Pre-Owned and Pre-Loved

When I know I’m going to have an extra trying day, I like to wear my Nana’s wedding necklace. A simple crystal ball with a band of diamond chips, there’s nothing flashy or extraordinary about it. But, being able to reach up and touch it and feel its simple weight against my skin is so comforting. There’s a story behind it, it has a history all its own.

I love objects that have a history. Some of most prized possessions are ones that were given to me or ones that I found. Sure, I love shiny, new things and I love picking something of my very own, catering to no tastes but mine. But, there’s something special about things that have been passed down. There’s something magical about buying a cookbook at a yard sale or antique fair (I collect old cookbooks) and finding notes and annotations written in some unknown hand. It’s like you get to share a tiny part of someone else’s life, like you get a window into their world.

It’s irresistible.

I’m an only child, so I don’t have anything that was passed down from brothers or sisters, but I have quite a few things that were owned before I got them. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Nana’s wedding necklace: I used to play with it at her house all of the time and, finally, she just told me to keep it.
  • Travelling Elephant
  • My Dad’s copy of The Lord of the Rings: My dad bought them, but my mom used them, too (they have known each other since she was 16). Both of them wrote notes in the margins, sometimes to each other. When they were going through their divorce, I used to sneak down and read the notes. It was comforting to see that, somewhere, they still saw eye-to-eye.
  • The Boston Cooking School Cookbook: One of the people who had this book took serious issue with some of the recipes. Her notes are hilarious. I think we would have been great friends.
  • Shoes from my Aunt Mary: The woman has a serious love of shoes and, when she was younger, her feet were almost as tiny as mine. Though I can mostly fit in her boots (since I can wear socks), she’s given me some great pairs.

And, a hand-me-down that I really want? The jewelry box that my Pappy made for my Grandma when they were in high school. It’s covered with tiny wooden hearts and engraved with her name. The best part? He misspelled her name! Ha. I love it.

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Have Elephant, Will Travel

When I was six, I found a small, gray elephant.

No, not a real one. It’s a wooden elephant, dove gray with white eyes and white lines to outline his ears and legs and tusks. I found him in a hotel room when I was at the beach with my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin. Though I had been on trips before (to Disney, to Cherrystone, Virginia), this is my first memory of staying in a hotel room and not with family or in my grandparents’ trailer.  I thought it was all very glamorous. Glamorous, and a little overwhelming.

See, my mom is a bit of a neat freak. So, before we got to the hotel, she warned me dozens of times to not touch anything without asking her first. Always an obedient child (seriously obedient; I was never even close to grounded.), I readily agreed, nervous that there were germs and other icky things  just waiting to jump out at me. At first, I was good and didn’t touch anything. Scratch that, I was afraid to touch anything.

But, then, while she was unpacking and I was exploring, I found that little elephant. He was just sitting there, tucked between the bed and nightstand. It was like he was waiting for me. I picked him up, giggled, and put him in the pants of my favorite doll (clearly, the world’s best hiding spot).

And, I never said a word to my mom.

Elephant

Traveling Elephant in Tintagel, England

Since that day, I’ve always known where he is, my little wooden friend. He’s been with me to Mexico and London and everywhere in between, slept with me when my parent’s got divorced, and made me feel safe during my first solo trips. He’s become a talisman of sorts, a traveler that goes where I go, that helps me get where I need to be.

He’s not something that I look at every day, or even every month. Sometimes, I forget he’s there. But, as soon as I plan a trip, or need a bit of direction, he pops into my head and I find him on The Dude’s nightstand or in an inside pocket of my purse and I reassure myself that he’s there, waiting to travel with me again.

Oh, his name? Predictably, unimaginatively: Traveling Elephant.

Things I Miss in Disney: Pappy

When I was 6 or 7 my grandparents took two of my cousins and me (and, our moms) to Disney World. For part of the trip, I was sick – not sick enough to not be in the parks, just sick enough to have no energy. My youngest cousin refused to let me ride in her stroller when I got tired, so my Pappy carried me everywhere. I don’t remember very  much about that trip, but I do remember him holding me.

I also remember sitting next to him in the Tiki Room and hearing him sing along. He’s never had a good voice.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is being in Disney World with him and going on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I’ve always been small for my age, so this was my first “big girl” roller coaster. I remember standing in line and watching the train speed around the tracks and hearing those tracks rattle as it moved around. I remember clutching his hand and thinking that I didn’t think anything could go as fast as that train.

I was terrified.

I was terrified, but determined to do it. Pappy had been talking about this ride and promised that I would love it. He would never lie to me, I knew (and, still know). My Pappy, the strongest man in the world, would make sure I was safe.

I remember getting into the train car next to him. I remember him putting his arm around me and scooting me closer. I remember his telling me to hold on tight.

And, I remember him smiling from ear to ear.

We took off into the darkness of the mine. I remember getting splashed by water and screaming and we started to pick up speed. I remember looking over at him as we emerged from the mine and seeing his face filled with joy. I remember that, suddenly, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

And, I remember him looking at me and laughing. I remember that I started laughing, too.

It could have been yesterday: my Pappy and I, him in his brown polo shirt and with his arm around me, racing around a Disney-made mountain and smiling and laughing like we didn’t know how to stop.

