“Fun is good.”
– Dr. Seuss
As you may know from reading my post from last week, I’m committed to trying to have some fun this summer, at least where my creativity is concerned.
I started thinking this week about “fun stuff” from my childhood. I thought if I took a little time to figure out what I enjoyed about childhood, and why I enjoyed it, I might be able to connect the dots a little and translate it into fun stuff for Grown Up Chel.
So here’s a list of some of the “fun stuff” from my childhood, in no particular order. I would love it if you shared your “fun stuff” list, too.
– stickers and paper
I had this obsession with stickers and paper- stationary. I didn’t write a lot of letters or anything, but I loved the matchiness of it all. I remember I got this amazing stationary set as a kid- it had little pieces of paper, tiny envelopes, pretty pens, stamps and stickers and all sorts of amazing stuff. That was like the Holy Grail to me.
I also remember there being this glassed in kiosk in the middle of the Smithhaven Mall in Long Island (where I grew up) that was a big sticker shop- it was just rolls and rolls of stickers. I think it might have been a Lisa Frank store. You just tore off the stickers you wanted and checked out. That place was like… oh, heaven.
I remember being too nervous to STICK the stickers, because once I stuck them, the potential for sticking them would be gone (not only does that sound confusing, it gives me a LOT of insight into my issues with indecision.) They were precious to me, those glittery unicorns and rainbows and hearts in bright jewel-tones.
Then sticker albums became popular and I had a crazy good time filling mine, and flipping through it with friends. It was the best of both worlds- stickers and paper goods, but instead of being pressured to use them, the pressure was to preserve them as a collection.
(Oh, and anyone else remember Garbage Pail Kids? Series two, all the way. I think my mom still has them.)
– aimlessly roaming free in the yard
I loved the feeling of just getting up on a summer morning, slapping on some shorts and a t-shirt, and going out the back door. I had nothing particular in mind, I just sort of romaed around the back and front yard of my house and made stuff up. Some days I’d pick leaves and do pressings, other days I’d make up an adventure, other days I’d get on my bike and go for a spin down the sidewalk, and other days I would go on little “nature walks” and pretend that my yard was a alien planet that I was discovering for the first time. It didn’t matter what it was, I just liked being out there, on my own, checking stuff out, making stuff up.
– giant packs of skinny magic markers and new boxes of crayons plus a big blank pad
Oh, how I loved crayons and markers and fresh pads of paper. So much potential!
I especially loved how markers and crayons would come color-organized. After a while I would get itchy and take all the crayons out and reorganize them into my own personal rainbow (which I STILL do with all my pens, markers, crayons, inks, paints, etc. to this day!) and then the pack would be ruined and ready to start using.
– imagination and pretend
I used to spend hours making up stories and playing them out on the front porch of my house (see the photo above). It was a step up from the driveway and segmented into two distinct halves, and one half had a tiny little rod iron bench and chair that wasn’t a good fit for anyone but a little kid. So it was a perfect pretend “house”. I loved things like that- perfect segmented spaces in which my imagination made good use of.
– Duran Duran
I was hooked from the first time I saw them while I was sneaking MTV (strictly forbidden in my house) and I still love them just as much. I loved music in general. I loved making “mix tapes” of songs from the radio I loved. Then I started buying cassette tapes from Sam Goody and walked around blasting them in my walkman with the foam-eared headphones… private little sacntuary. I remember going to sleep at night listening to Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger and the best was when my walkman had the feature where it would flip a tape, so I’d start awake up at two in the morning in the middle of a random song and the light in my fishtank lit and get a little spooked by it. (i also liked to spook myself out by turning off the lights and shining a flashlight under my chin and lip-syncing in the mirror to “Hotel California” and “One of These Nights” by the Eagles, which is one of my dad’s favorite bands.)
Counting down the days until most anything was a favorite past time. Days until the weekend. Days until the summer. Days until Christmas. Days until Disney! (Now I sorta do the opposite- it’s “how many days until I have to get ready?”, which makes me sad.)
I wasn’t a reader at all until 4th grade- in fact, I was averse to it. I guess I scored fairly well on my reading scores earlier on and was placed in the most BORING reading class ever. I went from cool fun books in kindergarten to science articles about the parts of bugs and photosynthesis and topography. I really just assumed all “big kid” books were like that so I kept reading the shelves of preschool books at home, over and over and over. I had no idea books could be fun if they didn’t have pictures.
