Anyway it wasn’t really a big deal, and I practically forgot about it until I was writing this. That’s probably because it was the most half-assed would-be kidnapping ever. Seriously, have a little pride! Put some effort out there! What an embarrassingly awful kidnapping attempt for everyone involved.

The warrior for Christ

A teenage boy down the street was really into Jesus, and started a children’s Vacation Bible School all by himself. A jaded six-year-old, I thought it sounded really lame. There were puppets, I remember that much. However, all of my neighborhood friends were going, so I kind of wanted to. My mom wouldn’t allow it. Apparently she had this crazy notion that people were trying to kidnap little girls. I don’t know.

The Smelly Boy

I don’t even think you understand. My brothers went to Smelly’s house one time and said there wasn’t even toilet paper. That may have been some childhood hyperbole, because that’s probably one of the grossest things you can think of when you’re 8. One time, Smelly was going to sleep over at our house. My mom made him take a bath if he was going to stay, because she was worried about the transfer of smell otherwise. As an adult, this all reads as being very sad, and I feel terrible for the kid. But as a kid, all I know was that he stunk.

The Two Deaf Families

Two families with deaf parents lived next door to each other. I was friends with a few of the kids (who were hearing), and the fact that the parents were deaf was honestly not that interesting. The interesting thing is that these families were my introduction to hardcore fundamentalist Christianity. I went to church with them on “friend day” and ooooh boy, that was some serious business. Like, there were prayer boards asking for prayers because a member’s family was Jewish. The horror! The girls could only wear dresses, and they had to ask their father’s permission to cut their hair (often denied). I know you’re probably wondering why we were friends. When you’re 10, neighborhood friends just need to be kids who play nice and like playing the same things as you. You aren’t exactly comparing world outlooks and socio-religious viewpoints. Plus, they taught me some cool sign language.

The House of Hookers

It wasn’t a brothel, per se, but I’m pretty sure several prostitutes lived together in a house. They were fine, really. Friendly, threw back the basketball if it landed in their driveway. I must have been going off of things the adults said, because I still wouldn’t know a whorehouse unless I was living in it, probably.


FRANCES gets her name in all caps because she was SO AWFUL. Although I’ve mentioned drug dealers, slumlords, and prostitutes, we all knew who the real villains were in the neighborhood: tiny, stern Italian women. The old ladies died piecemeal during my first decade or so of life, and Frances was the WORST. She once called the cops on my family because my brothers were “shooting BBs through her window.” The police officer knocked on my mother’s door and asked to see her sons. “Really? I guess so…”, my mom said. “Do you want me to get them up from their naps?” The police officer looked a little confused as to why these little hellions were napping mid-day, but probably figured that delinquency takes a lot out of a kid. So, my mom went upstairs and carried down my sleepy-eyed older brothers, then ages one and three.

FRANCES. They’re babies. Even in the inner city, babies don’t have BB guns. Really everywhere that’s not the 1950s, babies don’t have BB guns. Dammit, Frances.

The Kids Who Were Allowed To Go To The Playground

There was a playground right at the end of my street. How great is that?! There were swing-sets, a jungle gym, even a weird giant turtle you could climb on, and I suppose also some stray hypodermics. Yeah, evidently it was like The Hob for our neighborhood gangs. I wasn’t allowed to go there. However, sometimes we’d drive by it in our ’88 Dodge Caravan, and I’d stare longingly at the children who were allowed to play inside. Who were they? What did they do there? I’ll never know, because I wasn’t allowed to go to the playground.

The Thieves

One time our house was broken into, which is pretty unremarkable. We didn’t have an alarm system or metal door until after that, and our dog was so sweet she probably followed them around. The burglars had greasy hands, so when they were digging through my mom and older sister’s underwear drawers, they left grease prints on everything. “Oh my gosh!” my sister exclaimed. “What if they TRIED THEM ON?”

