Somehow yesterday I was reminded of a Christmas past—but not a Christmas PSAT because that would be boring—that I am now going to tell you about, so put your ’80s hats on.
I dropped out of college a billion times. I criticize myself for this flakiness a lot until I read my college-era diaries, when it all comes back to me how
I was by anxiety and panic attacks that I was not telling anyone about except my beleaguered boyfriend du jour, who did his best but he was 19 and I feel bad for him and he’s one of two boyfriends I am not in touch with out of the 60343834223442. And can you blame him? I sort of can, because it was almost 40 years ago, and get over it, dude. Check in and see if maybe things have gotten better for me, asshole. Yeesh.
I will always want to know how my exes are doing, even the ones who turned out sort of wonky. I don’t understand people who are still harboring resentment decades later. bUt shE haD anXIEty! Yeah, I did. I’m 55 now. You lost your virginity to me. There’s no, like, curiosity about how I’m doing or if I look good or am I a bag lady muttering to herself or anything?
Anyway, this story has little to do with men or exes, so I digress. Can you even digress if you’ve not started the story yet?
Christmas 1985, I had dropped out of Michigan State, as I was wont to do. Honestly, having secret almost-daily panic attacks and trying to attend a large college is taxing and I just need you to believe me on this. I can elaborate on it in a different post if you wish.
I’d gotten back together with my high school boyfriend, Cardinal. I moved back to my home town and got an apartment that was so adorable, just blocks from where he lived. I don’t recall discussing with whether he wanted me to move back home blocks from him, but I did and that’s what mattered.
The apartment was the top of an old house. It had a front and a back entrance and I always entered through the back door and didn’t realize I had like a month’s worth of mail, including bills, piling up in the front hall. was 20, did I mention?
Anyway. I found these blue, red and yellow-flowered curtains for the kitchen and then as luck would have it, I found the SAME PATTERN in a shower curtain. Oh, man, I was stylin’.
The living room had these double doors and behind them was a Murphy bed! Also there was a walk-in cedar closet that had this built-in bench you could sit on. I had a party there once and someone looked in the closet and found my calendar where I’d written each day’s outfit so I wouldn’t repeat my looks too soon.
I got two jobs: as a cocktail waitress at a club and selling shoes by day. I owned a lot of unnecessary shoes. I was too young to drink so I didn’t spend much at my night job.
To furnish my new pad, I went to the world’s most successful garage sale experience. It was in a nice neighborhood, and the older couple having it was moving to Florida. I purchased their really nice couch for I think $35, a couch MY AUNT KATHY STILL OWNS. She’s had it recovered like three times. Every time I see it, I say, dammit. Kind of like Faithful Reader Andrea when she sees Forest.
I also bought this forest, if you’ll forgive, green cardigan, this old-man cardigan. It was a v-neck, sort of fuzzy, and it buttoned, as it was a cardigan. I think it was 50 cents.
I WORE THAT CARDIGAN FOR 20 YEARS.
There are times I peruse my closet—or there were, back when I put on clothes—and I’d think, “I wish I had that cardigan.” I wore it backwards sometimes, to be cute. When the buttons all fell off, I wore it with lacy tanks. I wore that cardigan probably longer than the original owner lived.
My point is this. I moved into that cute apartment in the fall. I made probably $15,000 a year with my two impressive jobs. Then winter came and Christmas arrived.
I didn’t have much money, but my boyfriend Cardinal and I headed to the Christmas tree lot across from the movie theater. You know how I’ve told you when I was a kid we lived walking distance from a movie theater so in the summer I saw The Sting and Rocky like 20 times apiece for a dollar? That theater.
We got a fairly short tree, because $$. We brought it to my cute apartment and set it up. I think we went to the antique store to get a tree stand. I can sort of envision a really cool old stand.
And here’s the part I remembered yesterday.
After the tree was up, I put my cousins to work.
In 1985, my cousins Katie and Maria were, I think, 8 and 6. You know how I am. They might also have been 18 months and 20 years old. Whatever. They were young. And I don’t recall asking, I just recall retrieving them from their home, getting supplies, and putting them to work.
They sat in my living room with scissors and glue, and made me all my ornaments. My whole tree was covered in construction paper and tinsel. I don’t even know if I had any lights.
One thing that sticks out is the star. I recall a very crooked star, just covered in dangling tinsel.
That tree was fekking adorable. And you know what I did? I took zero pictures. I took zero pictures of that apartment at all, I think. I had an old parasol open, hanging in one corner, over a cool old fishbowl with a blue beta fish in it. I had a vintage cookie jar that looked like a big elf head. I had stuff in there I bet I’ve forgotten all about, and is any of it captured on film? It is not.
So yesterday I texted my cousins.
Neither of them remember this, and that is good, because I’ll bet you I made them work for hours and did not give them any snacks or anything.
“I do remember that apartment,” my cousin Katie wrote me. “I wanted to have one just like it when I got older.”
I mean. That apartment was pretty cool. I don’t know if just everyone achieves the matching kitchen curtain/shower curtain thing.
Anyway, that was yesterday’s memory. Of my crooked-star, construction-paper tree in 1985. How come the nicest memories are of things you didn’t pay much for? And that you used child labor to get?
I wonder if I could get Chris and Lilly’s kids to just do shit for me. I must ponder this.
Hansel and Gretel-ly,