For my mother: things I grew up with

very small

Today my mother turned 65. She and I share an easy and generous sense of humor that is somehow sister to our earnest literal-mindedness and unflappable trust in things working out – a quality that either endears us to you or drives you mad or both. I also owe her big time for my impressive mental catalog of early and mid 80s easy listening and country, my enthusiasm for game nights and meandering drives, and my love of cocktails, cake, baseball, books, stacks of books, ice cream, ephemera, British miniseries, and sitting in my chair at the movies until the very very last credits have rolled. Watching her taught me that kindness matters more than almost everything else, that it’s never too late for another cup of coffee, and that reading on the beach is better when you drag your chair into the surf. She has an astounding mind for minutiae, is fiercely loyal, and remembers my own stories better than I do. She is a marvel. She is my closest friend.

A few weeks ago she came across this post of Andrea’s from 2013 and asked if I might consider making a similar list for her, as a birthday gift. Indulge in some sweet nostalgia and make my mom happy? This I can do.

“A happy childhood can’t be cured. Mine’ll hang around my neck like a rainbow,
that’s all, instead of a noose.” – Hortense Calisher, 
Queenie (1971)

Here you go, Mom. A long and happy list of things I grew up with:

that Strawberry Shortcake album, which I’d listen to with my ear pressed flush against one of the giant wood-paneled speakers (later it was Bookends and Sgt. Pepper)
Steak San Marco
Le Sueur peas in the silver can
Laurie’s chicken
baked potatoes with their steady plumes of steam
Life cereal
languorous Saturdays stretched out on the blue love seat with Johnny Tremain or The Egypt Game or The Baby-Sitters Club
clarinet reeds
road trips to the Smokies, to St. Louis, to Providence/Boston
the smell of church: that heady alchemical fusion of wooden pews and old hymnals and pink soap and sheet music and coffee and perfume and choir robes and wine that to this day, despite considerable wandering, comforts me immediately like little else
doodling with you on the back of a Sunday bulletin insert
lazy summers
Randy Travis
pets, always
Certs (and in fact the composite smell of your purse: Certs, leather, cash, Poison perfume, and CoverGirl Hint of Bronze Lipslick)
Born in the U.S.A.
Fisher Price Little People
Pert Plus in our bathroom, the brown Vidal Sassoon bottles in yours
watching you pull on your knee highs
sticker books
Sticker Page
dinner rolls
oldies radio
cul-de-sac living
Bain de Soleil
MoonPies at PoFolks, the peg game at Cracker Barrel, popcorn shrimp at Red Lobster
Parker pens
piano music at dinnertime
red tip photinias
rock candy
the mall
Georgia pines, sweetgums, Russian poplars
the smell of our street after a summer rain
whole wheat + Provolone grilled cheese
my eraser collection
friends’ birthday parties at roller rinks, McDonalds, ShowBiz
the staccato of orange roller skate wheels on the tile floors of the bathrooms at the rink
“Oh My Darling, Clementine” and “Marianne” and “Stewball”
Weekly Reader, Children’s Choice, and Parents’ Magazine book clubs
riding bikes
fireworks at Fort Gordon
swimming at Clarks Hill Lake
the Hawaiian nativity
the hum of Grandma’s sewing machine
a flamingo sticker on the sugar bin
red dirt
dappled light
seeing you and Dad kiss good-bye and hello every day

(Anyone else want to play? I’d love to read your lists.)

13 thoughts on “For my mother: things I grew up with

    1. Lisa Post author

      Trying to remember when I might’ve actually understood what that song was about!! Not right away, of course, but probably pretty early on … from the tiniest age Scott and I knew you respected and enjoyed us as people – not just kids – and that always included giving us real information.

  1. Amy Jo

    Goodness! I love this so much. When are you moving to Portland? You really need to be part of my local tribe. We’d have such fun!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Sniff, sniff … I feel like I do have such a tribe there already!!! We will be visiting late summer 2016 – thinking of staying for a couple weeks so I can just really soak y’all up.

  2. Amanda

    What a sweet request. Mine? Watermelon bubblegum in the checkout line at Safeway, birthday breakfasts at IHOP, camping in the redwoods on the California coast in the fall with my green hoody zipup sweatshirt, minestrone soup, lazagne, diet coke, plastic candy garlands on the Christmas tree, dollar bags of candy from Sprouts Ritz, walking there, walking back, rollarblades. Thanks for the fun!

    1. Lisa Post author

      I love your list, Amanda! And it makes me think of more for my own 🙂 Birthday breakfasts when I was young were always my dad’s French toast with tons of butter and both brown and powdered sugar, mmmm. He learned it from his mom, and I have passed the know-how (and love of all that sugar) down to my own son already. We always put loads of silver tinsel on our tree and I’d stare at it for hours, the way the tinsel reflected the tiny lights. And your talk of candy makes me think of the ice cream truck, where I often got Nerds or Fun Dip with Lick-a-Stix. Oh man.


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