Category Archives: Childhood

A Celebration of the Stupid Crap We Did In The 80s

A dear friend of mine shared the funniest article about parenting with me the other day. If you’d like to read it, just click on the picture below:

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This happy little dude is sitting in a 1970s car seat. Cute how that was considered safe, huh?

You’ll be shocked to learn that I wasn’t a parent in the 80s. But let me tell you what I was, readers. I was a KID. And some of the awesome stuff highlighted in this very article were projects my brother and I made up in order to keep ourselves occupied on those long, school-less summer days.

For instance…my little brother had a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe:

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Every kid in the neighborhood did. Am I right?

It didn’t take us long to figure out that not-so-difficult math equation between his car, my bike, and my trusty old jump rope.

stupid coaster

We didn’t have to be a geniuses to figure out that if we tethered the car to the bicycle with a few solid knots, that we’d just created the world’s most basic roller coaster.

Thankfully (for my parents’ peace of mind, and their insurance bills) we only had one small hill in our front yard. It wasn’t like we lived in the mountains or anything. However, that small little hill gave us just enough momentum to make us feel like we were REALLY flying. I can still vividly remember the anticipation of that moment—the count down, the squeals of delight from my brother behind me, the feel of the wind in my mullet. Every single time my front tire sloped down the first few inches of grassy hill, my heart would skip a beat. It was, in a word, awesome.

And totally worth the ten sweaty minutes it would take us to untie the car, push it and the bike back to the top of the hill, re-secure our roller coaster of awesomeness, and do it all over again.

But don’t worry, friends–I was a responsible 10-year old. My 4-year-old little brother was instructed to keep his feet up and over the dashboard. And on the days when we were REALLY feeling like dare devils, I always made him borrow the helmet from his My Pet Monster.

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He never got a concussion. Not once.

The Day My Brother Stabbed Me

On this, the day of my baby brother’s birth, I would like to share with you a story that we tell around the dinner table on a regular basis. After all, it isn’t every day when you kid brother stabs you. Enjoy.

It was a chilly Saturday afternoon sometime before 1990. Trapped inside with no access to our swingset, my little brother, Adam, and I, had to get creative when it came to keeping ourselves entertained. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reruns only work for so long. And so, I whisked off to my room to dress up in one of my favorite playtime outfits. Adam, not to be outdone, grabbed his favorite plastic sword, and his newly acquired plastic snake.

This snake was ENORMOUS. It wasn’t particularly realistic, but to a 9-year-old with an over-active imagination, it was real enough. And so, when Adam started chasing me through the living room with the snake, I did what any little girl would do.

I screamed bloody murder.

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“Abby, honey, take it down a notch,” my mother scolded gently.

Not wanting to anger my mom, but unwilling to let the moment of intense pretend-land go to waste, I immediately climbed to the back of the couch and wailed (a little more quietly), “Oh help me, Adam! The big nasty snake is after me! SAVE MEEEE!!!!!”

Always the helpful toddler, my brother said, “OK, seesy…I save you.” He grabbed the nearest weapon he could find and charged after the nasty snake.

“I gonna wescue my SESSSSY!” was his battle cry, just before he buried the pencil deep into the flesh of my palm.

snake 2

Needless to say, Mom didn’t get the peace and quiet she was hoping for that afternoon. My wailing went up a notch, only to be joined by Adam’s hysterics at having stabbed me with a pencil. Super-Mom swooped in, carefully extracted the pencil from my hand. She rushed me to the bathroom, dumped half a bottle of peroxide on it, all while telling me that I was being silly—I wasn’t going to die of lead poisoning since pencils had been made with graphite since before I was born. Adam snuffled in the corner–whether he was worried for my health, or for his own, was never truly discovered.

I still have the tiniest scar on palm of my right hand from that puncture wound. The fake snake is long gone, and my brother hasn’t stabbed me since. But I think, after almost 25 long years, there’s something that went unsaid that day that deserves to be said now.

Thank you, Adam, for saving me from the big bad snake. I’ll always remember your bravery…and your particularly bad aim.

Snake 3

Happy Birthday, Adam Wadam! XO

Guess What, Gang?

Today is my birthday.

