A few weeks ago my mom came out for a visit and brought hundreds of old photos with her. Every single one of them had me in them, she’d sorted through all these old pictures in her house and gave myself and my siblings these old treasures; we each got a pile of ourselves. Some of them I’d seen a hundred times, and some I’d never seen.
Ugh, the memories.
Going through these gave me such a wave of emotions but not in a sappy, blubbery way. Mostly, I laughed and simply basked in the nostalgia that was.
Hot damn, I loved that sweater. Wore it in my school photo that year…
I’m sure my mom had to throw it away while I was at my dad’s for the weekend and console me when I noticed it was “missing” once it was too ill-fitting. Life has a silly way of bringing you up and tearing you down, while the universe quietly humbles you (with insanely large chompers).
Flipping through these photographs provided me with some insight: life was happening, the whole time. When I do the minimal memory seeking, it’s easy to forget the candidness and realness that was. Mindful memories will only give me what I want it to give, while the pictures provide the backstory.
I do remember that day, the one when the photo up there was taken, but I didn’t remember the loveliness that was just spinning around and dancing in my backyard. 1993, nine years old and my mom saught to capture me, the same way I capture my ten-year-old with my smartphone.
She probably had to wait a week to get that back. Who knows if she would have even kept it, nonetheless printed if it was today’s day and age. I’m going to start printing pictures of my kid, keep them somewhere safe, and someday I’ll hand him a big ol’ stack and let him reminisce in his own way.
I do have some honorable mentions because I wouldn’t go through hundreds and only share those, that’d be selfish.
These two are to prove that resting bitch face is something that can be detected early on. I’m sure I was happy, even though I look way less than impressed.
These two are to show my killer fashion sense. Scrunchies and jean jackets are life…
And finally, these two are to show that whatever year this was, was the absolute worst (and you should never, ever cut your own bangs).
I moved around quite a bit as a kid, changing schools and attempting to make new friends quick enough that I’d never be labeled, “the new girl”. In sixth grade it was as simple as having the same name, quickly becoming best friends with Jenny Hoffman.
We had notebooks we’d pass back and forth gushing over our latest crush, fully equipped with nicknames – based on their initials, of course. We lived close to each other, but not close enough to share a bus stop so we’d alternate, meeting half way between our houses because best friends do not make entrances onto a school bus alone. We also had (have, if we’re being serious) nicknames for each other… Fur-Fur and Imp – we were pretty unstoppable.
When I think about the shit we got into I often wonder how we are still here to talk about them. Both of our parents considered the other the bad influence when in reality, depending on the day and whose outlandish idea was better for that moment, we both were.
Today is Jenny’s birthday, and as a gift I’m documenting my most favorite memories of us.
Not for us, for unsuspecting folks like our sixth grade teacher and a few others. We found it hilarious to call Pizza Hut and order pie’s for people, but it did not stop there. When we were able, we’d perch ourselves up on the hill outside and watch them get delivered. Looking back we probably should have felt bad for the delivery driver more than the recipient.
College, Cat, and Cornfield
While visiting Jenny at college she had a simple question for me: Have you ever driven through a cornfield? Growing up in the cities, this sounded intriguing: Sign me up! When two nineteen year old girls borrow a car (please keep in mind that this was not our vehicle) to speed through a cornfield, what could possibly make the decision worse? Let’s bring a cat with us. This actually happened, people. It wasn’t our proudest moment, but hot damn did we laugh hard. She drove, I held the kitty. It was all fun and games until we began spinning out of control, I was screaming at the top of my lungs and looked over to my BFF – there she is, perfectly calm, claiming: I got this, I got this… The car came to a halt and while she looked for the cat I sat examining my scratched up body, just happy to be alive. This was the night we realized we were indeed, ride-or-die bitches.
Band – Last Two Chairs
We both played the flute and if you’re familiar with band you know about the “chair” system to show how great you are, or how much you suck at playing an instrument. Maybe it’s supposed to push you to be better, Jenny and I? We were last and second to last chair consistently and never got any better, and we did not care. We had a great time pretending to play at the concerts and socializing during class.
