Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

So, this photo showed up on my Facebook news feed a few days back:

A Facebook share of a Ouija board marketed to little girls

A Facebook share of a Ouija board marketed to little girls

Clearly, the marketing for this version of the Ouija board tries to make it seem girly, fun and mysterious. It’s aimed at little girls, ages 8+. The person who posted it, and the other people who commented underneath the post in my feed were outraged that this was aimed at kids considering how dangerous many felt the game was.

To refresh your memory, the Ouija board is a game with a little pointer device (the “planchette”) used to ask questions of the spirit world. Lots of people believe it opens a portal best left closed, while others believe it opens players up to the whims of whichever person is secretly or unknowingly controlling the planchette. I’m not really a believer in this stuff (although I find it fascinating), nor am I very superstitious, but instead of scrolling by this post without a passing thought, I stopped and read through all the comments.

Because I, too, have a Ouija board story to tell. It’s true, and it happened to me at about age 10 or 11, circa 1990 or so. In my closet in my bedroom, there was a stack of games: Monopoly, Parcheesi, Sorry, and others, including an old Ouija board bought by one of my parents, probably some time in the 1970’s.

Our Ouija looked like this:

The Ouija game my family had in our closet.

The Ouija game my family had in our closet.

My best friend Sherry and I discovered the game one day while she was at my house, and we started to mess around with it, placing it carefully on our knees as they pressed together underneath the board, resting our fingers as light as we could manage on the planchette to avoid, “No fair, you’re cheating, you’re moving it!” comments.

One day, we were bored with playing in the “cabin” in the woods (a collection of items we borrowed from my mother, I’m sure causing her to endlessly wonder, where did [insert household item] get off to?)

“Let’s play a game,” Sherry said.

We stood in front of my closet, rejecting Monopoly (too long) and Sorry (we just played that last time!) She spied the Ouija board.

“Let’s play Ouija. This time, we’ll really try to see if we can get a spirit to talk to us!”

I hesitated. “Last time, it was just us moving it around.”

“This time we’ll do it exactly right. No cheating. I promise,” Sherry said, and X-ed over her heart.

I relented and we brought the game downstairs, where we both sat cross-legged on the living room carpet facing each other. Sherry put the board on our legs, her pale white skin pressing against my tan chubby knees, and I lifted the plastic planchette out of the box and placed it on the board.

“Barely touch it!” I said. “No pressing down.”

“And we’ll close our eyes after we ask a question so we know we’re not cheating,” Sherry said.

With these rules in place, we asked the usual questions we’d asked before.

Is there a spirit here that will talk to us? Yes.

Can you tell us your name? Yes.

What is your name? Jumble of letters.

“Was that Charles?”

“No, I think it was Chester.”

“Who ever heard of a ghost named Chester?”

After a while we got bored with our questions (What is the name of the boy who has a crush on me? How did you die, spirit?) and Sherry said, “Let’s ask it a question we know it has to answer right. But we’ll still keep our eyes closed so we’re not moving it to the answer.”

“How many brothers does Sherry have?” I asked. Three.

“How many sisters does Jaime have?” Sherry asked. Zero.

A little more than a week before, my black cat, Zippy, who was a bit of a whore, had a litter of five kittens. There were two grey, a black and two orange kittens in the litter. Sherry and I had been endlessly peeking in on the tottering babies, who would sleep, nurse, and tumble around in total cuteness.

“How many kittens does my cat, Zippy, have?” I asked. Four.

I peered across at Sherry’s face, covered partly by her thick, straight hair. One green eye looked back at me. “Don’t you have five?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“One of us must have bumped it. Let’s try it again.”

I asked the same question. Four.

We asked the question different ways.

Four.

Four.

Always the same.

At that point, we gave up.

“Stupid game,” I grumbled. “I told you it was fake.”

Sherry looked doubtful. “Maybe it was just messing with us. Cause it knew we knew the answer.”

I shrugged. “Let’s do something else.”

I ran upstairs and put the Ouija game back on the stack of games in the closet. When I came downstairs, Sherry was petting Zippy as the kittens tumbled over each other and made their wobbly way across the carpet.