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Woo!

Truth be told, with all the stuff that’s been going on lately in my own little life, I don’t much feel like celebrating. That’s really saying something, because I LOVE my birthday. I’m all about partying down and such, especially when it’s in my own honor.

(It’s the deeply buried narcissist in me. I can’t help it.)

I mean, in the life of Abby Gabs, I’ve shared my birthday moments with you, ranging from awesome gifts to the ultimate in all of birthdaylandia…THE Donnie Wahlberg Pinata. I’m a lucky, lucky girl. For the most part, my birthdays have been pretty fantastic.

But as my head hit my pillow last night, I turned to Brian and said, “I miss it when birthdays were exciting.”

I remember being nine years old, wanting desperately to be ten for, like, EVER. The countdown started in January–I was always aware of how many days were left until that all important tenth birthday. The night before was like Christmas Eve on steroids–I quivered with excitement beneath my New Kids on the Block comforter.

And when the big day came? I felt like a superhero rock star princess.

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My parents threw me a surprise slumber party, and I was officially the coolest kid at school. Friends, and pizza, and a huge cake. Hugs, and cards, and a mountain of gifts.

In short? It was awesome.

I wish birthdays were like that as an adult. Don’t you miss that feeling? I do.

Sigh.

Oh wait…I just remembered what I am getting for my birthday this year. NKOTB in concert—-T minus 6 days and counting. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

(*Abby quivers with excitement in her office desk chair.)

 

Childhood Memories: Monkey Edition

You guys remember the game “Barrel O’ Monkeys,” right?

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If not, I can’t really help you on the real rules of said game. But I’m pretty sure that every child of the 80s had this little gem tucked away. At least, I know my brother did.

One boring, rainy, summer morning, I was whiling away the hours in my hot-pink bedroom, jamming to the New Kids on the Block, and wishing the rain would let up so I could go outside and play. Suddenly, my three-year-old little brother came into my room, looking for someone to entertain him.

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And he had with him that holy grail of toys—the Barrel o’ Monkeys.

We may or may not have tried to figure out how the game was supposed to really work. I’m fuzzy on the details. All I know is that at some point during our play time, I thought it would be super-nifty to see what would happen if we hung the monkeys from my ceiling fan, then turned it on.

(I had an odd relationship with my ceiling fan growing up. Don’t ask me why.)

Anyhow, it was my job to attach strings of chimps from the paddles of the fan (because it was dangerous and exhilarating. Plus, I was the only one who could reach.) Meanwhile, it was Adam’s job to wait for my signal, then turn on the fan when my fingers were clear.

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The fan would start spinning, slowly, and the little plastic simians would hang tight, inching slowly toward the very tip of the blade.

“Fastah, Seesy, Fastah!” the over-excited toddler would exclaim.

And so I’d pull the chain, increasing the fan’s speed to high.

Like confetti at a strip club, the monkeys went flying across every surface of my bedroom. And my little brother clapped his hands, stomped his chubby little legs, and begged for more.

When you force children to stay inside during a summer storm, things are bound to happen. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, the Barrel o’ Monkeys weren’t our only test subjects.

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The more toys we added to the game, the funnier it became. Ninja Turtles, Care Bears, Magical Princess Barbie—no one was safe. We played and played for HOURS…loading up the fan, turning on the fan, laughing hysterically as the contents of our toy boxes zoomed across the room, cleaning up the carnage, starting the whole process over again.

Eventually, the rain stopped. Mom called us downstairs for lunch. And the game was forgotten when we were allowed to go outside. Stomping in mud puddles and pretending to be a backup dancer for the New Kids won out over our brand new game.

Until the next thunderstorm. Then all bets were off.

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And today? If one of us mentions Barrel O’ Monkeys, we both collapse into fits of laughter. Why? Because it was the best Brother-Sister-Rainy-Day-Game, EVER.

