Christmas 1980-something

Evidently I was a spoiled kid. As spoiled as the youngest child of four can get. As spoiled as a child of a single mom who worked cleaning hotel rooms can be. I was that sort of spoiled. Spoiled in the sense that while my Christmas list was usually very specific and exhaustive, every year I got at least one item on it because my mother made sure I had something to look forward to, something to believe in when sometimes our life wasn’t a life that offered hope or belief in things getting better. I remember many of those one-off gifts. Those miraculous ones that showed up, I thought, from Santa in the true spirit of the holiday. One year I got a Popples, which were all the rage in the 1980s. One year a Strawberry Shortcake doll. One year a Barbie (a real Barbie not one of the knock-off dolls) so cool, so rad, that she had her own leg warmers and boom box.

In the second grade I wanted only one thing: A Baby Shivers Doll. Do you remember those bad-bitches? They were dolls that actually, for real, shivered as if they were cold. It was the same year that the Baby Alive Dolls first came out and I had a ton of friends asking for them, but I didn’t want to press my luck, so instead I asked for the older doll that only shivered. Besides, I wasn’t so sure about a doll that wet herself. I mean, was I ready for some real shit like that? I figured I’d let my best friend Rachel get that for Christmas and I’d play with it when I wanted, but didn’t have to take the responsibility for changing the diapers and what not. This is some real shit, it’s not made up, check it out:

Listen to me when I say this, these were some badass babes, though to be fair it set me up for failure when I had an actual baby and asked too many times what to do if he started to shiver. Turns out babies shivering aren’t like a real big problem. Who knew?!

Anyway, I remember writing Santa to ask for a Baby Shivers of my own. I may have even named dropped Rachel or her grandma, who was bound to buy her any type of doll she wanted. And on Christmas morning when I woke up and ran into the living room I was 100% expecting a Baby Shivers from Santa and for the first time ever I was disappointed. There was no Baby Shivers under the tree. Just some other random toys I don’t remember and some fruit and candy. I was upset, but tried not to let my disappointment show. That is certainly not something you did in my house. You sucked it up. Plus, I figured Santa had a legit reason not to bring me that hypothermic baby. Maybe all the electronics in her back forced her to short circuit and catch little girls’ hair on fire? I could only hope that was the reason because I was Peppermint Petty even at a young age.

So there I was playing with my toys I didn’t much care for after the wrapping paper tornado when my mom said, “Ope Missy, I found one more gift.” Yeah, she pulled the old “A Christmas Story” deal on me and handed me a wrapped box. I could tell right away she had wrapped it because she is not a good wrapper. The edges were a little frayed and the tape didn’t hit all the spots right, and there was a different type of wrapping on the edges. “Who’s it from,” I asked, hoping beyond hope it was from Santa.

“It’s from me,” my mom said. I smiled, but knew I was screwed. I slowly started to unwrap the paper, then my fingers went quicker and quicker until finally I had paper all over myself and was looking at the Baby Shivers box. I was stunned into inaction. My mom was beaming and I could not find words so I just ran over and hugged her. I couldn’t believe my luck and my mom’s obvious good fortune.

I still don’t know how my mom go the doll, or why she chose that year to get the credit for that toy, but it didn’t much matter. I just figured her and Santa hashed it all out and came to this conclusion and in the years to come I was always able to suspend my disbelief like that, around Christmas, but also at other times of the year too. Let’s call it self-preservation. Poor kids know what I mean.

Over the next year I walked around coddling my Baby Shivers, who I probably named but couldn’t tell you at all what it was. She was probably a girl and she probably had “eyes like her Mommy.” Rachel did get a Baby Alive that year and as I suspected that doll was a headache. You had to feed her to get her to poop and she ate this gross pasty stuff and you always had to buy more things for her to keep her in tiptop shape and I’m pretty sure it was short-lived. So was Baby Shivers, but for a little while I had the doll I had waited my whole life for and my mom had her shining moment.

I hope you all have a shining moment this holiday, and get something you’ve been asking for too.

M.

