If the shoe fits…

I was busy researching the hottest styles for summer shoes, and despite what my husband might think, it actually WAS research for a reason other than shopping. I have more than enough shoes, really. In fact, I probably have too many shoes, but since I’m not (yet) rivaling Imelda Marcos, I think I am fine.

It got me thinking about shoe styles from the Eighties. I didn’t have that many shoes, probably because I was a kid and it’s expensive to keep up with all that growth. My own children, I should note, have two pairs of running shoes each (indoor and outdoor), one pair of sandals, and winter boots. That said, I did have some of these hot styles, and I coveted the rest.

Jelly Shoes

Pros: They came in many colours, so they could match any outfit. I had pale pink jellies to match a pastel striped dress. The dress itself was pale pink, mint green, yellow, and light blue, so I could have chosen jelly shoes in any of those shades, really, and would have still come out a pastel winner.

Cons: Jelly shoes were infamous for being uncomfortable. Wearing them for more than a few hours, especially on a hot, sweaty day, meant your feet would be a mess of blisters and redness.

Desert Boots

Pros: Everyone loved these boots and as I recall, they were pretty comfortable. And so versatile! You could wear them with jeans, skirts, stirrup pants…the sky was the limit.

Cons: They were actually pretty unattractive.

Those Little Flat Shoes With Bows On The Toe

Pros: These were actually pretty cute! Slippery, but cute. Again, very versatile, except that they didn’t go that well with stirrup pants. Skirts and rolled up jeans, though, were a perfect match.

Cons: Their cuteness was diminished with the propensity of our generation to wear them with giant slouch socks. That’s not really the SHOE’s fault, though.

Keds

Pros: If my grade seven yearbook is any indication, 75% of the population was wearing Keds or a knockoff at any given time in the late 80s. They were comfortable! Slip-on! You could wear them with slouch socks and bubble skirts!

Cons: They were mostly worn with NO socks which resulted in terrible foot odour. Not for the first time, I feel sympathy towards junior high teachers.

Cougar Boots

Pros: These were the go-to winter boots in my neck of the woods. There were many knockoff brands as well, but the general look stayed the same. They were comfortable, warm, and waterproof.

Cons: I can’t actually think of any. I find them unattractive, but no more unattractive than the average winter boot.

Duck Boots

Pros: These ankle boots were relatively practical on wet, rainy days.

Cons: They were ugly AF, as the kids say these days.

China Doll Shoes

Pros: Of all Eighties footwear, this is my favourite. I loved the look of these shoes, and I still do. I love Mary Jane style, I like that they are black, flat, and relatively comfortable. I had always thought they were called “Chinese Shoes” which seemed vaguely racially insensitive and weird. Yesterday, however, I found out that they are actually CHINA DOLL SHOES which makes so much more sense. All of my many china dolls had shoes like this.

Cons: The buckle was always breaking. They were cheap, in all senses of the word.

Did I miss anything? What did you wear on your feet in the 80s?

Lady in Red

On the weekend I was visiting with friends whose teenage daughter had just graduated high school. I looked at the photos and she looked absolutely gorgeous, with her flowing curls and her clingy, floor length lace gown.

“Grad dresses have changed a lot,” my friend said to me in what must be one of the truest statements of all time. Have they ever.

It’s grad season, and last Friday my husband and I were trying to figure out why in the world there was so much traffic on the way out to dinner, in the small city my in-laws live in. It was impossible to get parking, and it finally dawned on me when I saw a gaggle of teen boys in tuxedos and suits, that it was grad night. Smiling faces taking selfies, girls in sparkling gowns with their dates in matching accessories, it was a delight to behold.

When I was in high school, wrist corsages were a relatively new thing. No one really wanted to pin a flower onto their fancy dresses; it was much preferred to have the prickly elasticized lace wrist band with a coordinating flower. I am happy to say that girls still get wrist corsages; I was wondering if it was a thing of the past or not. I mean, I have no horse in this particular race, it’s not like I have a vested interest in the floral industry, but it was nice to see all the same.

But the dresses! The dresses. The dresses the girls are wearing now are red-carpet worthy. Perhaps they could even be described as Beyonce-worthy. The dresses we wore for graduation were certainly not of that caliber. My own graduation dress was a satiny red off-the-shoulder number; it was cocktail length and I completed the look with dyed-to-match satin shoes and handbag. It seemed very important at the time to have red shoes and purse that exactly matched my dress. Why, I am not sure. I can say for certain that girls don’t get dyed-to-match shoes and handbags anymore, and that is definitely not a bad thing.

