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Dear Diary.

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When I was 9 years old my mother took me to Woolworth’s.  Oh how I loved that store.  Being surrounded by all the neat stuff there (otherwise known to us adults as crapola) was like being in Heaven for me.  I’m sure my mother did everything she could to avoid taking me and my sister to Woolworth’s mainly because she’d end up spending hard-earned money on well, crapola.

My life in some pages...

I tended to gravitate toward the paper aisle.  Scads and heaps and troves of paper as far as the eye could see.  Notebooks made heart race.  I wanted to buy all of them; one big shopping cart full of empty pages to be filled with drawings or doodles, but mostly writing.

It was there in that aisle my mother let me pick out a little spiral bound notebook.  It was green.  It cost .33 according to its top, right-hand corner, and it would be my very first diary.  I wrote this warning on the cover:  “DO NOT OPEN – Notebook for Notes!”   Above that I had scratched out the word “Diary”, which you can still clearly read.  I think it really threw people off the scent of its true function.

I kept one diary every year for 12 years, starting from the age of 9 – 4th grade, through the age of 21 – Junior/Senior year in college.  I’ve kept all of them, although I seem to have temporarily misplaced 1979 and a few others.  They’ll turn up.

There is no better way I could travel back in time than reading these things.  Not even with a DeLorean.

I will now give you some random excerpts from just a few of these diaries because, well, it’s scintillating stuff.  The depth and worldliness of my observations is kind of astonishing.  There’s really no other word for it.   Please take a moment and enter my pre and emerging pubescent mind, with some 43-year-old commentary.  If you dare.

Has held up well for 33 cents. 1978.

March 19, 1978 – Age 9:  My boyfriend Mike moved because his father had to move closer to his work.  I loved him. And he loved me.  It was true love. 

Mike once asked me to say “robin red-breast”, so I did.  He laughed and said “you said breast”.  I fell hook, line and sinker.  How could I not?  Our love was deep, and it was binding.

**********

March 28, 1978 – Age 9:  I’m sorry that I’m so late in writing but I got tied up.  I haven’t seen Mike since he moved.  I’m sure he’s forgotten all about me.  I like Jeff.

I must have been tied up in meetings.  I think 9 days was an appropriate mourning period.

**********

March 29, 1978 – Age 9: My friend Jan stayed overnight last night.  We had a super busy day.  We went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It was about UFO’s (flying saucers).  Then we went home and ate and then we went into the basement and skated.  Boy what a busy day.

1984. This one is fairly sparse. Shame, it was a good year.

I’m not sure how I survived that day, yeesh.  Whew.  Just reading about it makes me super exhausted.  Those skates had metal wheels, not the fancy rubbery plastic kind.  No stoppers/breaks on the toes.  Those were some old-school skates.  The metal wheels were dented in places so it was kind of like skating on squares.  The laminate flooring in our basement bore the scars from our skate parties, and so did the walls and doors due to our roller derby, high-octane collisions.  Every few minutes from upstairs we’d hear “**%$^%$#….KNOCK IT OFF!”  But we were pretty bad-ass, so we didn’t.

**********

Junior/Senior year in High School. 1985-86.

March 30, 1978 – Age 9:  I spent the night at Jan’s house last night.  Her Mom made us clean the house and vacuum the living room and I knocked over a plant.  Her mom was out somewhere and came home that very minute but I ran so she didn’t have time to yell at me.

There are so many things wrong here.  Why did my friend’s mom make a 9-year-old guest clean her house and vacuum her carpet, while she was out getting a mani/pedi?  I do not note whether or not I was paid, but I suspect not.  Why did I scamper away due to the toppled plant?  Where was I going…I lived five miles away?  Why didn’t I man-up and say “Bitch, clean your own house!” while throwing the vacuum cleaner handle down and stomping out with pride? I’ll never know the answers to these burning questions.

**********

???? 12, 1978 – Age 10:  I got my report card today.  Last time I got a U, a big fat U, in “talking”.  But this time I got an S -.  So not too bad.  Man, if I got another U my dad would probably beat me. 

I wrote on this one with a peppermint scented pen. 1980-81.

Let me be clear, my father never beat me.  Back then you could make reference to even just the threat of “getting beat” by your parents without FOX News doing a sixty minute expose on it.  Those were the days.  I did talk a damn lot.  And most of my “U”s were in bright red ink, I think to emphasize the fact that if I could have gotten a “Z” in “talking” I would have.  It was the beginning of my disdain for the tail end of the alphabet.

**********

December 27, 1978 – Age 10:  This year’s Christmas was pretty good excepting I got the chicken pox.  I was loaded with them on my head, in my ear, in my mouth and everywhere else you could name.  I got the pox the last day of school before Christmas vacation and I missed the party and I was in charge of it!  And then my Dad got tickets to the Nutcracker Suite but I couldn’t go because I had a lot of the pox all over me. 

