The way it used to be

That last post, combined with some heavy-duty nostalgia by way of Matt Nathanson’s Instagram hashtag #wayitusedtobe (and the song it’s based on), have set me on a voyage down memory lane. It’s funny, because when I look back on my youth (at least the years between 13 and 33), I tend to remember the bad. But remembering that coffee place at Hickory Ridge reminded me of a whole bunch of good. Here’s some things I miss, in no particular order.

  • Going to discount movies at Appletree Cinema. I think they were $2.50. I can’t get a bottle of water for that at the movies these days. Back then, we could get dinner and a movie for less than $10.
  • Hanging out with my dad while waiting to pick Mom up at the airport, back when you could wait at the gate.
  • Mallratting. Chasing boys and eating food court food. Shopping 10 stores and grabbing dinner without having to step outside.
  • Arcades.
  • Applebee’s, back when their menu included things like lasagna and pot pie. T.J. Mulligan’s veggie burger and beer battered fries. New York Deli’s pimento cheese.
  • Brach’s Pick-a-Mix. And candy counters. What happened to candy counters?
  • Scavenger hunt shopping. Looking for some obscure something in bookstores, record (yeah, as in vinyl) stores, etc, was an endlessly entertaining hobby. Now you can find pretty much anything you want in five clicks. Amazon will drop it on my doorstep in two days, tops. Yes, it’s convenient and saves me a ton of time, but where’s the challenge?
  • Those months when my mom’s cycle and mine would sync up and we’d go to the store and fill the cart with junk food, boxed chocolate, and flowers.
  • Video stores. Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer Netflix. But there was a sense of triumph when I went to the local video store (which was more Clerk’s Quick Stop, less Blockbuster) and they actually had what I wanted to watch — in stock.
  • Mom’s baking. I love to bake, but there’s something about food that is baked for you by someone who loves you that you can never replicate yourself.
  • Reading until dawn.
  • Riding my bike on a windy day. Without a helmet, of course, because it was the 80s.
  • Going to the movies with my dad.
  • Jess perfume. It was the only perfume I wore for years, and the only one that ever suited me perfectly.
  • My grandparents’ house. I didn’t have loads of good memories there, but it was a constant in my life. I still can’t believe it’s gone.
  • Shopping trips with my mom that started in the morning and lasted until the stores closed. After which we’d grab a coffee because what even is caffeine?
  • Coffee.
  • Beer. More to the point, liking beer. I can still drink it, but now it tastes like camel piss. And makes me wake up wishing for death the next day.
  • The kind of tired you get when you’ve been swimming all afternoon and are riding home with the windows down and a towel around your waist.
  • Hearing a song that captures how I feel perfectly.
  • Sleeping until I am fully rested. Then sleeping some more.
  • Those instant friendships of childhood. Hi, my name is ______. Want to be my friend?
  • The feeling of anticipation that permeated the Friday and Saturday nights of my adolescence. Nothing exciting ever really happened, but each weekend it felt like I might just encounter my destiny.
  • Sitting on the front porch on spring evenings.
  • Parting with someone, a friend or boyfriend, and missing them so much you call them as soon as you get home so you can talk more.
  • Walking to the custard stand after an afternoon of playing at the park.
  • My old apartment. God, I loved that place, from the first moment I set foot in it.
  • Hanging out with friends at someone’s house. No prearranged activities — just a group of people, some snacks, some music, some conversation and games.
  • Going to the bookstore and leaving with a stack of books. Yes, I can still do this. But there’s no point because my to-read pile already fills a five-shelf bookcase, and I failed to read even 12 books in all of 2018.
  • Brilliantly colored fall leaves. (I know they still exist, but I haven’t seen them in years.) The smell of burning leaves in my wind-chilled hair. Smelling burning leaves without my lungs spasming.
  • Boredom. Having time to daydream, and think, and sort through things. I was a much better writer when I had time to be bored.



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