Celebrating Mom

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I love getting together with my family and celebrating the woman who gave me life. I spend weeks thinking about and planning a gift that I hope will make her smile. I look forward to preparing her favorite meal (chicken piccata) and her favorite dessert (pineapple upside-down cake). My dad, brother, and I will sit around the dinner table, sharing our favorite stories about Mom–from the time she barricaded my teenage brother into his room so he’d stop sneaking out, to her reaction when I accidentally yanked the ceiling fan down with my Get in Shape girl ribbon. We’ll remember how she used to put little notes in our lunch boxes, or draw hearts in the peanut butter of our open faced sandwiches, just to remind us of how much she loved us.

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I remember being in grade school leading up to Mother’s Day. We would spend a week’s worth of craft time coming up with clever gifts for Mom. Hand prints in clay, crooked flowers painted with care, handmade coupon booklets filled with all the chores we’d do, cards with long declarations of love written with backwards “E’s” and adorable stick people. I was always so excited to give my mother these treasures. And to her credit–she still has most of them. I bought her a wooden painted tulip one year with my “Good Citizen” tokens at school, and though it’s been broken and super-glued back together a hundred times, it still takes a place of honor in her curio cabinet, right next to the ceramic dog my brother bought her at the Dollar Tree when he was four.

She’s awesome like that.

I also remember skipping through the meadow next to our house, feet bare, bees buzzing in the spring sunshine, carefully plucking wildflowers for Mom. I would keep picking until I had an entire fistful of flowers–yellow and white and green and purple–and then I sneak into the house, bouquet clutched behind my back. She always lit up when I handed her those flowers. She would fuss over them and take them to the kitchen, putting them in a tiny glass vase she kept on the windowsill for just such occasions. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I’d been giving her handfuls of weeds. But she kept them. Every single time.

Click for Source

Click for Source

My childhood was as close to perfect as you can get. I have my parents to thank for that. And as an adult I realize, now more than ever, that I have so much to be grateful for, and so much to celebrate. I adore my Mom, and she knows it.

And yet, when the greeting cards begin to appear, and the signs in Hallmark start reminding you to “Show Mom How Much You Care,” I can’t help but feel a little tug in my gut that reminds me that those hand prints in clay, those little gifts of gratitude, aren’t anywhere in my foreseeable future. That despite the fact that I feel the name “Mama” carved into my heart, that there’s no one here, yet, to use that name for me. I will miss the flowers, the sticky kisses, the breakfasts in bed, the hastily thrown-together construction paper cards that so many mothers will experience tomorrow.

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I don’t resent them their celebrations. They deserve to be celebrated. And I will be celebrating my own mother with them. I will shower her with gifts and food and love and attention. I will thank her for the many sacrifices she has made so that my life could be what is has been. I will hug her close and tell her that I love her. And I will do everything in my power to make her smile tomorrow, on Mother’s Day.

After the day of celebrating is done, I will come home and climb into bed with my husband. I will whisper into the night a prayer that one day, I’ll get to experience a day like today. And I will dream of round cheeks and tiny toes and wilting dandelions clutched in chubby fingers, just for me.

Excitement Is A New Album From My Favorite Boy Band, Ever

For those of you who don’t care a whit about NKOTB, my obsession with Donnie Wahlberg, or the fact that I’m doing cartwheels because of their new album, you can probably skip this post. However, you are weirdos and I reserve the right to judge you for judging me. 

The New Kids newest album, “10,” came out today. I downloaded it on iTunes this morning before the gym, and was waiting (with Brian) outside of Target at 7:45 so I could buy my store exclusive copy (TWO EXTRA TRACKS!!!) when they opened at 8.

Like a true fan-girl, I recorded my reactions as I opened the cd. There may or may not be a love letter for the band at the end as well. Enjoy. 


My New Shoes

When I was a kid, it didn’t take much for my Mom to convince me that spending an afternoon shopping was a good idea. Truly, I’ve always loved to shop. It didn’t matter to me if we were going for a quick ten minute perusal of the hardware store, or if we were going to spend all day bouncing from shopping mall to outlet store—Mom said, “Let’s go shopping!” and I said, “I’m in!”

But the two words she could utter to really get my 7-year-old inner shopper excited?

“New Shoes.”

Oh yeah. Especially if they were dress shoes.


Mom, actually, wasn’t usually too thrilled when I needed dress shoes for some special occasion. Not because she didn’t like to shop. But because I had a very specific test for whether a particular pair of shoes was going to work for me or not. And that often involved doubling our time at a store.


