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.

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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…

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.