Now, my Disney memories are made with The Dude, something I love and would never change.  Still, a part of me will always miss being there with my grandfather; I miss seeing that wonder in his eyes as he sees a new show or rides a new ride. Even now, when I go on Soarin’ or see Enchanted Tales with Belle, I think about how much he would have loved it.

My Pappy is still very much alive, but our days of Disney travelling are, I think, done. But, that memory of laughter and safety and joy never will be. Whenever I go on Thunder Mountain or hum the Tiki Room song, I’ll remember all over again.

And, I’ll smile like I don’t know how to stop.

Books from Childhood

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” – Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan),You’ve Got Mail

Today would have been Nora Ephron’s 73rd birthday. I can’t think about Nora Ephron without thinking about You’ve Got Mail (one of my favorite girly movies!) and I can’t think about You’ve Got Mail without thinking about the above quote.

I really couldn’t agree more with Kathleen Kelly. I read a lot now, but very few things stick with me the way books from my childhood have. Here are five books/series that I remember most. In all cases, I have re-read the books more times than I can count:

  1. Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia C. Wrede
    This is my absolute favorite series. It’s the one I pick up if I’ve had a really hard week and just need to lose myself for a little while. It’s the one that I turn to when I’m sad or lonely or just plain cranky. I love that Cimorene hates being a princess because it’s boring and that she’d rather cook and learn Latin and be a dragon’s princess. I love the hints of other fairy tales and the witch that gets in trouble for having too many cats and not having a warty nose. I love that the King of Dragons is a job title and that gender doesn’t matter. Being curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, drinking a cup of tea, and reading any of the books in this series (though, Calling on Dragons is my favorite!) makes for a pretty perfect day.
  2. A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
    I really wanted to be friends with Sara Crewe. In the blink of an eye, she went from having everything to having nothing, and still remained kind, imaginative, and full of joy. She gave me a new meaning of princess, one that didn’t have to have fancy dresses or jewels to be beautiful and special.
  3. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
    I have always loved fairy tales and folkore, and I especially loved reading the original stories that inspired Disney movies, no matter how gruesome they could be. Later in life (when wearing my anthropologist hat), I was particularly interested in what the myths, legends, and lore of a group could tell you about their culture. My favorite stories? Jorinda and Joringel and The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
  4. Nancy Drew Mysteries, Carolyn Keene
    In elementary school, we had a library period at least twice a week. Each period, I would borrow at least one Nancy Drew book until I had read them all more than once. I wanted to be Nancy when I grew up; she was poised and feminine and respected and whip-smart. Plus, she was a detective which I still think sounds like an awesome job. I loved everything about her (even if her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, was kind of a lunk). The thing I remember most about the books? Hearing my mom read them to me; she loves them as much as I do.
  5. Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
    Even though I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until I was in junior high/high school, I simply can’t leave them off of any list of favorite books. I still read the entire series every year and I still miss the hype and fervor that surrounded any new book release. There’s truly something in the books for everyone. They show you that sometimes evil is pink and fluffy, that the most unlikely hero can save the day, and that anyone can be capable of encompassing, enduring love.

Kindness Matters

Prompt that inspired me: What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year (or five, or ten…) ago?

Do you remember getting your picture taken in school and then getting a bunch of those wallet sized pictures that, after writing some profound thoughts and acronyms on them, you’d pass out to all of your friends? Well, I remember them and I remember amassing a huge collection by the time I finished high school. Still, I only really remember what one of the said.

During my senior year, I had class with a new girl (new to the school). She was very sweet, but a little quiet. We sat next to each other and, not thinking much about it, I started talking to her (I was a chatty Kathy back then). We were never really friends – we never hung out after school or even exchanged phone numbers – but we chatted every day in class. At the end of the year, she gave me one of her senior pictures and on the back she thanked me for being nice to her, for not caring that we weren’t in the same group of friends, for not caring that some people thought I was popular that she was. She thanked me for making the “new kid feel comfortable in a new place”.

I was floored. It had never crossed my mind that I had that power: to offer comfort and a sense of belonging by just… being nice. While I got other pictures with nice words or funny anecdotes or joyful memories, nothing stuck with me like hers did. Now, every day, I make an effort to be nice to whomever I meet: I smile at the young woman on the way to the train station; I ask the coffee shop clerk how his day is going; if I see someone crying, I stop and ask them if they’re okay. They’re not big things, they’re not hard to do, but I can’t help but think that they matter.

So, I wasn’t inspired to write about what I wish someone told me, but rather what I’d tell someone else: Kindness matters, it matters so much more than you may think. We all have the power to affect someone else’s day.

Things I Miss in Disney, Part 1: Residential Street

I love Disney. I’m not quite as obsessive as some (for example, I absolutely want to go to other places on my vacations), but I’m almost always planning my next trip or at least dreaming about planning it. One of the things I love so much about Disney is that it’s always changing, always evolving. The downside of that is some of the things that I really love go away or change into something unrecognizable.

“Picture it…”

– Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls

One of the things that has gone away is Residential Street in Hollywood Studios (the park formerly known as Disney MGM Studios). Visible during the Backlot Tour, the street was really just a bunch of facades that were used in a variety of television shows, commercials, and movies. My favorite house? The one from The Golden Girls! It was always the highlight of the tour for me. Just thinking about makes me want to cut a big piece of cheesecake and hear stories about St. Olaf and Sicily.