Lottery

When I was about seven or eight, I was obsessed with the musical CATS. Like, properly obsessed – I used to watch it every day after school, knew all the words to the songs (even though I didn’t know what half of them meant), and dreamed that I could be one of the characters onstage someday. Seeing as I can’t sing or dance, this was a lofty – and unreachable – ambition. But child Allie kept on dreaming. And my favorite cat was Skimbleshanks (the Railway cat), if you were wondering.

I loved it so much, my mom took me on a bus trip to NYC to see the show on Broadway. I was psyched. It felt like my dreams were coming true – what could possibly be better than seeing CATS on Broadway?

The day of the trip, the bus was full. Lots of dancin’ feline lovin’ folks, but I was easily the youngest by a significant margin, and definitely the only person whose age was still in the single digits. Also this was circa, like… 1999, for reference. This was the original Broadway run of CATS. To pass the time on the bus, the people who organized the trip arranged for us to play a game. A lottery-type game.

So, everyone who wanted to participate would put in $1 into a pool, and then everyone who put money in would write their name onto a slip of paper and put it into a bucket to be drawn. The last name drawn would win the entire pool. My mom added a dollar on my behalf, as well as for herself, so my entry into this contest was legit.

I think you can tell where this story is going.

One by one, the names were read out, occasionally accompanied by a groan or a sigh of disappointment. The slips of paper in the bucket began to dwindle. My mother’s name was read out, but I kept waiting for mine, until there were only two names left. Needless to say, I won, which upset many of the other passengers, but my mom made sure to shield me from disapproving glares and grumbles, so I wasn’t really cognizant of that.

I won $45, which, to a seven year old in the year of our lord 1999, might as well have been six figures. My mom kept it safe for me since we were going to see the show first, but we would have some shopping time afterward, and I had plans for that cash.

The show was incredible, of course – CATS really opened my eyes to the wonderful and expansive world of musical theater. I still can’t sing or dance, but I love watching other people do it. They also let the kids climb onstage and explore a bit during the intermission, because the show was a big hit with the younger crowd. But after loving the music and watching the VHS over, and over, and over again, it was a total dream come true for child Allie to see it live. I also get to be smug and brag about how I got to see it during the original, previously record-breaking Broadway run. And Skimbleshanks is still my favorite.

After the show, we got some pizza at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and then… it was time for the next stop on our trip. A little place called FAO Schwarz. For those unfamiliar, it’s the toy store in the movie Big where Tom Hanks plays the giant floor piano. It’s not open any more, but it was insane, like a Toys-R-Us (R.I.P.) on steroids. And I was a child with $45 in my velcro wallet.

I’ll give my mom a lot of credit – she didn’t try to rein me in. I was a kid with whims, and I wasn’t about to put that money in the piggy bank to save for something like college. No, that didn’t even cross my mind. If there was anything at that point in my life that I loved as much as CATS… it was Pokemon.

I spent all the money – and I mean all – on Pokemon stuff.

20190711_2152543807616054843061332.jpg

To be fair, twenty years later, I still have some of it. I have five talking figurines and a couple of plushies. I also bought a poster of the original 151 Pokemon to hang above my bed, because that’s the only Pokemon that existed at the time – it started at Bulbasaur and ended with Mew. The picture is of the figurines, which currently stand guard on my bookshelf, and sneaky peek of Raichu’s head. Squirtle also only speaks Japanese for reasons beyond my comprehension.

Was this the most responsible use of that money? Probably not. But I was young and $45 was a treat for me. It was like winning the lottery. If I won $45 now, I would probably put it toward bills. Either my car payment or my student loans. Because I’m 27 now, not 7. I can’t just toss money away on a whim.

Though it would be very tempting to spend it on Pokemon stuff…

Me Too

I know that many people look at the world today and see it as a volatile place. I’m more or less the definition of a standard-issue, Starbucks-loving, nonreligious, straight white girl, so obviously, my life hasn’t been riddled with the kinds of difficulties faced by those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, skin color, religion, gender identity, what have you. I am very fortunate, in that regard – and I am fully aware of that.