It was one of those moments where the big-picture catastrophe (burglary) takes a back seat to the little, terrible details (WHAT IF THEY TRIED ON THE UNDERWEAR). It’s like when I was taking a shower, and the ceiling below started leaking. My roommates all yelled for me to get out, then afterwards one of them said that I could have fallen through the ceiling. “And you would have been NAKED!”, another added. See, it’s all in the little, terrible details.

I once left my bike in the front yard, and my father came upstairs and told me that he had just watched a little girl walk away with my bike. I ran downstairs, only to find my bike strewn on the front grass, where it had been before. He just wanted to scare me into putting my things away, I suppose. I was 5. When my brother’s bike did get stolen a year or so later, it was safely stored in the garage, so take that, Dad.

If you grew up in the suburbs, you might think it’s silly to have to put your bike away immediately. But you have to understand, bitches stole everything. Everything. My mom had to bring her hanging baskets in off the front porch because they kept getting stolen. Was someone trying to spruce up their drug house with a few double impatiens? Possibly. The drug house next door had a beautiful, vibrant American flag hanging from their stoop. It was so customers could see the house easily. By the by, the busiest night at the drug houses? Prom. Minivans by the dozen. So you can judge city folks all you want, but I blame the suburbs for keeping the drug business alive.

The Farm Truck Guy and The Soda Truck Guy

Because I also apparently grew up in the 1920s, there was an elderly farmer who used to drive his truck full of produce to our street after he was done at the Public Market. The old Italian ladies and I loved him, and that’s how I started to learn about cooking. He sold whatever was in season, as well as milk in glass bottles and eggs that had been hatched that morning. The Soda Truck Guy came every Sunday with glass bottles full of soda. You could drink them during the week then exchange your bottles the next week. Yes, there may have been Crips and hookers, but at times, it was also like living in Newsies or Ragtime.

No wonder FRANCES thought my brothers had BB guns.

You Can Throw That Away: Childhood Items My Mom is Hoarding

My mom recently called me to ask if she could give my Disney’s The Lion King comforter to my cousin.

Two things about this inquiry:

A) I don’t live at home anymore, haven’t lived there since 2006.

B) I am 27 years old. This was something I used when I was approx 10 years old.

C) I have a queen bed. This is for a twin.

D) This is what it looks like (more or less)


Here’s the thing – I suppose it was nice of her to ask if I still needed it, but… really? Oh, forgot to mention my cousin, who she wants to hand it down to, is about 17 years old. I found this picture on eBay, so she should probs just sell it there instead. I mean she should do that, but she won’t because my parents still use AOL.

Anyways, it boggles my mind to think that my mom would think I could use this any time soon. Perhaps she asked for sentimental value purposes, but honestly I forgot it existed and if I wanted it, I would’ve taken it to fit my bed by now.

To paint you a picture, my bedroom back at home has been relatively untouched since I lived there, which means it hasn’t been redecorated since I was in high school. There is a library of VHS tapes, Backstreet Boys memorabilia, photos of my friends from my youth, and pictures of my favorite celebs ripped out of Teen People magazine.

So as you can imagine, this isn’t the first time my mom has asked if I was still going to use childhood items. Here are a few notable others:

Beauty and the Beast comforter

Apparently I was really into keeping warm with the entire Disney family

Notebooks from High School

Never going to use those Chemistry notes. Didn’t understand it then, won’t understand it now.

VHS Rewinder

Kids, long before DVDs, we had these ‘tape’ things that usually required another machine in order to start the movie from the beginning.

Stamp/embossing collection

Okay, in all fairness, thanks to my recent history working at an invitation/stationery store, as well as interest in crafting, this might be useful. Except I haven’t used those items since circa 1995, so better that it goes to someone who can use it. In related news, I was a dork.

Occasional Confessional: The time I conned my parents into buying me an American Girl doll

When I was younger, I loved pulling out the random catalogs that we got in the mail. From Oriental Trading to Lillian Vernon, I flipped page through page picking out the items I wanted that I would never get. The best catalog by far was the American Girl catalog. Back in the day, there were only about 5 historically themed dolls, including Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly. Then they added on girls like Josefina and Kit, and past my age of appropriate doll playing, the company soon introduced the likes of the ‘make your own doll to look like you’ and the ‘itty bitty babies’.