You see, it didn’t matter to me if the shoes were comfortable. It didn’t matter what color they were, or what style. It didn’t even matter to me if they had snaps, straps, or laces.

All I REALLY cared about was how they sounded when I walked on a hardwood floor.

Luckily, most of the shoe stores we frequented back in the late 80s came equipped with a handy-dandy little section of linoleum near the front door. Mom would strap me into my shiny new patent leather mary janes, and before she could complete the “where’s your toe?” test, I was beating feet up to the linoleum to check out the “clippy cloppy” factor of my new kicks.



Anything that made a sound other than “clippy cloppy” immediately got sent to the rejection pile, much to my mother’s chagrin.


I don’t think I’ve ever tried to explain what it is that I love so much about shoes that make that sound. I think, when I was a kid, it was because they made me feel grown up. Important. Like the kids in my class would hear me coming, just like Miss Green in her fancy black pumps.

There may have been some fascination with noisy shoes from the time I was 4, and strapped on my very first pair of tap shoes.

In truth, “clippy cloppy” shoes made me feel glamorous. Like a tiny version of Miss USA, except with even bigger hair, and a hot pink dress. Because hot pink was my favorite color from age 7 to 10. And we all remember how big hair was in the 80s.



Fast forward to my adult years, and the sound a shoe makes on hardwood rarely comes into play when choosing new shoes. In college, it was about fashion. Now, it’s about comfort (and some semblance of style.) 

But a few days ago, I spotted a pair of boots that I knew just had to be mine. Sure, they had a slight heel–something I usually avoid at all costs–but everything about them….from the sleek design to the silver side buckle…made me dream of making them mine. Eagerly, I slid them onto my feet and admired them in the tiny little foot mirror. As I started walking around in the carpeted store, I had a flashback to the many times I tapped my way through the shoe stores in my childhood. Noticing a bit of hardwood near the entrance, I grabbed my purse and sneaked over, tapping my toe tentatively on the hard surface. And when the “clippy cloppy” sound reverberated back to my ears, I knew I’d found the perfect pair of boots for me.

Yes, I bought them. Yes, I giggle like a school girl every time I wear them.

Video Proof:




What can I say? These boots have the capability of making me feel like a fashionable, slightly-fancy, grown-up version of the kid I used to be, in all their “clippy cloppy” glory. I say every girl needs a pair of shoes that can do that, am I right?

This post is dedicated to Mom, for all her patience and infinite wisdom when it came to shopping for shoes.

Can Someone Pass a Paper Bag?

For those of you who are my regular readers, I’m guessing you’ve probably noticed that the number of illustrated posts here on Abby Gabs has increased exponentially in the last several weeks. There are a few different reasons for that: #1) they’re fun. #2) they make my husband laugh. #3) did I mention that they’re fun?

However, I have a slight confession to make. There’s another underlying reason why you’ve been seeing THIS Abby:



Instead of THIS Abby:



And I can sum it up in two mean and ugly words.


Here’s the rub–I had perfect skin as a teenager. I was thin, beautiful, popular, and my skin was the envy of adolescents everywhere. Sure, I had the occasional flare up–a zit on my chin before homecoming, a flourish of blackheads along my hairline–but they were easily managed with a little Noxema and some Cover Girl concealer.  A day or two later, and it was as if it never happened.

I was lucky enough that my ability to grow zit-resistant skin followed me into my 20s, and even the first year of my 30s. But the day I turned 31? My pores decided to wage war against me. And it hasn’t been a pretty battle. The difference between my 16-year-old skin and my 31-year-old skin? Well…it’s led to some pretty drastic measures.


If only wearing a bag over my head in public was really a valid option. I’ve got a couple of really cute canvas totes that would work quite nicely.

The truth is that I’m new at this fight against acne. I didn’t deal with it as a kid, and now I’m learning all the ins-and-outs to getting rid of blackheads. (Note: lemon juice, Elmer’s glue, and egg whites don’t work. Sonic screwdrivers will be used as a last resort.)