But in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, I realized that there are some experiences in my past that have affected me and have influenced my behaviors around members of the opposite sex. You can say you’re tired of hearing about these “Me Too” stories, but it’s always going to be relevant, and if people have a story to tell, then they should tell it. I only recently told this story to my parents, and they were shocked that I hadn’t told them about it before, so I thought it might be therapeutic to get it off my chest. However, if personal stories aren’t your cup of tea, you may want to pass on reading this post.

I played on a coed soccer team when I was around seven or eight years old. We had three coaches – my dad (the best one, and no, that’s not bias speaking), one of the other dads, and a bald guy with a beard who I will call “Frank,” for the purposes of this story. Basically, it was a bunch of kids in green shirts running around occasionally kicking a ball in the right direction. One kid never took off his parka. We were terrible. I later had a briefly successful venture into more competitive soccer, but this was my first year playing, and nearly my last.

There was a kid on the team named “Sean,” also a fake name for the purposes of this story. Sean played defense, I played offense. When we had scrimmages during practice, and I found myself opposite of Sean, he would waggle his eyebrows at me and pull his shorts up to show me his underwear. My reaction to this was to basically make a “WTF” face, because why on earth would I want to look at his Scooby-Doo undies. He did this fairly often. I didn’t engage with him. I gave no indication that I wanted him to do that. I said nothing to him. I was there to play soccer, and that was it. That sort of unwanted attention was uncomfortable for me. I’m certain my father never noticed him doing this, or he would have for sure taken that boy to task.

As mentioned before, we were not good. We were, to put it bluntly, dreadful. We lost most of our games, but really, when you’re that young, the purpose is to have fun and to learn, not to wreck the competition. Two of our coaches understood that we were spindly-limbed novices still learning how to play the game – Frank did not. Frank treated U-8 soccer like it was the world cup.

One day, after a particularly rough loss on our home field, I was walking to the bathrooms (a generous term, as they were really a pair of port-a-johns) when I overheard Frank talking to some of the parents. He said, with malice in his voice, “Allie flirts with all the boys!”

I stopped walking, because I couldn’t believe it – and I didn’t understand. First of all, I didn’t know what flirting meant. Frank sort of clarified it, as he went on to claim that I distract all the boys so they can’t focus on the game. He accused me of being the reason we lose games, the reason for the poor performance of the boys on the team. I assume this mainly meant Sean, the underwear showing weirdo, but he said, “all.” I thought boys still had cooties at that age, so I didn’t understand where that accusation came from. I wanted to score goals – I wanted to be a good player. I went to practice to play. I wasn’t doing anything intentional to “distract” the boys – if I spoke to them, it was usually about cartoons or Pokemon cards, and only at breaks. But Frank’s words hurt;¬†they made me feel terrible and I went into the foul-smelling port-a-john to have a nice cry.

I look back on that now, and I see it as a middle-aged man blaming an eight-year-old girl in pigtails for the poor performance of a U-8 soccer team. I was a child who did nothing wrong, and yet, my existence was a reason for his ire. Even though I was being paid unwanted attention by a male player, it was my fault that our team was terrible. I was made to feel guilty, to feel responsible, to feel… ashamed. And for what?

I know it looks tame compared to many of the other stories – and thankfully, it is. There have been a couple of other instances in my personal history, but those are not stories I care to tell at the moment. But this event from two decades ago had a profound impact on the way I interacted with boys for years. I didn’t want to be blamed for any male’s shortcomings, and I also developed a steep distrust for male authority figures that I have only recently begun to get over. I generally avoided the attention of boys/men for the next, oh… fifteen years. And it’s something I still grapple with, twenty years after I was sent crying into a portable bathroom by the overheard accusations of an incensed soccer coach. I know that it wasn’t my fault, but I also won’t deny that there was long-lasting damage done to my psyche that day, which I have only been able to unpack and process over the last couple of years.