Looking back on it, my red dress was just one in a long line of single-occasion-never-to-be-worn-again dresses – between that, bridesmaid gowns, and my own wedding dress, I have quite a collection of one trick ponies. All of those dresses – with the exception of my wedding dress – I had high expectations of; I thought that I would somehow incorporate them into future outfits. I’m not sure if I thought that I would have a much more gala-oriented life wherein long gowns would actually be required, or if I would somehow develop advanced seamstress skills to create them into something else entirely, but I have – needless to say – never again taken them out of the plastic bags in which they reside.

And so, as I looked at the girls in their lovely long and likely expensive dresses, I wondered if they had the same expectations. I wondered if they justified the money spent on their gowns by thinking that they would somehow, somewhere, wear them again. I hate to disappoint you, girls of today, but it is very unlikely.

me

So tell me: what did your grad dress look like? Do you have a collection of dresses that were worn once and then banished to the closet? 

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.

The other day Hannah’s son received a Save the Date for a birthday party. Save the Dates…they are not just for weddings anymore! Do I even have to point out that Hannah’s son just turned eight?

Well, it got us thinking about things that have changed in the birthday party scene since we were kids. It’s also timely since my birthday is next week and Hannah’s is the week after, so we have birthdays on our minds.

Now, I’m not going to be judgy about what kind of birthday party you want to throw for your child. I’ve done everything from inviting the entire kindergarten class to the gymnastics centre to having one friend over to eat cupcakes and play video games. I’ve hired a clown for a group of five-year-olds, and I’ve created an obstacle course in my basement for a bunch of preschoolers. The last party we had consisted of a dozen eleven year olds in my basement, hanging out, eating pizza and ice cream, and making so much noise that my dog hid in his crate for the entire four hours. So I’m not going to get all up in your grill about how you celebrate birthdays.

What I am going to do is reminisce about birthday parties of years gone by, before gift registries and Save the Dates, before Pinterest and ensuring every last detail was consistent with a “theme,” before every place in town, from the fire station to the children’s barber shop, advertised itself as a “great venue for birthday parties.”

In my neighbourhood, birthday parties generally followed the same schedule: guests would all arrive on time and would be ushered to a table where a craft was set up. The craft was generally decorating a party hat, but some friends whose birthday was near Christmas would have a cookie-decorating table. After the craft, a number of games would be played, such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey (and it actually was a picture of a donkey) and musical chairs. There would be winners to these games, and those winners would get a small prize. Not everyone was a winner! This is an important detail. Therefore, these games were taken seriously. We all wanted that candy necklace.

Post-games would be the food. Often parties would take place after school and therefore would push into the supper hour: food would then be Kraft Dinner and hotdogs, followed by a homemade birthday cake. Afternoon parties would feature chips and pretzels, and then birthday cake. I remember one party in which we all went to McDonald’s; whether the whole party took place there or only the food portion, I do not recall. I’m not sure what we would have done at McDonald’s other than eat, but maybe there was a party room that I cannot remember.

After eating, it was time for presents. My children have had parties where guests bring food donations in lieu of gifts, but back in the 80s that would have been unheard of. I think it was easier to buy gifts back then, because not every child had everything imaginable, which is what it seems like now. Also, simple gifts like new markers and a colouring book were greatly appreciated. After the gift opening, there would be time to actually play with the new gifts, or maybe to run around in the backyard if weather permitted, before our parents picked us up or – alternately – we walked home by ourselves.

There’s something to be said about this approach. My children have attended parties at laser tag places, movie theatres, gymnastic centres, bouncy houses, and community centres, but their favourite party remains the one they went to in our neighbourhood, in which they played games like Balloon Stomp, Freeze Dance, and Toilet Paper Mummy, and ate Jello Jigglers for dessert. There’s something to be said about the simple, old-fashioned birthday. Maybe – like acid wash jeans and Flashdance sweatshirts – it will come back in style.

As I said, it’s almost my birthday! And Hannah’s! For a birthday gift, we’d love it if you would comment and tell us your memories of childhood birthday parties. xo

Me and Bridget Jones, we got a thing going on.

