I don’t want to grow up…
So, Toys R Us is going out of business, I’m not sure if I should hit my local store and buy up everything in sight. This was the center of my childhood universe, the scene of prospective Birthdays, Christmases and even my first paycheck. Yes, I said my first paycheck… as an adult, I am a Toys R Us Kid after all (don’t judge me lol).
When I was a little girl, I used to go out to the backyard and lay down in the grass looking up at the sky. I’d watch the clouds roll by and let the shapes tell me a story. Scenes with Dragons and Unicorns and Pegasus would play out before me (why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Pegasus? (Unicorns are great, but Pegasus… can FLY)
… admit it, that is pretty f*cking cool!
I didn’t have tea parties, I made mud pies… I’d go into the bathroom and fill bowls with water, troop back outside to my favorite patch of grass and go to town making mud pies like it was going out of style. I just knew I was the best mud pie maker on the block… in the neighborhood even. I used to take the blades of grass by the handful and grind them up with a rock. The scent reminded me of my grandmother chopping onions and singing hymns and reciting Bible verses in creole at the stove while she cooked. I used to be so excited in the first days of spring, those days when Mom would finally let me out of the house, when I could finally go outside to play until the sun came down… coming in only for snacks, drinks, to go to the bathroom then back out again.
Every summer I would plan out a treasure hunt, marching around the yard on a mission to find dandelions… every single dandelion growing in proximity to the house. I would lay down or sit Indian style in my special patch of grass; one by one holding them up in front of me, turning my face toward the sun I’d take a deep breath… and blow. My little heart beating fast, excited because… with every breath I’d watch as the soft fuzz that reminded me of loose flecks of cotton candy would float away on the wind. Sometimes I would jump up and chase after them laughing, throwing my little arms out and spin and spin and spin laughing watching the world as it sped by the whole time, stopping suddenly, happy, breathless and light headed I’d fall back down to the grass in fits of giggles.
About 6 houses down was the great white house on the hill. I would sneak over to that house, climb the hill, pausing occasionally to catch my breath. I always went alone, I would place myself in the center of the hill, lay down and look up at the sky, cloud watching again. I would slowly count to 10, listen to my quick heartbeat, take a deep breath and roll over… and keep rolling till my little body hit the bottom with a jolt. When I wasn’t skinning my knees, getting scratches on tree branches or banged up from rolling down the neighborhood hill… I read books; Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and Amelia Bedelia.
I know I’ve probably referenced some of this stuff before in other blogs, but how often does one sit down and really think about what it FELT like to be a little girl? The way the Earth stood still when you would hear that tell tale jingle approaching, the boom that was like thunder as the universal war cry was shouted… “ICE CREAM!!” And how the world would sped up again as every child in a 2 block radius would scatter in search of dollars or spare change.
… also known as ‘Heaven on Wheels‘
Despite some unknowns and major catastrophes my childhood was a happy one, a good one… it had its interesting moments, but I was allowed and encouraged to be a child. I took myself on adventures, thought I was Indiana Jones and my backyard was the Temple of Doom. I had my own inventions and a time or two I would tie the bed sheets together and throw them out the window and jump out, climbing down to parts unknown. Relax… we lived on the first floor of our multi family home, the window was only a few feet off the ground so I was never in any danger. When you’re five or six years old your imagination is so big that to you really do feel like SheRa or Han Solo in Star Wars, or Leroy Green from the Last Dragon (Bruce Leroy), and who can forget about the Incredible Hulk, or the A-Team.
I soooo wanted to be a singer when I grew up, I would run around the house with a hairbrush belting out ‘the Greatest Love of All’. I was fascinated by Whitney Houston… ‘I Want to Dance with Somebody’ and Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ and ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. Most little girls dreamed of being a princess, having a castle, kissing Prince Charming and getting married. For all the other little girls I was exposed to (my sister, cousins, little girls in school) for those little girls getting married was BIG. Wedding cakes and white dresses and a big party and then there was me. I was the one burning a hole in my easy bake oven and playing doctor. I had no use for weddings or worse… Prince Charming!