We sat up in her bedroom one night and made Cosmos. I do not remember how old we were, but absolutely not 21. I do not even know if they were actually cosmos, but I trusted her bartending skills then just as I would now. I’m not sure if ‘cosmo night’ was the same night we decided to play out an entire photo shoot and tell each other how hot we were. I mean, look at these pictures, we probably should have sent them to agents or something – is that how modeling works?
My first job, at fourteen years old, was cashiering at a drug store. It wasn’t long before I recruited Jenny and we basically ran the place. We worked a lot so we could afford to walk to the mall and buy one shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch with our earnings. We had creepy boys come in and flirt with us, and we liked it – giving them discounts on disposable cameras…because those were still a thing then. We had full access to the magazine rack, providing us free Teen Bop reading pleasure and while I hope we didn’t steal the posters, I wouldn’t have put it past us.
Karaoke Videos and Stickers
Do malls still have the karaoke booths? If not, they should. We choreographed these things, like, legit practiced dance moves and executed them (not so) flawlessly in a 4×5 box. If I had to guess, we did this at least 10 times. Picture this: Lisa Loeb, Stay, matching tye-dye gap purses and terribly frizzy hair. We’d exit the box after our stellar performance and wait for the VHS to pop out of the machine so we could run home and watch it, and talk about how awesome we were. Looking back, this hobby of ours (yes, I called it a hobby) was my favorite. The mall also provided us with picture booths and The Limited Too had the best one – it made stickers out of your photos. What more could we want? We stuck those bitches everywhere. The metal poles at the tennis courts in Richfield probably still have the faded goodness on them.
It was with Jenny that I stole my step dad’s car to skip school and go shopping. I will take credit for this idea, but let’s get real – she thought it was a spectacular one. You can read the full story here… but just know that I drove from Wisconsin to Minnesota, picked her up at the bus stop, bumped to some Missy Elliot, threw some tuna fish sandwiches out the window and got home without getting caught – until three or four years later.
Jenny is one of those people who entered my life at just the right time, I sincerely hope that our children will find friends like we were for each other… while especially hoping they don’t do half the shit we did.
Happy Birthday, Jenny!
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I try to keep my food pictures under wraps, not everyone needs, wants, or is even curious as to the meals I choose to ingest but with that being said, there are exceptions. My dishes are colorful, and I’m beginning to mourn soup-season as it’s been amazingly tolerable to leave the house without fear of frostbite recently.
PHOTO TWO: March 17, 2013
One of my favorite pictures of all time. I take zero credit for the idea, only for the photo. Bennett was supposed to be getting ready for bed and instead I caught him making shadows on the wall. There were more, less obvious to the eye, shadows but this shape on the wall accurately reflected the moment.
PHOTO THREE: August 2, 2015
Traveling to Minnesota from Wisconsin. If I haven’t said it before, I’m in love with the Midwest.
I’m a career waitress, a fair share of my life has been spent observing a ridiculous range of personalities and listening to bizarre words exchanging between them. Thankfully, the days of slinging half-price appetizers to seven high school juniors are over and I’ve moved onto something more age-appropriate for a 32 year old waitress.
I wine and dine folks inside a cozy Wisconsin supper club, where the conversations and company are consistently mild, regulars come in the through the back door that we go all Cheers on and our cooks prepare a mean steak. The owner of this quaint restaurant has this saying he loves, not only because I think he probably made it up himself but also because it’s true.
The other day I experienced this first hand and while I hope you can take something from it, I’m writing mostly so I do not forget the feeling this experience gave me.
A3 is yours and it’s a 62nd wedding anniversary, the hostess spit out zipping past me. Note taken. Swiftly I glimpsed around the corner to decide how I wanted to approach their table. It varies depending on how happy, grumpy, or hangry people appear to be in the .52 seconds I take to assess the situation.
Happy Anniversary. 62 years, wow, that is really something to be proud of! You must really like each other.