Brian says I’m too hard on myself. That my skin isn’t as bad as I think it is, and that I need to stop obsessing over my face. He’s sweet, and supportive, and all the other things a wonderful husband should be. 

But he’s wrong.

Because you see, when you’ve always had pretty skin, it’s hard to get used to waking up in the morning to a new patch of blemishes who appear to have camped out on your face over night. 


And so, until I win this war that I’m waging, or at least gain a little bit of a lead, you’ll be seeing illustrated Abby pretty frequently. Otherwise, any photos of myself published on the blog will look more like this:


…is that better?

I Just Want To Write

For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to become a writer. 

Wait, let me rephrase. I AM a writer. But my dream is to be a real-life, actually published, I-have-an-honest-to-goodness-book-with-my-name-on-it kind of writer.


I can vividly remember being a child, sitting in my bedroom floor, surrounded by colored pencils and construction paper and glue sticks and glitter, illustrating my latest storybook. I was about 9 when I had my “a-HA!” moment. While tying my latest creation together with twine, I realized just how happy writing made me. And I decided then and there that I was going to grow up to be a writer.

My dream has taken many shapes over the years. When I was in college, I wanted to be a journalist. I imagined myself interviewing famous celebrities for a big, important newspaper…or covering a local election…or potentially even taking my mad skills overseas in some world-altering Anderson Cooper way. Truthfully, I never wanted to be FAMOUS, I just wanted to write about important things. 

As I’ve gotten a little older, my dream has morphed into a desire to live somewhere lovely. Some place where I can get up in the morning, cup of coffee in hand, and sit down to write every single day.


The venue, my hairstyle, and the color of my laptop often changes in my little imaginary scenario. The cup of coffee and the writing part, however, have yet to change.

Something about writing–about creativity in general–draws me in like an extreme coupon cutter to a Sunday newspaper. I just HAVE to create. It may not be on a daily basis. But when I’m away from it for any period of time, I start to yearn for it all over again. Writing allows me to be my true self. My most complete self. And whether I’m sharing my thoughts with the world or not, it makes me feel like I’m contributing something, one ellipses at a time.

I’m aware that writing doesn’t always provide a steady income. Believe me. While I dream that my life as a professional writer will someday look like this:


…I know that the likelihood of that scenario is fairly slim. Don’t get me wrong–that isn’t me bashing myself or my skills, or lacking the conviction to go after my dreams. That’s just the cold and honest truth. I’ve read enough books over the years to realize that, while I could most likely write something that is publishable, the chances that I’ll ever be another JK Rowling are pretty minuscule.

In truth, I’d be thrilled right down to my toes to have a couple of books published and on the market, even if you could only find them in the discount bin at the bookstore.

When I think about what my professional life will look like in a couple of years, I’m more than happy to picture myself sitting at that desk overlooking the ocean pictured above. But when I turn off my inner cheerleader, and listen to my inner realist, I become more certain, the longer I go without being published, that my professional life will look a little more like this:


Don’t get me wrong. I love Target. I really, really do. But I really, really DON’T want to work there. Or any other retail job, for that matter. I worked retail for YEARS before I took my current job (which, it should be noted, really isn’t all that different than retail. Except now I get to deal with that lady AND I have to collect her bill when it’s late. Awesome.)

As Brian’s graduation draws nearer, and the time for change looms, the more I realize that I need to stop dreaming, and start doing. So that’s what I’m going to do, starting now. 

Those of you who have been around for awhile may remember that I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year. And I managed to bang out over 50,000 words in less than thirty days. So many of you have asked me what happened to that book, whether I’d put any more time into it after I’d spent so much time focused on it last November.

I told some of you that it’s unpublishable. I told others that it was a just silly idea I had, and that I wrote the story just to get it out of my system. I told a few of you that I thought no one would read it because it was too something: cliche, ludicrous, specific to a very small audience.  I told most of you that I had toyed with it for awhile to try to turn it into something but it was just a whole lotta nothin‘.

More truth: I lied.

The truth is, after I hit the “send” button and submitted that manuscript to NaNo, I never touched it again. 

