1. In about 2001, I watched approximately 20 minutes of Super Mario Bros while eating hot dogs at my neighbors house. All I remember is that there was an orphan in a basket and people walking through sewers.
2. It must have been third grade when I was introduced to Mario Kart. My best friend had a sleepover birthday party, and in her unfinished basement was an old TV equipped with a Nintendo 64. In my memory, I had never played a video game before, but I was not afraid to try something new. I grasped the controller and almost immediately fell over the cliff of Koopa Cape.
3. McDonald’s Happy Meals included Mario toys in 2006. I had the inflatable hammer.
4. My second experience with Mario Kart was a few years later when my cousins received a Wii for Christmas. I thought that driving would be easy using the steering-wheel shaped Wii controller, but I was wrong. Out of the hundreds of races that I drove on that Wii, I probably finished dead last 98% of the time.
5. My brother bought a Wii a few years later. With practice, I learned how to drive the karts, but I was never a consistent winner.
6. When my cousins brought Mario vs. Sonic Olympic Games for us to play, we realized that my driving was not the problem. I am really no good at any video game.
7. In high school, I loved drawing cartoon characters, and I finished some awesome sketches of Yoshi (he was always my favorite character).
8. When my brother had a layover in Japan, he bought me a Yoshi toy because (1) I love Yoshi and (2) I have always wanted to go to Japan.
9. There was one remarkable Mario Kart race, however, that I will never forget. Despite my explanation that participating in a race on Rainbow Road could not possibly end well, my brother started the game. I drove slow, barely pressing the gas. Somehow, I made it to the final lap without falling off the road. With about twenty yards to go, I was–somehow– in first place. Out of nowhere, another racer zipped past me and bumped my car. I fell squarely over the side and finished in second.
10. A few months ago, one of the kids at worked wanted me to play Super Mario with him on the Nintendo 64. He had more fun teasing my pitiful abilities than he did playing the game himself.
While I would never verbally attest to such an absurd fact, I often act as if I am the only person who has problems. I may not be gracious to others in their time of need, but when I am upset, I expect the entire world to take pity on me. Too often, I forget that we each have a different story. We each have our own trials and problems.
Today at work, I asked a mother if her daughter would be coming to daycare on an upcoming no-school day. The mom turned to her daughter, “Would you rather come to daycare or spend the night with Grandma?”
Before I could remark about how fun a day with Grandma would be, the girl’s face filled with disgust.”Can’t I just go to a friend’s house?”
The mom relented a little. “Well, you wouldn’t have to spend the night with Grandma; we could just take you over there early in the morning.”
The girl’s lip curled even farther. “I guess I will just come to daycare,” she sighed.
I was astounded. As a child, I jumped at a chance to stay with Grandma. With my maternal grandma, I could eat Mickey Mouse pancakes, swim, and play board games. My paternal grandma always had ice cream and took me shopping. If all else failed, I just stayed with my best friend’s grandma and helped her bake cookies. Grandma was always better than daycare.
But now I realize that these children’s lives are different than mine. In fact, I am often astonished when they begin to open up and tell me their stories. One fifth grade boy has a father, step-mother, and siblings in Nevada that he sees once a year. A brilliant bibliophile transferred to the middle school last month because the bullying was so intense at her old school. I will never forget the look of excitement on another boy’s face when he said to me, “My mom–my REAL mom–is coming today.” One mother at the high school has been putting off brain surgery because she wants to see her son graduate in three months. She has been told that she will probably not live through the surgery, but they know that she will not live without it. The operation is scheduled for next week.
So when I get carried away like I am the only one who has problems, remind me that I don’t know what others are facing. We don’t always show our struggles.