A couple of days ago I had finished a book and was looking for something light to read for the remainder of the evening. I went down to look at my bookshelves for something fun and not too taxing, and I saw my old copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Remember Bridget Jones, BEFORE she became the star of not one, but two major motion pictures, BEFORE the Edge of Reason, and BEFORE she was Mad About The Boy? Those were the days. I will confess that I never saw the movie – and I don’t plan to see the upcoming one – because I loved the book so much I couldn’t bear to have it ruined. I didn’t enjoy the North Americanized Edge of Reason or Mad About The Boy, because I adored the very British peek into life in London. Silk Cut cigarettes! Weighing yourself using stones as a measurement! Milk Tray and Pimm’s Cups.

I eagerly opened the book and there, on the first page, was a diatribe about “learning how to programme video” and “creating themed mix tapes.” Programming video! Mix tapes! What year was this written, anyway?

1996. People, Bridget Jones’ Diary is twenty years old.

I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

I didn’t read it when it first came out; it was a year or two after that. I was working my first real job at a petroleum company, and I remember reading it on the train to work. I wore heels, nylons, and business suits to work every day, and that alone feels like a massive throwback. I wasn’t a thirtysomething Singleton, like Bridget, but I was a young working girl and sometimes it felt like I was playing a part. I could relate to her, even if I didn’t smoke and wasn’t having an affair with my boss.

1996. It doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, does it? Time, it flies.

Popular in 1996:

The English Patient

Oh, remember the dreamy, sexy, intensity of Ralph Fiennes? Hoo boy, there were some hot scenes in that movie, even if every man I’ve ever talked to about it thinks it is terribly dull. Whenever I think of The English Patient I think of Ralph Fiennes: I have been WALKING for THREE DAYS. Remember their dance scene? Did it just get hot in here? And poor darling Colin Firth as the sweet and cuckolded husband.

Other scenes of note: I have always had a bit of a crush on Willem Dafoe, but I have never actually watched the scene where he gets his thumbs cut off. I’m sure it’s not even graphic by today’s standards but still. And Juliette Binoche is absolutely perfect in that movie, along with Naveen Andrews as her lover.

I think I need to rewatch it!

Jerry Maguire

Where would we be without Jerry Maguire? We’d never say things like “show me the money” and “you had me at hello.” I just realized the adorable child in that movie must be about thirty by now. Huh.

Seinfeld

It was the height of Seinfeld mania, and that show still (mostly) stands the test of time. Yada yada yada.

Friends

Ross and Rachel were the big story, and every girl in town – myself included – had a Rachel haircut.

Tickle Me Elmo

Remember how innovative Tickle Me Elmo was? It was the toy at Christmas that parents were stampeding over each other to get. People were practically committing murder – or at least armed robbery – just to have a Tickle Me Elmo under the Christmas tree. In reality, Tickle Me Elmo was kind of a crappy, one-trick-pony toy. It also led the way for other creepy animatronic toys.

Macarena

The Macarena was very popular in 1996 and I was surprised to hear that my kids learned how to do it this year in the phys. ed. dance unit. Heyyyy Macarena.

Do you have a favourite memory from 1996?

You can never surrender.

In the last month, two strange packages have arrived at my house from Amazon; two vinyl records that my husband has taken to ordering for the vinyl record player that we do not yet possess. He has become very interested in vinyl records lately, which makes me wonder what ever happened to all the records we used to have, back when I was a kid. Probably they were all sold in yard sales or whatnot, since who played records by the 1990s? Certainly not me.

As a child, I remember going through my parents’ record collection; I still have a soft spot for Kenny Rogers and Creedence Clearwater Revival. In fact, my party trick is that I know all the lyrics to every Kenny Rogers song ever – even the less-popular ones like Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town and She Believes In Me. I remember looking curiously at the album covers of the hirsute CCR, which was starting to be an outdated look even then.

I had a lot of those little books that came with records to read along with. I can still hear the voice at the beginning: You can read along with me in your book. You know it’s time to turn the page when you hear this bell, like this…ding! Once I graduated from those records, I had a couple of LP’s that were pretty hip for a six-to-eight-year-old: the Mini-Pops and Disco Duck.

It was when I was nine that I got my first REAL record, and that was – inappropriately enough – Like A Virgin by Madonna. I remember looking at the album cover and thinking how beautiful she was, with her Boy Toy belt buckle and frothy dress. I began wearing a ton of rubber and friendship bracelets, as well as the occasional hair bow, in an attempt to emulate that look.

madonna

The second album I ever owned – and because of the event of cassette tapes, it was one of the last – was Corey Hart’s Boy in the Box.