But me? I wanted Samantha. She was perfect. The year is 1904, and she would have her majestic chestnut trunk to pull Edwardian clothes out of and bring a gold pail lunchbox for school. And because I am a nerd, my favorite scene of hers was the school scene, complete with a classic desk and books bound together with a leather strap that were actually mini books/notebooks you could write in!

I risked my life for you.

Anyways, I was maybe eight or nine when I finally told my parents, “Look. I need this doll. Like NEEEED. I will do anything.” So they made a deal with me that if I took swimming lessons and actually learned to swim, they would buy Samantha for me. Deal.

I proceeded to take swimming lessons at the local YMCA, from a personal swimming teacher. It was going ok… up until I was forced to go into the deep end. I remember stopping right on the line where the shallow end starts to fade away into the darkness of the deep end, and I couldn’t move. I physically couldn’t move. I was too scared. My coach kept saying it was ok, but I didn’t step one foot or arm into the other side. I guess I was there for a long time, because my coach had to call my dad to come get me because I wouldn’t leave.

The rest is a blur, but I guess I finished taking those lessons. Not like they really helped, because I’m not Missy Franklin or anything. But I do remember the night I was presented with Samantha in a well-wrapped box. It was the best night. I did it. I got what I wanted. And still managed to not really learn how to swim. So I mean, win-win for all, right? … I wonder what Samantha’s up to now*. Miss that bitch.

*Apparently American Girl decided to discontinue Samantha in 2009, so I should really find her and try to make some money off her. I need to redeem myself from all those Beanie Babies I bought.

Things I Irrationally Wanted As A Child (But Didn’t Get)

  • A turtle. [I was 5, and my mother told me that they don’t sell turtles anymore. That was a 100% lie.]
  • A real, adult shopping cart. [There was an Ames shopping cart in a swamp near my church for a while, and I wanted it so badly. ]
  • A robot who would clean my room. [I know, the Roomba exists now… and I am too poor to afford it. But also, I think I speak for all of us when I say I don’t need a robot to vacuum, I need it to file my bank statements, match my socks, and put my clothes away.]
  • That skating rink thing from Lillian Vernon that you could freeze in your yard.

    Does this child know how lucky she is? Evidently not. Her mom is selling this on ebay.

  • Teddy Ruxpin. [Sources say they were less cool than you’d think in real life]
  • Porcelana. [This was a cream that vowed to fade your freckles, but the label said that it was for people over age 12. I actually did get some in high school, but all it did was give me a maroon rash like this for a day or so. I discontinued use immediately.]

    Skin bleach. I wanted skin bleach.

  • Glasses [Briefly, in second grade or so. I blame Molly McIntyre. Now that I have them I rarely remember I’m supposed to wear them.]
  • To marry Jonathan Taylor Thomas someday [I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that would exactly work out well.]

    Found this on my work computer (lunch break) and probably going to have an uncomfy convo with HR later.

  • One of those Barbie/Hot Wheels cars that you can drive [My nephew has one now and it goes at like 2 MPH. I think my parents realized that I could walk faster than those things went.]
  • A pogo stick [My dad always wanted a pogo stick as a child, but never got one. Thus, my siblings and I didn’t, either. I can’t wait to withhold things from my kids out of bitterness someday, too.]
  • A doll that looked like me [Because I didn’t yet think that those would probably come alive at night and try to take over your body – now I do. Also, I was essentially Felicity with Kirsten’s haircut, and I had both of those.]

    Horrific. But I do wonder if they’d agree to make a painfully honest one of my current self, including my under-eye circles and nose-scar.

  • A hanging porch swing in my bedroom.
  • A bedroom with a slant-ceilinged alcove so that I could write things at a cozy desk. [I wanted to be Jo March but am probably more of an Amy if I’m honest with myself.]