Soon, it was apparent there were four kittens there, not five.

“Where is the other grey kitten?” I asked.

Sherry was laying on her side, with an orange kitten perched on her shoulder and the black kitten trying to pounce on her hand, but mostly falling over instead. She looked behind her and under her arm. The other orange and grey kittens were nursing on Zippy, who was laying on the carpet in a patch of sun coming in the window.

I started looking around the living room, and Sherry slid both kittens over to Zippy to help look. We searched behind chairs, around the TV stand and by the plants.

No kitten.

“Maybe it wandered into the other room,” Sherry said.

“Or it’s hiding under something?” I suggested.

Sherry headed out toward the kitchen while I started looking under stuff. Sure enough, I soon found him. There was the grey kitten under the couch-

dead.

Tears sprang to my eyes when I saw the little furry thing, pink tongue slightly out, some orangey stuff out its backside. He must have been squished when the recliner footrest was closed, and he got trapped there and died.

I called for Sherry, and my mom and dad, and the lifeless grey body was taken away to be buried.

All the while, when the Ouija board adamantly pointed to four, it had been right.

Zippy only had four kittens.

We just didn’t know it yet.

Drawing by Jaime L. Hebert

Drawing by Jaime L. Hebert

What do you think? The skeptic in me says, correlation doesn’t equal causation, e.g. the Ouija game and the kitten are coincidental but unrelated. There’s a small part of me, however, that simply says, That’s spooky. Do you have a Ouija opinion? Harmless, or best left alone? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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For me, it’s these Macintosh apples:

Mmm, tastes like childhood...

Mmm, tastes like childhood…

For you, it may be another food, but I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that whenever I eat one of these, I’m suddenly 10 again. There’s just something about certain foods that trigger memories (both good and bad), and that association stays with us forever, it seems. I moved to the South about eight years ago, in 2005, when my daughter Sophie was 3 months old. It was a big change for a girl who grew up in Maine and spent her life thinking of herself as a “Northerner.”

I noticed many differences between life in Maine and life in Arkansas, where I’ve lived the last several years. One of those difference is the types of food available here, as opposed to what I was used to in Maine. A lot of it is the same, but when I get a craving for something that isn’t offered here, it really makes me stop to think how much food is really a part of our identities.

There’s a small window of opportunity here in Arkansas when Macintosh apples show up in the stores. The rest of the year, I’m forced to choose Granny Smith (no), Red Delicious (Hell,no), or Gala (Ok, if I have to), but when Fall arrives, suddenly I’m awash in a sea of apple varieties. This occurs late September to the end of October, I guess, depending on the harvest. Mostly, the ones here are Michigan Macintosh’s, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re here and I’ve been waiting for them all year.

This year, I got the chance to visit Maine, although it was such a short trip, I barely had time to process it. My best friend Angela, who I’ve known since I was 15, married her love of 10 years, and I was a bridesmaid. Our whole family turned it into a road trip, stopping briefly in Pennsylvania, where Luke grew up. There, in his childhood grocery store, I excitedly seized a bag of apples on display, just like a fat kid would sieze a big slice of chocolate cake. (I know this because I’m a former fat kid. Seriously, who else would see some food in a store, squeal, and jump up and down?) During our trip, lunches were mostly PB & J or lunch meat sandwiches, with chips and apples. I happily dug into my apple during that next lunch, and Luke and a couple of the kids decided to try these amazing Manna from Heaven apples I had been raving about.

They hated them.

“Sour,” “too tart,” and “I just don’t like that kind.”

Goodie. More for me!

Maybe they are right, and my favorite variety is tart, and certain bites will have you making “lemon” faces.

So it got me wondering, why do I love them so much?

In Maine, we have pick-your-own apple farms. I haven’t found any down here in Arkansas, so I’m assuming we just don’t have the right apple-growing weather here. But as a kid, it was one of the things I looked forward to most in the Fall. I would beg my parents for days about going, and then it always seemed like we would go on the afternoon of a school day, which would take forever to end. I was one of those kids who would be sitting in the car, long before everyone was ready to leave, just waiting. The ride to the farm always seemed several hours long, when in reality, the place was located only 20 minutes from our house. A kid’s perceptions are strange . . .