Corey

Oh, how I loved that album. You can NEVER SURRENDERERERERRRRRR I would sing passionately in the mirror, using my hairbrush as a microphone. I would take out the album liner and read all the lyrics until they were memorized. I was sure – SURE – that I would marry Corey Hart when I grew up. After all, he was Canadian, and I knew that he spent time in Calgary, since this was featured in his Never Surrender video, and it was not that far from my house:

eamon

 So really, how hard could it be to meet and have him fall in love with me? Of course, this is what I looked like at the time, but I was still undeterred:

Sheep 001

I wrote letters to the Corey Hart Fan Club, and for my trouble I received a photocopied letter that said that even though it was photocopied, it really WAS Corey writing it. Swoon.

coreyhart

See you soon, Corey.

Well. Time went on and instead of vinyl albums I saved my money to buy cassette tapes instead. They were so much more convenient, as I could use them in my Walkman on the way to school. By the time I was fourteen, though, it became hilariously “retro trendy” to buy vinyl again, at used record stores. I even had a boyfriend working at one such store, and he would alert me to any Beatles albums that arrived. While my peers were embracing the New Kids on the Block, I was excited at my purchase of an old copy of The Wall. I read and memorized all the lyrics again, although I found them – along with the illustrations on the liner – disturbing and frankly, I didn’t even really like Pink Floyd. However, it looked cool with my copy of Abbey Road. To this day, I change the channel on the radio when I hear Another Brick in the Wall. No really, I think you *do* need education, sir.

And just like clothing fashions, it appears that vinyl is back in style. I wonder if you can still skip songs by counting the grooves on the record, or if the needle still bounces back and forth when the record is finished. Now, if only my parents still had those Kenny Rogers and Juice Newton records.

The Times They Are A-Changing

My older son got braces last week, and has been basking in the glory of having “teeth bling” ever since. He has received myriad compliments about how cool his new braces look; I expected them from the adults in his life, but was surprised to hear that his peers have also been commenting on his awesome new metallic smile. It made me think about how braces have morphed into an exciting status symbol/ rite of passage for young teenagers, when back in my day they were considered a curse.

It seems like half the population of tweens and teens are showing off their shiny metal grins, whereas when I was in junior high I knew a girl who refused to show her teeth for the two years she was undergoing orthodontic treatment. Brace Face and Metal Mouth were actual insults, whereas now braces are so commonplace and, frankly, desired, that no one would think of making fun of a child with braces.

It really made me think of all the things that have changed in perception from when I was young.

Nerds

Remember how people would dress up like a nerd for Halloween? Revenge of the Nerds? Can’t Buy Me Love? Being a nerd was considered to be social suicide, whereas now I think we can all agree that being nerdy is where it’s at. After all, those nerds can really make the big bucks, and with computers being so deeply entrenched in our society, acceptance of the nerd is now at an all-time high.

Smoking

It’s not like anyone thought smoking was a particularly good idea back in 1990, but it was certainly acceptable. At high school, there were designated Smoke Doors and even a part of the compound that was the Smoking Section. When I got my first office job as a summer student in 1997 some people still smoked in their offices, and I remember one professor telling me about the days when he and his students would smoke in class. I think someone would get pelted with rotten tomatoes if they tried lighting up in a lecture hall now, and at a school? Forget about it.

Mohawks

When I was a teenager I went to school with some real punks: the big boots, the leather and chains, and the Mohawk haircuts. These guys – and some girls – were badass and maybe even a little bit scary to a princess-type like me; they threw parties with lots of booze and drugs, some of them didn’t live with their parents, and there were always a few hanging out at the Smoke Doors. Only people who were very cutting edge and part of the punk culture had a Mohawk; now you see it on any given toddler coming out of Beaners’ with a lollipop.

Hair Colour

Speaking of punks, the only people who had hair colour that wasn’t a natural shade were the same people wearing Mohawks and chains. In fact, I don’t really remember anyone in junior high who coloured their hair; there might have been a few highlights and perhaps a Body Shop henna shade on some girls, but it certainly wasn’t common. And green, pink, purple, or blue hair colour? That was not for the pedestrian. Nowadays, though, it’s completely mainstream and even on fleek to have at least a streak of bright colour. Walk into any junior high class and you’re guaranteed to see several rainbow shades of hair.