Anyway, in 4th grade we were herded to the library and told to select a book for a book report and I picked a Dr. Seuss book. My teacher was floored (and so am I, now that I think on it) but I was just not into reading. She forced me to keep picking books and I kept working my way SLOWLY through the stacks until I hit on the Beverly Cleary. Finally, my teacher said okay and I unhappily checked out “Fifteen”. I started it that night (reluctantly) and I was blown away. It was a huge awakening for me. I especially loved all the descriptions of Jane Purdy’s clothes.
I plowed my way through all of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and everything related. Then came Sweet Valley High and some series about college girls (all I remember was some girl named October that everyone called “Toby” and she hung a teabag from the ceiling the first day of college) and Babysitters Club (which inspired me to form my own club… of one. Me.) And then the Cat Who… series by Lillian Jackson Braun and Agatha Christie and then came high school and I started hating reading again (at least, the books assigned to us. I still read the “good stuff” on my own, which felt like an all expense paid vacation on a tropical island compared to Canterbury Tales and Umberto Eco.)
– Barbie Dolls
I don’t think I liked the dolls so much as I enjoyed making up VERY complex and romantically charged and dramatic stories for them which I orchestrated for months at a time. I think I was influenced from all the soap operas my grandma watched and I overheard. I also liked dressing them up- I liked the way Barbie clothes fit the dolls PERFECTLY. Then I started trying to give all my dolls haircuts like Belinda Carlisle and it all went downhill from there.
– colorful plastic accessories
When I was a kid, it was very trendy to wear barettes with ribbons streaming down the sides and jelly bracelets and these INCREDIBLY fabulous plastic “charm necklaces” that were basically plastic chains you wore around your neck that you clipped plastic “charms” onto. And the charms could get intricate- a working hourglass with glitter inside, a tennis racquet with a tiny ball attached. And I think they al had bells, too, if I’m not mistaken.
That whole charm necklace trend was one of my favorite things. I remember my family took a vacation somewhere remote and we stopped in a little shop and they had A LOT of charms, ones I had never seen before, and it was like I hit the jackpot. I came out of that vacation with, like, THREE NECKLACES full and I will never forget how happy that made me.
– getting mail
I loved receiving mail. I had a subscription to some sticker magazine and a couple of kids’ magazines (DYNAMITE- that was the greatest!) and then Sassy and then all the teen magazines and etc. I also remember a jackpot day when I received both a Care Bear and a yellow plastic digital watch on the same day.
I was always “rescuing” things like ladybugs in little tiny jars with holes poked in them and fish and things like that. I couldn’t get a big pet of my own (I wanted a kitten SO BADLY) because we had an ancient dog named Skipper, a wire-haired terrier who was not social. He passed away when I was about 11 and I was heartbroken. When I was 12, I finally got a kitten. And that was it, I was all about cats.
Okay, I could go on and on, but I have to admit making this list was TREMENDOUS fun in and of itself- thinking about these things, finding images, and feeling technicolor 1980’s-hazed memories spark up some magic happiness inside me.
As far as the bigger picture, I realized a few things- a lot of the things I loved as a kid have translated themselves into things I love now. Art supplies, having pets and volunteering with animals, gardening, writing, etc.
I did realize a few new things, as well: I clearly liked (and still like) collections of things. Not several of the same exact thing, but collecting different *versions* of things. Stickers, charms, accessories. There’s pleasure for me in that- not just receiving those things but organizing and sort of *curating* collections of those things.
Now I understand where my art supply obsession comes with. Maybe it’s something I need to explore- not COLLECTING more or starting up a collection, but creating art that fits into a “collection” for myself. That might make it more satisfying for me.
I also loved possibility and being able to spend some time feeling that possibility. Seeing where a day would take me. I think I have really lost touch with that, although I do feel sparks of it quite often. Imagination, pretend… those are the elements I feel like I’m most missing from my day-to-day life, and especially from my creative life. That’s the thing that stood out for me the most. I need to re-connect with that, and somehow bring it out in the creative stuff I do. I think that would be HUGE for me.
So what about you? What is the FUN STUFF from *your* childhood? What can it tell you about yourself now?
(Don’t forget to join us for the Permission to Play creative challenge. Let yourself have some fun!)
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.