I hope that this movement – the “Me Too” movement as it has been called – will help other girls, boys, men, women, and anyone else who has been affected in a similar way, cope with what they’ve gone through, regardless of the severity. I know that hearing others speak up about their experiences has made me more comfortable with sharing mine, and I can only hope to do that for someone else out there.

 

 

Fling the Shoe

The mind of a child is an incredible thing.

When we were very young, my childhood best friend and I invented a game. We would swing on her swing set, go as high as we could, and fling our shoes off of our feet and send them flying across the yard, and see who could send theirs the farthest. We called this game, “Fling the Shoe.” Not the most creative name in the world, but it got the point across.

It’s such a simple thing, but it held a lot of meaning for us. We would muster all our strength and release the shoes at the peak of the swing, aiming for the brink of the neighbor’s yard. It all came down to the timing – if you waited too long, you’d accidentally send it flying straight up, or do it too soon and you wouldn’t get the proper angle. There was a certain art to it, and we could play for ages trying to achieve the perfect technique. I don’t know who won more often, but I don’t think we really cared who actually flung their shoe the furthest. We just had so much fun doing it.

We spent countless sunny afternoons playing this game, and lamenting bad weather because it meant we couldn’t. In the summer, her backyard was full of our laughter, and the air was full of sneakers. Every time I see a swing set I think of those days and how much fun we had together. We weren’t glued to the television (at least, not all the time) or engrossed with computers – which there is too much of these days, even though I am pro-technology. All we had were our imaginations, our creativity, and the simple bliss of childhood friendship.

“Fling the Shoe” was such a simple thing, but it’s a dear memory. Because it meant so much more than that, and still does.

 

Sentimental

Sentimentality – it’s both a blessing, and a curse, when you attach memories to objects. It becomes so difficult to let them go. Or, in some cases, far too easy.

I had something mentally and emotionally taxing happen to me in the January of my last year of college. When it happened, I was wearing (tastefully) ripped jeans and a red-and-grey striped hooded tunic sweater. In the aftermath, I got rid of them both – even though both were relatively new and would have lasted a long while. The sweater was actually a big favorite of mine and I loved wearing it. However, I could no longer wear them because whenever I looked at them afterward, they reminded me of that event, and how bad my last semester of college was because of it. So, they went into the donation pile.

After my grandmother passed away, I had trouble letting go of gifts she gave to me over the years, even if clothes no longer fit, or items were no longer of use. It would make me feel guilty to even consider it. My grandmother was one of the best people in my life and had a profound influence on me. Of course, I know that the true treasure is my memories of her – of the good times we shared, and the things she gave me that were intangible. I have held onto a few key items; a stuffed corgi, and a music box that I had once given her as a gift. But I have gradually let some of the other things go, and even though I have a sentimental attachment to all of those things, I know I am not betraying her by doing so.

Books are a big one for me. Since getting an e-reader several years ago, I have thinned out my physical book collection. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to let a title go. I’ll remember reading it for the first time and hesitate to put it in the donation pile, but little by little, I have done so. It helps to realize that by letting them go, I am sharing those beloved titles with new readers, and that first-time reading experience with others. Sure, my shelves get a little emptier, but it does make my heart lighter in the end.

I form attachments to things that others might consider trivial. Movie ticket stubs and movie posters. Toys, collectible and otherwise. Snowglobes. Old video games that no longer play. Gradually, I will let these things go too, but I don’t think there’s any harm in holding on a bit longer than others.

Ultimately, I think the positives of sentimentality outweigh the negatives by a significant margin, but it is vital to remember that items do not always equate in importance to memories. Memories remain in your heart, good and bad. Certain items may bolster that, and getting rid of them doesn’t destroy those memories.

History

Every year, on the weekend closest to the anniversary of D-Day, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, PA holds an event called World War II weekend. Folks can come to see real WWII planes take to the air and stroll through recreated military encampments, watch FDR and Churchill drive by in classic cars, peruse genuine artifacts, listen to veterans speak, and learn all sorts of intriguing tidbits about the WWII era.