I wasn’t sure about the last line I delivered – it wasn’t really planned but with a big toothy smile this lovely woman with white curly hair laughs while her husband holds not more than a simple grin. Mentally I jotted down that this was a pair of pleasant people, which happen to be my favorite kind. They ordered two Tom & Jerrys and an order of calamari to start their celebrating and I excused myself from their table by the window.
Sitting nearby, three pretty ladies – a young grandma, a young mom and an adorable little girl over heard that it was a special occasion and insisted on picking up table A3s dinner bill.
I love it when that happens.
We discussed all the important details and I was instructed to let the anniversary couple know it was all paid for after the ladies had left – not before. As they wrapped up their dinner, I observed the gals make a quick stop and wish the couple a happy anniversary. I’ve never been good at keeping secrets but always pretty amazing at delivering good news.
I carried over a big homemade cupcake with a candle, forks, and a little coffee. Who celebrates without cake? I told them they were welcome to stay as long as they’d like, I’d keep an eye on their coffees but not to worry about the bill. Confused, I explained that the table right next door had already taken care of it.
The gentleman, with the same simple grin he had earlier in the evening thanked me and his bride sat speechless. Selflessly, she asked if I had been tipped on their tables portion of the bill. I tilted my head to the side and thanked her for asking because, let’s be real, I make $2.68/hour. In this instance, the tip was the last thing I was concerned with and told her that I was taken care of in the process and they do not need to leave a dime.
Another table nearby had been sat and before I even had their water glasses filled, we were talking about how adorable table A3 is. I let them in on the secret that another table had picked up their tab and I gushed over what a great night they were having.
On my way to deliver the new diners cocktails, table A3 was getting ready to leave. The bride with the toothy smile and curly white hair approached me and while it’s not unusual for patrons to give an additional thank you as they exit, she had tears in her eyes.
Not only did she thank me, she hugged me and held onto my shoulders so tight. In a low voice she expressed sincere gratitude while telling me that her husband has dementia and this might be the last time they dine in our restaurant together. Her chin quivering, I reached back out and wrapped my arms around her while quiet tears rolled down her aged cheeks.
Thank you for making tonight so special.
I told her that I’ll see her next time, and with that she walked over to her husband who was waiting by the coat rack. While delivering the newcomers cocktails, they pointed out how romantic it is that he still helps her with her jacket. Turning around, I watched them walk out the door hand-in-hand.
That is the night I realized that we are indeed in the people business– simply serving food.
That is the number of times I’ve actually finished a month long challenge… of any sort. I’m not real sure I’ve successfully completed even a week long challenge, if I’m being honest. Zero is also the number of fucks I give that it was not done on time. Three days late? I’m good with that. I’m proud of myself for committing and for once, not quitting when it wasn’t as fun as I wanted it to be.
When I don’t feel like sitting down to write and end up deleting the first 12 drafts, it still doesn’t suck and that’s my favorite lesson learned. Every post I’ve written in the last 30(ish) days wouldn’t have existed without the fear of failure, which is just what I needed. I reminisced about stealing a car, I bitched about transgender bathroom policies and I penned a piece of fiction that turned out to be one of my favorite contributions to Friday Fictioneers.
I’m so happy I was forced to sit and write.
I blog not only in an attempt to entertain (while being entertained) but so I have something to look back on. While sitting at my computer I wind up remembering people, places, things and memories I previously forgot existed, like the time my kid tried to plunge the toilet with a towel.
…40 years from now, I want to remember that again.
It’s been two years since Properly Ridiculous was born. So far, almost 300 stories, rants and randomness have been documented and shared, cast out into the world wide web. When I’m gone, I hope my great-great-grandkids can stumble upon my words and be thrilled to find out their granny was kinda crazy; that’s my goal.
The A to Z Challenge allowed me to stir up topics I otherwise wouldn’t have been inspired by and provided the structure (even if I bent it) I needed to get back into the habit of writing on a consistent basis – for myself. Thank you to the individuals who kept me on track, calling me out when I was falling behind and for spending your time reading my madness. With that being said, there will be less posting on Properly Ridiculous while I take my next challenge even more seriously – getting my book published.
I’d really like to change my Twitter description from wanna be novelist to, I actually wrote a book, like a real one.