Piercings

I have three earrings in my right ear and one in my left, and let me tell you, people, back in 1989, in my house, that was a scandal indeed. I had my ears pierced courtesy of an aunt on my ninth birthday, but when I was 13 I got a double piercing, followed by my third the next year. I snuck out to a salon in Estevan, Saskatchewan while visiting my grandparents that summer. My grandma knew and vowed to keep it a secret from my father who would flip out at such wanton behaviour. I had successfully hidden it for eight months until one unlucky day when I had pulled my hair into a ponytail. “NICOLE. What is with the DUAL PIERCED EARRINGS?” he said in his Scary Dad voice, and because I was evidently not very savvy, I said, “Actually, Dad, it’s three earrings, I just don’t have the bottom ones in.” With the brou-ha-ha that ensued, you would have thought I would have come home with a prison neck tattoo or something. I mean, it’s not like I had a tongue stud, which I think we all can agree has but one connotation. My dad might have been conservative even at the time, but he wasn’t totally alone in this. I knew several men of his age who would have fainted if their sons had come home with an earring, let alone two. I mean, think of the guys now who have those circular earrings that stretch their lobes out. THAT’S a crazy fad, to me, but maybe in 20 years everyone will have them. Or, those guys will just have droopy earlobes and deep regrets.

Shagadelic

While reminiscing about Valentine’s Day with Hannah and Allison last week, I remembered a strange little detail from junior high that had been hereto repressed, deep in a dark place in my soul.

As I suspect most of my peer group did, I loved going to school dances in junior high. It was just so exciting; who would dance with whom? Would there be a slow dance? Would teachers tap a slow-dancing couple on the shoulder and tell them that there had to be a six-inch separation between bodies? What exactly were you supposed to do when slow dancing to Say You, Say Me? The middle part speeds up considerably, should you continue slow dancing or start fast dancing? Would they play Mony Mony and would it get forever banned from subsequent dances because of the entire gymnasium chanting the Hey motherfucker get laid get fucked part in the chorus?

Answer to the last question: yes. Every year at the first dance that song would get played, and then stopped mid-song, never to be played again until the following September.

At my junior high, there were a couple of big dances per year, and they would be held in the evening. These dances were usually the semi-formal one at Christmas, and then again in the late spring. Throughout the year, however, were after-school dances for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and the like. At other schools, so I hear, this type of after-school dance was commonly referred to as a Sock Hop.

Not at my school, though. At my school, an after-school dance was known as a Shag.

Now, apparently this is a common name for a particular kind of dance from the 1930s, which involved vigorous hopping from one foot to another. However, I did not go to school in the 1930s and I seem to remember that dancing in the Eighties was less like vigorous hopping and more like this:

But I could be wrong.

The point is, I spent my entire youth thinking that a Shag was an innocent after-school dance. I was in university, going to see Austin Powers with my then-buddy-who-became-my-boyfriend-who-eventually-became-my-husband, when the other, better known meaning came to light.

That moment caused me to reflect back on everything I knew as a youth. Everything was a sham. My eyes were opened and to this day, I have to do a quick check to make sure I’m not naively saying something that has an entirely-different meaning.

That was the end, my friends, of innocence.

Uncomfortably Numb

The other day, my 11 year old walked home from school – about a fifteen minute walk – with his winter jacket unzipped, and his hat, gloves, and neck warmer securely in his backpack. It was minus ten and his hands were purple by the time he walked in the door. I sighed about this behaviour to my husband, who said, “Isn’t that just what teens do?”

Gasp.

It’s true, although I wasn’t quite ready for it. Although strictly speaking he’s not a teen, it seems that he’s gearing up for those years, winter clothing-wise. And suddenly I sympathize with my mother, thinking of all those times I shunned my winter clothing in an effort to be fashionable.

The problem is that I grew up in Calgary, land of windchill factors and icy cold winters, while reading fashion magazines from much milder climes. Even the Junior Miss section in the Sears catalogue didn’t feature the kind of winter wear that is necessary when you are walking home from school and it’s minus 30. I clearly recall wearing a wool pea coat with a Sears catalogue-esque fuchsia scarf, gloves, and beret set that I received for Christmas. Cute, yes. As I recall, matching scarf, gloves, and beret sets were all the rage in the late 80s, and while that might have been sufficient for hovering-around-zero temperatures, it was insufficient for recess in the howling wind and blowing snow.