Some foods bring back memories. My grandmother’s Orange Jell-O Fluff is not one of them…but it should be. We eat this food at EVERY family gathering, but we never eat it on a normal day. While it doesn’t necessarily bring back memories, Orange Jell-O Fluff does make me think of my cousins. Then the memories pour in. I smile as I recall games of Uno, Balderdash, and Sorry. I chuckle at the mental site of us pretending to be ants from A Bug’s Life. I remember riding down the “huge hill” on scooters and bicycles. Because my family is spread across the globe, visits are sporadic, but I love making memories with them.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my grandma and I made multiple batches of Orange Jell-O Fluff. Every batch was devoured quickly. When I asked for her exact recipe, she chuckled. “Well,” she said, “sometimes I use a big thing of cottage cheese, but sometimes I use a smaller container. This time I used one and a half containers of Cool Whip. I just always start with one box of Jell-O and add different amounts of the same ingredients to it.”
So if you don’t have exactly what is listed below, don’t despair. This recipe is very forgiving and always delicious!
Orange Jell-O Fluff
One 6-oz. package orange Jell-O mix
One 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
One 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
One 16-oz. container cottage cheese
One 8-oz. container frozen whipped topping
(use more or less of any ingredient depending on preference)
Combine Jell-O, oranges, and pineapple. Chill for thirty minutes.
You know that one piece of clothing that you hold on to simply because you’ve had it forever? I have a lot of those. Rather than let those unworn garments hang uselessly in your closet, turn them into something useful.
I bought this jean skirt at a consignment shop the summer before seventh grade (don’t be surprised that I remember that; I can tell you the origin of every thread I own). I proudly wore it the first day of school with a green, heart-covered shirt and pink plaid flats. I felt trendy in that outfit, and I remember the following conversation with two high school girls.
Girl one: I like your shoes.
Girl two: I like your shirt.
Girl one: We just like your whole outfit!
My year was made. Here I was, lowly seventh grader, and high schoolers liked my clothes. Success.
I couldn’t get rid of that skirt.
I also could no longer wear it. As a college student, I try to dress a little nicer than a faded, ill-fitting denim skirt and t-shirt. I like to look professional and put together. Using an old purse strap and two fabric scraps, I put the unwearable garment to good use and made a simple cross-body tablet carrier.
To start, I turned my skirt inside-out and laid my tablet on it, marking a large rectangle around the tablet. I then cut out the rectangle, and pinned the fabric scraps into place.
I used a simple straight-stitch to attach the fabric to the skirt. I then sewed all the sides together, and, voila, I was done!
What garments are you attached to, and how could you re-purpose them?
Close your eyes and take a step back. It’s the late 1990s, and the world is filled with televisions playing The Santa Clause, cardboard Advent calendars, and children wishing for Game Boy Colors. Hear Tim Allen’s jolly laugh. Taste the foil-wrapped chocolate. Cross your fingers and hope for your dream toy. Reminisce.
Jump forward a few years to the mid-2000s. Tim Allen has been replaced with Will Ferrell wearing a green tunic over yellow tights. My teeth are sinking into mom’s fresh cinnamon rolls, and my classmates are all unwrapping Motorola Razors. Sing of Christmas cheer. Lick icing from your fingers. Flip open the fragile phone. Remember.
This year, as Elsa sings “Let it Go,” I am busy baking raisin bread and scrolling through Pinterest on my iPad. Cast your arms behind you in abandon. Inhale the sweet aroma. Feel the slick screen beneath your fingers. Relish.
What will be happening in ten years? Where will I be? Who will be the latest star? What will be the latest gadget? Reminisce on the old memories. Remember the pleasant past. Relish the present. Reform the future.
You know that thing you just can’t throw away? No matter how many times you purge your “junk,” it still remains in the same place. I have quite a few of those things. I fear that one day, I will wake up and find myself buried in my own useless trinkets. Every time I come home for a holiday or break, I search my room, eliminating anything that I no longer need. Nonetheless, some items stick behind. Below are ten items that have amazingly survived the years of cleansing.
Ten Childhood Toys I Can’t Seem to Throw Away (And probably never will)
1. My baby doll
2. Fisher Price tape player
3. Kelly Dolls
5. Duck Keychain Pez Dispenser (affectionately named Hubert)