The Pox.  The dreaded Pox.  I had it bad, but not as bad as one boy I knew who was rumored to have scratched his wiener completely off during his stint with The Pox.  I’m pretty sure it was true.  I’ve seen that boy a few times over the years and my eyes always…travel…down….

**********

October 24, 1980 – Age 12:  Tonight at 7:00 I am going to my very first boy-girl dance!  Since I’m on student council I’ll get out of a whole day of school to decorate the gym.

This one is flannel. So comfy. 1986-87.

Really?  A WHOLE day??  To hang up some construction paper and sweep the floors?   No wonder I got a 7 in Math on my ACT.  I remember that day, and all we did was listen to the music us girls brought in so we could make the playlist..the playlist consisting of a 7 foot high stack of vinyl 45’s.

– Right now it’s 6:30 and me and Julie are getting ready for the dance.  I am wearing light blue pants and a blue turtle neck with a white vest.  I set my hair in curlers of course, but the curl didn’t stay in.  I put eye shadow and lip gloss on.

Several things:  1. Blue pants and turtle neck, with a white vest…I…I…don’t know what to say.  It’s not right.  2.  Curlers.  I remember those curlers of my mom’s.  They were steam curlers.  When you’d open the lid of the casing to pull one out scalding hot water would launch out of the top, along with enough scorching steam to melt your face.  You could have powered all of Vegas with my mom’s 12-curler set, the Hoover be damned.  3. I remember the eye shadow was green, which was the perfect choice to compliment my “Hee-Haw!” outfit.  I don’t know why someone didn’t help me.

– Now it’s 8 o’clock and the girls are on one side of the gym and the boys on another side.  All the girls took off their shoes because the boys were too short. 

It’s not like we were wearing stilettos.  Those boys were damn short.  Freakishly short.  Like Lilliputians, and I was only about 5’2″ at the time.  Um.  Yes. I took my diary with me lots of places.  Apparently I took it to this dance.  Geeeeeeeek.  What did I do, stick it in the back pocket of my electric blue pants next to my comb while I was swaying back and forth relentlessly…sorry, dancing…. with a boy?  I also wrote down who danced with who and how many times.  I made a chart.  What the….?

'Cuz nothing says "SECRET!" like huge black letters on a shiny, silver background screaming "SECRET!" 1981-82.

**********

November 18, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I’m working on my book.  I watched some TV too.  Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days.  I need a new bra and some long sleeve shirts.  And I want a piano. 

“…the attention span of a gnat” takes on a whole new meaning here.

**********

November 20, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we played dodge ball in gym class.  I ended up being the only one left on my side so naturally everyone on the other side was aiming for my head and neck.  I was lucky to only get hit hard in the side. 

Naturally the head and neck is where the four guys on the other side simultaneously aimed for me.  It makes perfect sense.  And I believe the gym teacher who sat off to the side, arms-folded on top of his beer belly literally pointing and laughing at me, yelled to me the phrase which Rip Torn inevitably pilfered:  “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”

**********

November 21, 1980 – Age 12:  We finally found out who shot J.R.!  I thought it was Cliff Barnes.  Grandma thought it was Kristin.  Mom thought it was Dr. Elby (he’s a sicko) and my sister thought it was Pam.  But Grandma was right!  But now Kristin is pregnant with J.R.’s baby so he can’t call the cops on her or his baby will be born in jail. 

My Grandmother was a prophet.  Who else could have ever guessed it was Kristin when you had that sicko Dr. Elby running loose?  Grandma should have played the lottery that day. 

**********

My Grandma phase?? 1989-90.

December 1, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I feel like my life has ended.  John broke up with me in Art class.  He said we fight too much.  We went out for 1 month and 8 days.  He likes Jane.  She is such a slut. 

Ohhh, Johnny.  I really liked Johnny.  We did fight a lot though; about current events and who would be more rich and famous when we grew up.  I’m pretty sure I lost.  Also around that time I learned the difference between a “slut” and a “whore”.  Jane clearly deserved every bit of my appropriate assault on her chastity.  She DESERVED it.

**********

December 25, 1980 – Age 12:  Merry Christmas!  I got some stationary, books, lots of earrings, the new Styx album, an alarm clock and ATARI!  I also got a new diary, with a lock on it.  Atari is the best though. 

It was the best.  But most of my friends had Intelevision.  I hated Intelevision and worked hard to eradicate it from existence.  I did pretty well.  Styx “Cornerstone”.  I still have it.  You know it’s you, Babe.

**********

December 26, 1980 – Age 12:  I went to Mary’s slumber party tonight.  We watched The Amityville Horror.

The scene with Rod Steiger and the flies made me gag but I remember thinking it would have been scarier if they had been bats. And the bleeding walls made quite an impression.  I decided right then and there that I never wanted to live in a house with bleeding walls.  I’ve yet to cave on that decision.

**********

December 27, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we went by my aunt and uncle’s house and spent the night.  We all went to the roller rink.  Later on when we were watching TV me and my cousin Joe got into a fight and he hit me and gave me a fat lip.  But then I kicked him in the head.