As a person who recently donned snow pants, a calf-length down coat, ear muffs AND hood, gloves AND mittens, and the warmest boots money could buy just to take the dog for a walk, I cannot understand my younger self. Why be purple-skinned and uncomfortable when you can be a walking pillow?

Joey_Wears_All_Of_Chandler_s_Clothes_Friends

I’m wearing ALL the clothes.

The world has become more accepting of differences; this is true. But when it comes to cold weather, teens are no more accepting of appropriate winter wear than they were back in my day, as evidenced not only by my son, but also by the hordes of teen girls I see walking to the bus in frigid temperatures, with their sternums exposed and their ears turning purple. I’m sure their mothers lecture them, as my mother lectured me, on what should be worn when the mercury drops. And I’m sure they dismiss those suggestions as tragically uncool, as I did.

Things I Did To Avoid Being Comfortably Warm In The Winter

To avoid a “you’re going to get frostbite” lecture, put on my earmuffs – since a hat would never fit over my four-inch-high teased bangs – until I turned the corner and was out of my mother’s sightline; ripped them off and stuffed them in my school bag.

Wore tiny short skirts with tights and loafers in the middle of winter, becoming frozen from the waist down.

audrey2

In lieu of actual gloves, wore “magic gloves” – the thin, tiny knit gloves that do literally nothing to keep your hands warm.

Walked to school in loafers with no socks, when there was snow on the ground.

Wore cutoff denim shorts with tights and army boots, because the boots would “be warm enough, MOTHER.”

There are things I did as a teen that objectively did not make sense: squinting all the time instead of wearing my glasses, going through an entire bottle of Salon Selectives twice monthly so that my bangs would be sufficiently vertical and immovable, wearing a Garfield sweatshirt with my astrological sign on it.

002

But the thing that really didn’t make sense was my – and all my friends’ – constant refusal to acknowledge that winter had arrived, and that we would all be a lot more comfortable and attractive if we weren’t purple-faced and shaking with cold. Looking like you’re constantly on the verge of frostbite really only works for one person.

 

A very special Christmas special.

I’ve always really loved the Christmas season, and I remember being thrilled as a child when the Christmas specials started coming on TV. Remember actually looking things up in the TV Guide, and then planning to be home to watch them? If you missed The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or A Charlie Brown Christmas, you missed them. You didn’t get to flip on your PVR or watch it on You Tube. If a show you wanted to watch was coming on at 7:00 on Tuesday, you would clear your damn schedule and watch it at 7:00 on Tuesday.

While I’m reminiscing about those old school days and wondering if the Kiehl’s counter has eye cream that actually WILL perform miracles, remember when cartoon specials were created based on the actual comic strips that were in the newspaper? Do kids still get excited by the “funny papers?” I looked forward to Sundays because of the colour comic section in the paper, and I would still read the hell out of them today, if we got the paper.

I’m pretty sure there was a Garfield Christmas special, based on the comic strip, and I know there was a For Better or Worse one. That one stuck with me because the girl in the comic, Elizabeth, gets lost – possibly in a blizzard – and is saved by an angel, somewhat like the mean girl scene in Cat’s Eye. How did you get home, Elizabeth? Who helped you? But there’s no one there…

One thing I’ve learned about myself through years of watching Christmas specials and also The Lord Is My Shepherd episode of Little House on the Prairie is that if there is a child who is lost and is guided back by an angel, I WILL be a sobbing mess by the end of the show.

Speaking of sobbing messes, when I was a child I watched a show called The Small One at Sunday School one December, proving that even Sunday School teachers need a movie day now and then. This show has stuck with me for life, and I still get all choked up thinking about it. Small One was a donkey, beloved by a boy whose father needs to tighten belts, so to speak. Small One is old, and unable to carry the giant loads of sticks that apparently donkeys are prized for, and yet, he still eats JUST AS MUCH as he always did. This is a lose/lose situation for the boy’s father, who tells his son to go to the city and sell his beloved pet donkey.

I think we all know where this is going. People aren’t buying pet donkeys. They want a) a donkey that can carry heavy loads, or b) leather. The boy finds a man willing to buy Small One, but the gig is up when the boy sweetly says to take good care of his donkey. The man, standing there with actually sharpening his knife, looks at him like he’s an idiot, and says he doesn’t care how much Small One likes to be scratched behind the ears, he just wants his hide. The boy looks around and sees all sorts of animals – including sheep, which strikes me as strange – and realizes they are all bound to be turned into leather sandals. He books it out of there, going through mishap after mishap, and finally ends up on some side street somewhere, with his unsold pet donkey.

