We remember the moments in tiny flashes, usually triggered unexpectedly. Pieced together, they take us back to another time: to a world filled with sounds and smells and sights once a taken-for-granted part of our everyday life.
Last week, I returned to the fall of 1970.
I'm getting ready for school. I yank the pink sponge curlers from my hair and brush out the tangled curls. I pull on the brown leather jumper my mother has laid out on my dresser. My stretched-out knee socks fall to my shins, and I secure a rubber band around the top of each, to hold them into place.
Scanning what remains in the Kellogg's Snack Pack in the cupboard, I select a box of Sugar Smacks. I carefully slice it open on the dotted lines. I pour in the milk and eat the cereal straight from the tiny box.
I thumb through the pink Melmac bowl filled with plastic bus tokens, avoiding the toothmark-riddled ones apparently once gnawed by some nasty boy at my school. I grab my metal Monkees lunch box, containing a wax-paper wrapped bologna sandwich, apple and a Snick-Snack bar from my pillowcase of Halloween candy.
It's an okey-doke school day.Yes, we have to suffer through an hour of Mass, but I stay entertained by staring at the older boy I adore from afar who is serving as an Altar Boy. I sigh, watching him lighting the candles, in his black and white robe. Too bad there is no such thing as Altar Girls; I would surely become one.
It's a warm November day, and after school I grab my roller skates. I slide the metal soles across the bottom of my tennis shoes until they fit snugly. I turn the key, locking them into place. My best friend Joyce and I take a break from skating in the street to jump in the pile of newly raked leaves at her curb. Her father shoos us away. He bends down, lighting the pile afire with his metal Zippo lighter. We watch the flames spark and enjoy the smell of burning leaves before our mothers call us in for dinner.
It's Friday night. Dad's bowling tonight and my two older sisters are at sleep-overs, so Mom and I get a treat: TV dinners. I help Mom pull the two metal trays from the oven and we carefully carry them to the living room where we place them each on a folding TV table. I peel away the foil on top, as Mom turns on the television set.
The TV warms up, a tiny ball of light in the center of the screen glowing and then expanding into a full color picture. We just got the new color TV last year, and I'm still excited every time we turn it on.
We have a choice of five stations. I watch the news with mixed interest until my favorite line-up of shows starts at 7:30: The Brady Bunch, Nanny and the Professor, and The Partridge Family.
We take a quick break to make a snack. Mom heats some oil in our biggest iron skillet and pours in a bit of popcorn. I need both hands to shake the covered pan, listening until the kernels stop bursting before emptying the popcorn into a green Tupperware bowl. I grab a large tin can of Hawaiian Punch from the cupboard. I listen to the air hiss out as I punch it open with a can opener. I struggle with the metal ice tray, and Mom takes over. She succeeds in pulling the lever hard enough to loosen the cubes and drops a few in my pink aluminum glass.
Before I head to bed at 9:00, she reminds me to call my grandmother to thank her for my birthday card and the $10 bill slipped inside. I pull the heavy plastic receiver from our phone which hangs on the kitchen wall. The cord is tangled, so I let it dangle for a moment, watching as the receiver twirls from the unraveling cord. My index finger pulls the dial clockwise for each number, and I wait as it slowly ticks backward before I continue dialing.
Grandma is pleased to hear from me. I eagerly tell her everything I bought with the $10 she sent: the Partridge Family record album, a Nancy Drew book, and a Twist N Turn Barbie doll.
Lying in bed, I listen to my new album, singing along from the lyrics on the record sleeve.
I can't imagine a much more perfect day.
I wonder what tomorrow might bring.
What do you remember?