I played jump rope and kept chalk in my pockets for hopscotch, had 10 Imaginary Friends… characters from Sesame Street (the cowboy Forgetful and his Cow, the Count, Bert and Ernie Kermit and Ms. Piggy) … almost the whole Muppet cast, also Bo and Luke Duke, Uncle Jesse, Boss Hogg and Daisy from the Dukes of Hazzard. I loved watching GI Joe, (imagined I was a soldier with a big knife as I thought guns were highly overrated), lived for Thunder Cats, Rainbow Brite, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. I would rush to the tv when I came home from school to watch Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy, Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes clan… Lord how I wanted to bop Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck upside their foreheads. I most definitely was not a Disney kid, not then… Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, while cute, very pretty and very shiny, I preferred the Transformers and Voltron, climbing trees and playing in the mud.
It’s so easy to dwell on the negative, but I was a happy little girl. My dad taught me how to ride my bike and I viewed that as a source of freedom, I would take off with the wind in my face and would run around with my training wheels… think of the expression “ride it till the wheels fall off”. I rode that bike until those training wheels fell off lol. I rode until I had no business riding anymore. Eventually I was just way too big for it and no matter how much I loved that cherry candy apple red source of freedom I finally had to give it up, then they handed me my sisters blue 3 speed bike. It was huge and I had to climb it to sit down, smh my God there were no helmets back then, no helmets or protective gear whatsoever. There were no streamers on my bike, riding was serious business… I would get on that bike and think that I was additional member of the Justice League on wild adventures, it’s a wonder I never broke anything… not a finger, a leg, a wrist, an arm or any bone. Looking back, I realize that was a blessing.
It’s not lost on me that most of my childhood heroes were boys and men, back then leading women were rare things… but I had those heroes too, my mom and my older sister. I looked up to my big sister… she infuriated me but I loved her, she was 6 years older so she had no use for ‘little kids’. That didn’t stop me from looking up to her though, following her around constantly telling everyone “my sister said”. I used to watch my mom get dressed to go out… fascinated by the hair, the makeup and the perfume. I couldn’t wait for her to leave, I would try to be nonchalant… (or as nonchalant as a four, five or six-year-old can be) and watch her leave the house. I would go to the window, watch as she got in the car and drive away. You never know… sometimes the adults would come back so I would wait until the coast was clear. I’d wait an appropriate amount of time (hindsight tells me it was probably only half a minute but time flies differently for children). I’d wait whatever I thought was an appropriate amount of time to pass and then I would jump up and down like a crazy person and run back to her bedroom.
I would go to her closet and pick out one of her dresses to wear. I’d look over what felt like a million pairs of red pumps with heels that were ridiculous, sometimes pull out a hat, maybe a pair of gloves. I would go to her dresser and run my fingers across its surface, sit down and gather all her makeup. Sitting at her dresser, putting lipstick on, spraying her perfume; on my wrist and behind my ears. I had no idea what to do with eye shadow… the few times I tried to use it I made a holy mess and tried to rub my face clean with a lot of paper towels, trying to clean off the surface of the dresser with Windex. Of course, I would end up tying to do some explaining because ultimately, she would figure out that I had been in her stuff, so I learned that if I took just her lipstick and dabbed it across my eyelids I could make my own eye shadow. Lipstick didn’t fly everywhere like the eye shadow did, I would rub it in with my fingers to blend it, apply a little bit of lipstick to my cheeks for blush and then the lips… the lips were always last, because that was where the voice comes from.
(totally NOT me, image found online)
I would take the lipstick and very carefully slide it across my lips… that was my favorite part, coloring my lips with lipstick. I would imagine what it would feel like to be an adult, all grown-up; to know everything, imagine being able to do whatever you wanted with no need to ask mom or dad for anything. I wondered what it would feel like to be grown up and have my sister look up to me, I couldn’t wait to be independent and beautiful, and I would laugh… I would laugh so much. There isn’t anything quite like the sound of a child laughing and even though it’s me in the memory, thinking back on it now… hearing that laugh still takes my breath away. Those are the happy moments, maybe too happy. I compartmentalize a lot and different phases of my life are stored in different boxes. I keep the different people in my life in different boxes… I keep different feelings in boxes. I think that everybody needs a set of boxes just for happy memories and the great moments, we should respect them more.
Looking back, I see it laid the foundation for how I now put myself together. I have so much makeup now it’s crazy and the common denominator is the lipstick; in every shade, every hue, every type imaginable… and that’s always a Finishing Touch. I get dressed up, do my hair, put makeup on and then sit at my vanity table, my adult self… seeing the little girl I used to be looking back at me, eventually slowly sliding the lipstick across my lips… a grown up.