My dad used to take my sister and me to this event for many years. He knows a lot about the planes and enjoyed teaching us about the differences between them and what they were used for. One year, we got to meet Robert K. Morgan the pilot of the Memphis Belle, and tour the plane itself. I was pretty young at the time, so I didn’t fully understand the significance of that interaction, but I’m glad I got to meet him and shake his hand, as he has since passed away. I garnered an intense appreciated for WWII air crafts, of which my favorite is the P-40 Warhawk.

Even though I’ve attended this event several times, it’s still fun to go every year. Occasionally, new planes enter the rotation as the museum acquires them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course, the most rewarding part of these events is seeing the planes take to the skies. Despite these planes being over 70 years old, many of them are still in flying condition. And it is absolutely incredible to watch. Though there are so many things to walk around and see, many people set up lawn chairs on the grass just to sit and watch the planes fly all day – though, if you ever do this, I recommend bringing lots of sunscreen, water, and maybe a sunhat and sunglasses.

Veterans of the Great War still attend these events – they engage curious children and talk about their experiences with anyone who stops to chat. Of course, there are less of these brave men and women now than ever, as all of them would be into their 90’s now. It’s an era that should never be forgotten, and events like this certainly help with that.

But this event is special because of the multi-generational quality – it’s encouraging to see young children take an interest in our nation’s history, and heartwarming to see grandchildren walking around with their grandparents, eagerly listening to them talk about the planes and such. It’s also insanely comforting to see any folks taking their elderly parents/grandparents around, making sure they get to see everything, taking care that they don’t get lost in the crowd, entertaining their questions and treating them with the utmost respect.

I am thankful that my father took me to the airshow when I was young, even if I didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of WWII as a child. Now that I can appreciate the history more, it’s like taking a stroll through history – and recognizing the greatness, and the sorrow that comes with it.

Unusual Skills

You can know someone for decades, and still be surprised when they throw out seemingly random facts about themselves. Obscure little tidbits that don’t quite make it into “About Me” sections and convos because there is little opportunity to slide them in organically without sounding like you’re bragging. Well, I’m definitely not rife with such skills, but an example would be…

I have a history of turning bowling pins into art pieces for a competitive charity event. I have made a Jawa from Star Wars, and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Here are a couple of pics. I also made a parrot once, but I can’t find any pictures of it.

1106140845~2

img_20170504_154529_6002274578488699006918.jpg

I’m proud of these, but I also don’t have much opportunity to mention it – though I can’t say I ever really look for a time to slip it into casual conversation. Sometimes, I even forget about it myself until I stumble across an old picture.

I also used to be on the global leaderboard for a facebook game called Night Balloons. I was obsessed with it for ages – now, I probably couldn’t play to save my life.

So, does anyone else have an unusual skill they’d like to brag about? Because I’d love to hear it!

Also, there will be a bonus post tomorrow!

Simple

The first whiff of coffee in the morning.

A new book on a rainy day.

Fleece-lined leggings in winter.

Singing a song you love at the top of your lungs.

Popcorn at the movies.

Hitting snooze on your alarm and not having to actually get up.

Finishing a really strenuous workout.

Finding out your favorite movie is on TV and you have time to watch it.

A stranger complimenting your outfit.

Beating the hardest boss in a video game.

When a bill is less expensive than you expected.

Catching a beautiful sunset or sunrise.

Lazy afternoons with a fuzzy blanket and a latte.

Unexpected praise.

Getting a new haircut.

Browsing various homegoods stores, despite not needing to buy anything.

The smell of fresh spring flowers.

Collapsing into bed after a long, arduous day.

When your favorite song comes on the radio.

Bagels. Fresh bagels.

Winning at cards. Especially Uno.

Sitting at the fireplace on a cold night.

Making somebody else laugh with a lame pun.

The smell of new books. Alternatively, the smell of old books.

Getting a long-awaited email.

When somebody understands your obscure references.

The scent of freshly-cut grass.

When your favorite sports team wins.