    C+S Fun Fact: This is how we write all of our blog posts.

  • An E-Z Bake Oven [My mom was more into having me help bake real cookies in a real stove.]
  • Muzzy [No, those children weren’t French, they were American! I wanted Muzzy so badly that I became a foreign language major in college. I was terribly disappointed when I learned that I was too old to walk around saying “je suis la jeune fille.” By the way, my grandmother’s first language was French, so I don’t know why I didn’t realize that she could teach me for free, instead of this sketchy BBC cartoon.]
  • For scientists to re-animate one of those Egyptian child mummies, like Jurassic Park or Encino man, so I could have an Ancient Egyptian friend. [I was a weird kid.]
  • Ballet or tap classes. [I used to pretend that my soft shoe Irish dance was ballet and hard shoe was tap. I wasn’t allowed to take tap because my older sister did at one point, and my mom thought the costumes were skanky – so I got to competitive dance in woolen frocks with ringlets and poodle socks.]

    Really hard to feel like a cool kid when you look like a living Madame Alexander doll.

  • To be somehow declared “the next Shirley Temple. ” [I went through a phase where I was like a very toned-down version of  this kid. Lots of local theater, commercial auditions, and retrospective embarrassment. Who would even be in charge of selecting the “next Shirley Temple?” Shirley herself? Or would it be a succession after she died? Because she’s still alive.]

    My 6th-7th grade headshots. While I preferred comedic roles, my physical type was more “creepy haunted girl” or “orphan from the past.” Also I looked like I was 8.

  • An enormous chair like Edith Ann. [Edith Ann was a 1970s Lily Tomlin character who people my age have never heard of. My parents stopped keeping up with pop culture when they had kids, and I’m the youngest of 4. Thus, although I was born in 1986, I grew up somewhere in the late ’70s. I mean, my GPS is named Ernestine because the voice sounds like this character.]

    Comedy ladies 101: Lily Tomlin in Laugh-In

  • The Disney Channel.  (They would have free trials every once in a while, and every day after school I would turn to channel 98 to see if it was time. It always cut out at the worst moment, like right in the middle of Fern Gully. I think that little Molly would be thrilled that her 26-year-old self watches Disney Channel like crazy. Thrilled or maybe confused.)

What ridiculous thing did you want as a kid? And if you got it later on, did it live up to your dreams? [I’m especially interested in hearing from whoever snagged JTT, you lucky lady or gentleman!]

Hometown Snapshots

I recently came across this blog of photos from our hometown of Rochester, New York.

This one in particular struck me because when I first looked at it, I was surprisingly taken aback, as the photo felt like a ghost of some kind. Maybe it’s the three cars on the street or the wrapped up stop light. But it’s like someone took the living soul out of this building and replaced it with glass and concrete. But I realized that it really had nothing to do with the building, and not really Rochester itself.

It’s the fact that how I remember this building is by my memories from years ago. At one point, both my parents worked at Kodak right down the street from this corner, and as a kid, everything looked so big. So unreachable. So full of life. Everything was new. Or new-ish to me, at least. So much to be explored despite the fact that the edifices themselves had been there for years.

But through the lens of an adult, as someone who hasn’t lived there and driven past this area (or paid attention) in at least eight years, it looks so lifeless. Maybe it’s because now I understand the real life outcomes that can stem from empty buildings. How businesses can go under. How hundreds of people that worked in buildings just like this can become unemployed and how it affected their families. How a once bustling downtown is merely a string of buildings at only half capacity.

Being an adult makes you see things through a different lens, like once rose colored glasses that have since become faded and yet gained more clarity. It takes you out of seeing the painting as a whole, and finally noticing the colors and details of every brushstroke. It makes you realize that something that once was, never will be, even if it’s made anew – for better or worse. And being an adult is realizing that those snapshots were mere moments in time, that we take in and learn from, no matter how vibrant or lifeless it may be.