Uh huh, but that kick in the head came about a half-hour AFTER our parents made us apologize to each other. 

This one survived a flood. Barely. 1987-88.

Only I didn’t really think I – needed – to apologize.  So while all the cousins were on the floor quietly watching TV as the parents played Pinochle,  I seethed, waited for my opening…stood up, and kicked him in the head.  He ran crying upstairs like a little girl because, shit, I kicked him in the head.  Yeah, go on…RUN.  He started it.

**********

December 28, 1980 – Age 12:  Played some Space Invaders today and then watched The Amityville Horror again and went to bed. 

Why was I always watching that movie???  Ahhh, right.  I forgot.  I was in love with James Brolin, going all the way back to Marcus Welby.  Mystery solved.

**********

December 31, 1980 – Age 12:  We went to Grandma’s tonight because my parents went out.  Me and Grandma stayed up until 2:30 am.  It was a blast. 

I wasn’t being sarcastic here.  I loved my Grandma.  I miss her.

**********

I hope you were able to absorb the profundity of these entries.  If so, check in some time in the future for the High School years.  It gets pretty steamy.  I won’t give it away but there is talk of (deep breaths)………………corduroys.

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About Lilabell

I am the 44 year old mother of three boys, ages 7, 5 and 4. Help. No, seriously, help. I love to write and read what other people write.

22 responses »

  1. I guess I must just be dense…”Robin red breast”? WTF does that mean? I don’t get it…granted I don’t get much of anything, the fan, nerd boy that I am. But…really…I don’t get it. Splain! please!

    Reply
    • In Illinois we were always taught that the Robin was called “robin red breast” because of the red feathers on its chest. At least they didn’t make us call it robin read boob.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: You Googled WHAT to get to my Blog?? | ViralStash.com The Daily Buzz

  3. Love it! I join the chorus of MORE! A new bra at 12? I only got one because I was 13 and should have. Judy Bloom and “we must, must” was my mantra. Not sure I even needed one til I had kids! Lucky girl!

    Reply
    • Tam, uh…yeah. New one. At the time I didn’t feel so lucky though. More like cursed. You know us girls, the grass is always greener. I’m so glad you like it!

      Reply
  4. My eyes are watering I’m laughing so hard…we really did get a whole day to “decorate” the gym. With what, some streamers and the “make-out” string across the gym!

    Reply
    • Carolyn, yes…yes…the make-out string! Who could forget it. One whole day putting that thing up. Listening to Air Supply and Journey til our ears bled. What I wouldn’t give to back to just one of those dances.

      Reply
  5. Why don’t you woman up and use real names?? Cousin Joe??? We all know it was Mike or Jeff. Sissy….

    Love,

    Your sister Diana

    Reply
  6. These are brilliant insights into a kid’s mind. Honest and hilarious!! These are way universal, how else are non-Chicagoans gonna learn about Woolworth’s coolness?

    More, more! There must be more!

    Muse away, Lilabell

    Intellivision was crap…

    Reply
    • Thanks Pete. Means a lot coming from you, a seasoned writer. I’m sure there will be more diary installments. Can’t let them go to waste. And yes, God, Intellevision was crap! I miss Woolworth’s. The last one I remember seeing was on Broadway and Melrose (?) on the North Side, about 15 years ago. Sad.

      Reply
      • When I moved to the city after I graduated, there was a Woolworth’s at Lincoln and School Street, just north of Lincoln/Ashland/Belmont. It’s okay, though. The building is still there. There’s a Caribou Coffee and a fitness club in its place. And a Whole Foods across the street. Yuppified, to the max! ugh…

        Reply
  7. Brilliant, priceless, funny and yes…nostalgic.
    I loved you back then. do now and always will.
    AJS

    Reply
  8. u kicked him in the head? wow! lilabell, i shoulda had you with me when those guys jumped me in the school cafeteria. and what a way cool idea to comment on your actual pubescent mind. continue…

    Reply
    • Well he had it coming. And it was with bare feet. He was two years younger than me, but bigger than I was. I feel all of these things absolve me from most guilt. I regret nothing!

      Reply
  9. I feel like I should know all of these people, but don’t recognize any of them! Aliases perhaps (how does one spell the plural of alias?) In any case, hilarious as always!!! Can’t wait for next installment! Loved the pictures of the actual diaries!!!! Genius!!

    Reply
  10. Laura, I kept a diary from roughly the same time you did — 3rd grade (I was a year behind you in school) through college. I’m a little nervous to crack those things open again. You’re probably mentioned in there somewhere, though, so it might be worth it… ;-)

    Love to see the things that are in common with all girls of a certain age.

    Reply
  11. Oh god, Laura!!

    More, more, more!!!

    Please, please, please!!!

    This twisted my head so beautifully. Love your musings, especially the 30 year old variety.

    Reply
    • There’s so much more. Unfortunately I fear only those who know me would find most of it humorous. I feel sure I’ll add more installments for our giggles, Davey.

      Reply

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