The Poor Girl’s Grocery Store

My mom’s visiting. She flew in on Friday, and we’ve been enjoying catching up for the past two days. This morning over coffee I was making a grocery list for the week and she asked where I do most of my shopping. I told her Kroger, usually, but Target or Publix depending on my mood. Walmart in times of distress, like when I know I need that one kind of mustard and chain grease for our bikes. It’s a two-for. But I have to take a Klonopin before I go in, so there’s a trade-off. Anyway, I asked where she shopped and she said mainly Dillion’s (a local chain in Kansas, that might be loosely associated with Kroger), and Aldi. Then we both laughed.

My mom has been shopping at Aldi for so long she can probably tell you all the secrets you want to know. No need to join any of the 1,000 Aldi Facebook sites, where Xennial women talk about the AOS (Aisle of Shame, Shit, Stuff), and the peanut butter cups (which are shit in my opinion) my mom knows the real deal Aldi. I know the real deal Aldi. We’ve done our time at that orange counter bagging, rather boxing, our groceries looooong before Aldi’s was a “hip” and “cool”’place. In fact, it was incredibly embarrassing to be seen at Aldi when I was a kid, but of course if you saw a classmate there, then that meant their parents were probably poor too, so you’d just walk by each other and nod silently, then NEVER speak of the encounter. Oh, middle schoolers.

We’d usually go to Aldi at the end of the month, when the food stamps were gone, and it was scratch biscuit time. When it was that point in the month I didn’t care where the milk and hamburger meat came from, I just wanted milk and hamburgers. It was the odd times of the month where we would have “Food-4-Less” money, or maybe even be shopping the deals at the glorious new Price Chopper on Fourth Street, and she’s trick me, tell me we were going to Waymire IGA for the cereal on sale, and we’d end up at Aldi.

It was always too hot or too cold for me to stay in the car, so I’d have to go in, but first we’d have to dig around the car for a quarter for the damn cart. If we were lucky a family would be walking out and see us and ask if we wanted their cart, though that was rare. I must say it happens a lot more now, and on those rare occasions when I do go to Aldi, and I use a cart, I NEVER take my quarter back. And neither should you. Pass that cart off to a mommy struggling with some kids behind her. For fucks sake.

Sorry. Okay so once we were in the store my job was to immediately start scouring the aisles for boxes so we could transport our groceries home. I’d take my time with this task, because it meant I could hide in cubby holes, and look out for someone I might know. By the time my mom was finished shopping our cart was full of Moreos, and Skadittles, and Capri Fun. All the sorts of horrible knock-off names you could imagine! Oh no, I’d think, what if I have friends over this weekend and my mom asks, “Do you guys want Oreos? And then she walks into my room with Moreos?! #KillMeNow

At check-out time I’d run over to the orange bagging counter, which seemed to be much higher back then than it is now (probably cause I was a kid), and I’d sit, grumpy and scared, until my mom paid for our knock-off taco shells with her monthly allotment of government food stamps. Double whammy!

The cashier would throw our food into the cart crazy fast (some things never change) then ask my mom if she wanted to BUY bags to bag her groceries. My mom would laugh! Hahaha, pay 10 cents for a brown paper bag, I don’t think so! Then she’d motion toward me, my boxes stacked all around, and smile. We’d pack our groceries into boxes, then load our 1972 Dodge or maybe the 1979 Chevy Nova up, and I’d race the cart back to the corral, to link it back to the one in front of it, and take that damn quarter. Whether it was ours or not. Man. Those were some days.

My mom says the Aldi has changed a lot now. They have more “German” foods, and they sell a lot of good produce. I agree, then I blow her mind by telling her about Lidl! 🙂

So what does this all mean, Missy? Not a damn thing. I suppose this post just goes out to Aldi. To their fair prices and their unusual business model. But it also goes out to all the middle school kids who grew up on Fruit Tarts instead of Pop Tarts. Who sat on those orange counters, and asked for the key to the locked bathrooms. The ones who peered through the two-way glass to get a glimpse of “the back office” just to pass the time. To the box getters. The cart wranglers. The quarter gangstas. We’ve come a long way, babes.

M.