I can give you 84 reasons why: the holidays came around, we got too busy, I turned into a lazy bum after nearly 250 hours of writing. But the truth is this: I Got Spooked. For the first time in my life, I was putting some serious effort into achieving my dream. And when I REALLY started thinking about getting published, my heart tried to pound out of my chest, my palms got clammy, and I dismissed the idea just to save myself from polishing off the tequila in the back of my liquor cabinet.

Well, readers, NaNo 2012 is right around the corner. In fact, it starts exactly 25 days from now. And I’ve decided I’m going to write the second half of the book I started last year. (Don’t worry, I checked the website to make sure I wasn’t breaking any rules. So long as I don’t copy and paste from any of my previous work, it counts as a new submission, even if it’s from the same idea.)

In order to jog my memory (since I haven’t read what I wrote last year since…well…it was being written) I printed out last year’s manuscript a few days ago. And can I just say…I nearly wept when I saw it sitting in front of me.

ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY PAGES. All mine. Every single word. Mine

Awesome.

So, wish me luck, readers. The next few weeks will be dedicated to editing what I already have, and planning out what I’ll add to the story next. And maybe…just maybe…this little story will allow me to write another little story someday.

After all, that’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I was nine years old.

My Girl

My mother stood, framed in the doorway of my bedroom, late afternoon sun streaming in behind her. “It doesn’t have to be a long nap, now,” she said, “but you need to get a little rest before tonight.” The door closed quietly behind her, and I was left alone in my pink-and-white bedroom.

I was seven years old. I didn’t take naps any more. But the promise of a new, exciting experience lingered on the horizon. So I scootched down beneath the covers and tried my best to go to sleep.

Yellows and oranges danced on the inside of my eyelids. My toes twitched. Sleep was elusive. Nancy, my best friend and favorite dollie in the world, wanted to hear about the fun I’d had today while I was away from her. I whispered in her ear about the train ride, and the water balloon fight, and the hot dogs, and the parade. I told her all the names of my 1st grade class that I’d seen throughout the day: Larry and Crystal and Robbie and Tasha and even Miss Green. And as I talked her through our afternoon picnic with Nanny and Pawpaw, I drifted off to sleep.

Adam and I enjoying the Labor Day festival.


When Daddy woke me up, the street light burned outside my window. “C’mon, sleepy head. You’re gonna miss the street dance.”

I sat up, covers falling into my lap, and wiped the sleep from my eyes. Daddy tugged on my crooked pigtail and said, “Let’s go let Mom fix that crazy hair-do before leave, ok?”

I took the stairs as quickly as I could, holding onto the wooden stair rail for purchase. Mom sat in the living room, the evening news on the television. My Baby Brother snoozed in  his bouncy chair just at her feet. “C’mere, munchkin. Let’s fix that ponytail,” she said softly. I sat at her feet, and tried not to wince as she pulled the brush through my hair, untangling the mess I’d made while napping.

Pigtails secured, she said, “Hop up.” I did, and she tucked my shirt into the waist of my shorts. “Your shoes are in the den. Hurry, now. Daddy’s ready to go.”

Excitement coursed through my body. I was going to the Labor Day Street Dance with my Daddy. I was a big girl, now. There would be grown-ups there, and funnel cakes, and loud music, and fireworks. I tugged my sneakers on, lacing them up haphazardly, and sprinted for the front door.

Daddy kissed Mom on the cheek. “Save a dance for me,” she said. And she winked.

The end-of-summer heat receded, leaving the evening balmy but comfortable. Lightning bugs lit out path to the sidewalk, and Daddy took my hand. We walked the few blocks to the party, waving at neighbors watering their azaleas, eventually joining a small clan of folks headed to the party. The air smelled of grilling meat, smoke, and fried food. We stopped to cross the street at the barber shop on the corner, and Daddy pointed across the street. My seven-year-old self quivered in delight.

The blacktop of the A&P parking lot was covered in lawn chairs. Six or seven vendors sold cotton candy, balloons and noisemakers, hot dogs. A large stage had been constructed at one side of the lot, lights flashing and horns blaring as the band warmed up. Children raced each other and squealed and shouted. A train at the historic station nearby blew her horn–two short bleets. The Labor Day Block Party was in full swing, and I was itching to jump right in the middle of all the fun. I looked up at Daddy with a huge smile on my face. “Can we go dance now?” I asked. 