The truth is, biting into that apple as an adult allows me to be there at The Apple Farm, biting into a warm, just-picked Macintosh under a deep blue sky, surrounded by bent trees, colorful foliage, pumpkins, and the smell of crisp air and cider.

Maybe my favorite apple does have its downfalls, but when I take that first bite, even for just a few seconds, I am a happy kid again, sitting in the grass in the fading afternoon sun, with juice rolling down my chin.

Do you have a food that brings back your childhood?

Is there something you won’t eat because there’s a bad memory associated with it?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

I was staring at the back of a Golden Grahams box this morning. I actually had a purpose this time, I wasn’t just staring off into space, dazed, because my child bounced onto my bed at 7am this morning wanting to watch cartoons. No, I was looking at one of those optical puzzles where you stare at the wavy lines and an image is supposed to appear. Well, after about five minutes, my eyes started to hurt and I was no closer to seeing any image. What happened? I used to be good at those back when they were cool. Remember, for about five minutes when those things were all the rage? Ah, yes, that’s right, I was a kid then. That’s probably why I can’t see them now but I could then. Kind of like in the Polar Express when the adults can’t hear the bell. I’ve grown up and it seems like nothing is fun anymore.

The box I was looking at

They say that when you have children, you can revert back to your childhood with them and relive all the awesomeness of being a kid. Well, here is my confession. Despite the fact that I loved being a kid, my adult brain can’t seem to handle all the kid-ish stuff Sophie loves. When she asks me to play with her, my eyes glaze over after about three minutes. All the toys I know I loved as a kid don’t hold any sway over me now. It’s like my brain is saying, “Been there, done that, move along, people.” It really distresses me. What happened to life being fun? To having curiosity about life and the world? It just seems like I’ve hit a point as an adult where I’ve seen too many ugly things and dealt with too much adult stress to even remember what being childlike was, even though Sophie is right there in the thick of being amazed by the world.

In class, I have one girl who asks me to read her the same book every day. She loves this book and is obviously in the process of committing the whole thing to her 4-year-old memory. Which is awesome. But every day when she asks me I inwardly roll my eyes, while outwardly smiling and saying, “Sure I can read it to you…again!” And so I zip through “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” without much thought. But the other day, as I was reading it, I began to think about why she likes this book so much. It’s the same reason I loved it as a kid: funny words and illustrations that make you study them. The vug under the rug is scary…because what kid hasn’t thought about what is hiding in unseen places? And who wouldn’t want to go around all day saying “There’s a noothgrush on my toothbrush?” That’s funny, right there! I realized I do the same thing when I read stories to Sophie…I read them and she loves them but I get easily bored when she brings me the same Berenstain book for the 400th time. But for her, it’s fascinating. And I’m starting to remember why, and also starting to think that’s the problem I’m having here at age 30.

I forgot how to have fun with life. Everything is so stressful and we’re broke all the time and we’re forced to be adults every minute of the day. It’s so dreary! And tiring. The thing is, I remember vividly how much I loved being a kid. Everything was awesome…My Little Ponies, building forts in the woods with stuff my mother didn’t know I stole from the house, gumball and M&M machines at the hardware store, stopping at the boat landing for no reason at all to go swimming. There was no purpose in life other than to just be. Even going to the dump was fun…yes, I’m a redneck on this one, I am from Maine after all. My uncle would pick me up and take all our trash, his family’s trash and my two cousins. And every time, we would stop at the corner store on the way to the dump and he would buy us gum and Jolly Rancher sticks and Ice Cream from the little freezer and whatever else our little candy-loving hearts desired. I was in heaven. Going to the Dump. How many times would I say trash makes me that excited today? How about never?

So, all of this deep thinking came from the back of a cereal box. Who says they’re not educational?

Sophie and her pink bouncing ball today

Sophie wanted me to take a picture of the bright sun

Here she is in the sun

Another crazy sun picture