But lo, a kind man comes up to the boy. He’s looking for a donkey, and not for its hide or to work it until he drops dead, either. He wants a very special donkey for a very special trip. It’s Joseph! The donkey is to carry Mary to Bethlehem. Which is sweet, and always made me kind of verklempt as a child, but thinking about it now, how would a donkey that wasn’t able to carry sticks would be able to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem with an enormously pregnant woman on its back? I mean…

Well. I’ve kind of ruined the show for myself now, but at least I won’t waste my valuable time watching it on YouTube when I could be reciting The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by rote. Priorities!

Toadstools and macramé and orange couches, oh my!

My husband was telling me about one of his colleagues, who, several years ago, had purchased a showhome, built in 1982. This large house has great “bones” – high ceilings, a giant kitchen, numerous bathrooms, and a big yard. The only problem is that it was built in early 1980s glory, and all of the expensive add-ons were, to express it mildly, dated. For example, this man was looking at painting all the extensive oak featured throughout the house. Remember when oak was where it was at? Apparently painting over oak feature walls and built-in cabinetry is quite an expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

The whole conversation made me contemplate changing fashions in home décor. When I first moved out, everything was in that late Nineties colour scheme of forest green, dark blue, and burgundy. That was a change from the earlier fashion of country florals and pastels, which had organically developed from the afore-mentioned oak features and bird-of-paradise bedspreads. But when I was a child, it was all about leftover décor from the Seventies.

Oh, the Seventies: era of disco balls and sparkly jumpsuits, plaid leisure suits and giant moustaches, chest hair and Farrah Fawcett hair. It was a strange time for fashion in general, but the trend in home décor was really something else.

Halloween 1981 001

Please ignore the fact that I’m dressed as a culturally-insensitive gypsy for Halloween. It was a very popular option back in the day. I was thrilled to wear blue eyeshadow up to my eyebrows, but that is beside the point. I would like you to note the following details: the brown fridge, the crockpot, the Tupperware, the mug tree, and the little ceramic frog that held a scouring pad in its gaping mouth. These were things that were common to many houses in this era, but see if you can note something that made our kitchen particularly special: the wallpaper. That cheerful wallpaper had a pattern of fruits, kitchen supplies, and, oddly enough, wine bottles.

wallpaper

You’ll note the stacking stools in the background. They were of the orange and brown floral that was such an important part of Seventies decorating…

littlehouse 001

…as you can see. Wood panelled walls, along with that couch, were the epitome of suburban 1970s décor. Didn’t everyone have that couch, or an iteration of it in the Seventies? If you didn’t have that plush beauty, likely you had this one:

couch

There are so many details that I would like to point out here; the couch is the least of them. The hanging candle balls in the cast-iron candle holder. The lamp. The ashtray shaped like a toadstool. Ceramic ashtrays alone seem so quaint – no one smokes in the house anymore! – but a TOADSTOOL ashtray? Toadstools were a very important image in Seventies decorating, but not as important as macramé.

Oh, the ubiquitous macramé owl. Most bathrooms had at least one hanging on their walls. In my house, we had an abundance of macramé hanging plant holders that suspended our dangly spider plants from the ceiling.

Do people still have hanging houseplants? I love to garden but I don’t love houseplants; the only ones we have in the house are two cacti and one succulent, and those live in the boys’ rooms and are their responsibilities. When I was growing up my mom had dozens of plants: finicky African violets that would die if you got water on their fuzzy leaves, giant ferns in barrel-sized pots, miniature trees, ivies, and, of course, the hanging spider plants. It was a lot of work to take care of all those plants, I imagine. Not as much work as it would be to macramé the hangers or crochet every afghan and decorative pillow cover in the house the way my mother did, mind you. But still.

I’m sure one day my grandchildren will look at photos of my house and wonder what Grandma was thinking with those paint colours, and who in their right mind would have chosen that style of countertop? In the same way I might look askance at a wall mural of a sunset or an in-house sauna, my grandchildren will probably wonder why I installed a rain shower, or who in their right mind would think it was a good idea to buy stainless steel appliances. But I stand by my decorating decisions, just as our parents stood by their brown and orange floral or plaid couches, with the simple explanation, It was the style at the time.