“You bet, chiquita,” he said. “But let’s find Nanny and Pawpaw first, ok?”

We waded into the teeming crowd, my hand gripped tightly in his, and made our way to the front of the stage. There, my grandparents had scouted out a perfect spot and set up a half-dozen lawn chairs for the family members that would meet us there. I gave Nanny a big hug, and Pawpaw planted a whiskery kiss on my forehead. “Gayle will meet us here in a little while,” Daddy told them. “Adam was still sleeping when we left.” 

Daddy fished his wallet out of his pocket, took out a dollar, and said, “Here, baby. Go buy yourself one of those pink glowy necklaces.” My feet slapped the blacktop as I ran to the nearest vendor. Several minutes later, I had in my possession the prettiest glow-in-the-dark halo. I settled it onto my head, pigtails holding it in place, and skipped back to my family. As I approached them, a loud sound of feedback happened on the stage. It startled me, and I jumped into Daddy’s lap. “Don’t worry,” he said. “That’s just the microphones. The band is getting ready to come on! Are you excited?”

I nodded my head, my new halo sliding atop my head,  but I stayed firmly on his lap.

A man came out on the stage and welcomed everyone to the annual block party. People yelled and clapped and hooted. And then the band came on stage. There were 5 or 6 men, all wearing goofy red Hawaiian shirts. I looked up at Daddy and giggled. The one guy at the front took the microphone in hand and talked for a few minutes.

And then the music started.

People abandoned their lawn chairs and hurried to the front of the stage, creating a makeshift dance floor. And boy, did they start to boogie. Dad tapped his foot along to the music, jiggling me in his lap, breaking the tension from moments before. He pointed at the old guy from the barber shop, who was wiggling his butt back and forth, and I giggled. Then I pointed out the couple doing intricate turns and dips. He nodded and said he’d teach me how.

The song changed, and Nanny and Paw got up and headed for the dance floor. Daddy looked at me and said, “Wanna go dance, Abby?” I nodded, and out we went.

He led me out into the sea of dancers. “Step up on my feet and I’ll show you the steps,” Daddy said, and offered me his hands to guide me. And so I did. He rocked back and forth, testing my weight, making sure I had my balance. And then he smiled his big Daddy smile and said, “Ok, here we go!”

I stayed focused on his feet, memorizing the steps. One two three, one two three, rock step. One two three, one two three, rock step. After a few minutes, I looked up at him, grinning. “Think you’ve got it?” he shouted over the music. I nodded and he lifted me off of his feet, spinning one, two, three times in the air. I was still laughing, big belly laughs, when he sat me back down on the pavement.

A younger me, with Daddy.


The song changed again, this time to one I recognized. Daddy grinned wide and said, “Ok Lil’ Miss Dancer, let’s see what you’ve got.” He took my hands, counted down to a slower beat than the music, and walked me through the basic steps. The lead singer crooned about sunshine on a cloudy day, and Daddy counted: “One two three, one two three, rock back. One two three…that’s ok, rock step. Other foot! One two three, rock step. Look at you!! You’re shaggin’, girl!”


As I kept up to the tune on my own, Daddy joined the band, singing to me about bees and honey, and how I was his girl. And we danced.

When the song came to an end, he twirled me around again. Friends and family standing around clapped for us. I noticed Mom sitting in our lawn chairs, a big smile on her face, My Baby Brother bouncing on her knee. Dad ruffled my bangs and said, “You’re one terrific dancer, kiddo.” And my heart opened wide.

Later that night, as I sat in my Daddy’s lap watching the fireworks explode in the night sky, I would breathe in his smell of Old Spice and Irish Spring. I would hum the melody of that song again. I would learn one day that it was called “My Girl,” and it had been sung by a band called The Temptations. It would eventually become the song I associated with my Daddy, the song we would dance to at my wedding. But for that one night, the summer of 1987, it was just the song playing in the background of a magical childhood memory. 

Dancing to “My Girl,” seventeen Septembers later.


 

 

 

I’m hanging out over at The Speakeasy. Drop by to read some 
 


awesome posts by some awesome writers!