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Childhood Memories

Retake

As kids across the globe are settling into a brand-new school year, I am reminded of a back-to-school tradition that has some students beaming with excitement and others looking for the nearest door. I am referring to school picture day – the one day where every student is expected to look sharp and smile for the camera. As a perfectionist, this day was torture for me. I was one of those kids who searched for an escape.

School picture day dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is a tradition that parents love; they enjoy watching their children grow and mature in photographs. From kindergarten to 12th grade, my mom proudly displayed my goofy mug shot in metal TG&Y picture frames. She either placed them on top of our T.V. console or strung them across the wood paneled walls in our home. She lovingly carried my face in her purse, while Dad transported me in his wallet. Additional copies were reserved for extended family and were used as Christmas card inserts.

As if plastering my photo at home and forcing it upon our relatives wasn’t bad enough, it would also be placed among my classmates in the yearbook. Because our school was small, every student, from kindergarten to senior high, was represented in one book. The whole town would ultimately have access to this album of photos and school-age memories.

That’s a lot of pressure – oh how I hated picture day.

For starters, living in Oklahoma meant there was a good chance it would rain on picture day. Hours of hair prep and layers of Aqua Net hairspray were simply no match for the thick, wet humidity. Next was the stressful decision of what to wear. Earlier years (kindergarten through 2nd grade) were easy. I loved to wear dresses back then, so I simply picked out one of my favorites. The older years were tough. The older I got, the more my body changed – finding tops that didn’t draw attention to my maturing physique became a challenge.

In Junior High I wore glasses. At first, I was self-conscious, but friends assured me the thick, round spectacles looked cute. The compliments boosted my confidence, so I decided to embrace my fresh, new look. But when picture day rolled around, I was terrified my coke bottle glasses would cause a blinding glare and spoil the photograph. I guess I didn’t think the photographer was experienced enough in lighting, angles, or body placement. Nevertheless, I took matters into my own hands. Just before the camera clicked, I tilted my head slightly. “Crises averted!” I thought to myself. No glare here!

It took about 6 weeks for the packets of pictures to arrive. I recall seeing mine and thinking the photo wasn’t the most flattering, but I was proud for being so innovative – there was no glare. I took them home to my mom, who as always, fussed over them and replaced the prior year’s photo with the new one.

Every school has a retake day to accommodate students who were absent on picture day or who simply want a second chance at a decent photo. My parents and I were okay with my pictures; I had even exchanged the wallet-sized ones with friends. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my name called over the school loudspeaker as someone who needed to report to the library for retakes!

Who made the decision I needed to have my picture retaken? It wasn’t me, nor was it my parents. I ignored the instruction to report to the library. It must have been a mistake – or was it?

Yearbooks were published and distributed during the last weeks of school. It was customary to scan the pages in search of your picture then pass it to friends and teachers to sign. The goal was to acquire as many signatures and well-wishes as possible on the blank pages. I planned to follow that custom, but there was a problem. The right margin of page 33 displayed my first and last name in printed, black letters, but my photo was not there. Instead, the words, “Picture Not Available” filled the square where my photograph should have been. But my picture was available, I thought to myself. I had proof.

Thirty-five years later and here I am still wondering:  if I would have followed the school’s recommendation to participate in retake day, would my photo have made it into the 1986 yearbook? Maybe – maybe not. But one thing is for certain, if it had, I wouldn’t be blogging about it today. Below is my 8th grade school picture. It may not be the best picture. It may not have been good enough for the school yearbook. But none of that matters. I love it.

What is your school picture story? Post your favorite (or not-so-favorite) school photo in the Forum!

Junior High School Photo

~Viv

Sleepy Tingles

Iron and ironing board

Have you ever fallen asleep listening to the sound of rain showering the roof? Do ocean waves crashing on a sandy shoreline trigger feelings of serenity? Has Bob Ross, with his tranquil voice and mesmerizing tutorials, ever lulled you to sleep watching The Joy of Painting on PBS? If so, welcome to the world of ASMR!

ASMR stands for:  Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a non-clinical term that emerged in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, who was simply searching for a way to describe the tingling, calming sensation one feels when exposed to certain audio and visual stimuli. Many claim that exposure to specific sights and sounds lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, and contributes to better sleep. While psychologists, scientists, and researchers continue to compare theories regarding the mystical phenomena, Allen’s discovery has ignited an inferno of artistic YouTube videos intended to impart relaxation to an audience triggered by sight and sound.

Most adults who experience ASMR were first exposed to it as a child. I am no exception. I recall many instances where sounds, such as blowing fans, rustling papers, and lingering thunder, would highjack my senses and place me under a sleepy spell; the most vivid memory I have is when I hung out with my mom while she ironed clothes in her bedroom.

I loved to climb all over on my parent’s queen-size bed; it was so much bigger than my tiny twin. I would play Gilligan’s Island’ and pretend I was a shipwrecked castaway. My young, vivid imagination transformed my parent’s bed into a tropical island with sandy beaches and tall coconut palms. Our shaggy tan carpet was turned into an ocean of clear blue water. There was only one dwelling on the island, and it belonged to me. Built out of bed sheets and pillows, my hut was warm, cozy, and dark. Though light was barred from entering, sound was both permitted and welcomed.

The ironing board creaked and clicked with every stroke of the iron. The fabric swooshed. The starch can sprayed. The water-filtered iron bubbled as it converted water to steam. The plastic hangers clunked together. The wooden clothes pins drummed against the sides of a plastic margarine tub. Every movement produced a unique sound. It was an orchestrated symphony of sheer tranquility that ushered me into a deep sleep.

To this day, when I find it difficult to relax or have trouble falling asleep, I pop in my earbuds and tune in to an ASMR recording. Without fail, I drift off in a matter of minutes.

Those who create ASMR videos are called “ASMRists”. Just like every artist, each have their own way of expressing their art. Test your senses by visiting Rebecca’s Beautiful ASMR Addiction found in Viv’s Favorite Things.  Share your experience in the comment section below or tell me about it in the MemoryBlogger Forum!  Good night and sweet dreams!

~Viv

Pom-pom Mom

When I was a young girl, I used to do flips and cartwheels on a blanket in our front yard. The blanket was supposed to protect my hands from getting pricked by stickers, but it failed miserably, as was evidenced by my bloody palms.

I dreamt of becoming a cheerleader, but I had neither the talent nor the financial backing to bring the dream to fruition. So, I improvised. I bought two purple pom-poms with my allowance money, and I choreographed my own routines at home. I practiced religiously and once I had enough confidence, I put on a show for my mom. I could always count on her to dish out overexaggerated compliments. I was never as good as she made me out to be, but her praise was genuine and loving.

Little did I know, watching me tumble, dance, and cheer in our yard brought back memories of her own childhood. Unlike me, however, my mom fulfilled her dream. Long before my sister and I were a glint in her eye, our mother marched in parades to the Broadway hit Oklahoma! and performed halftime shows at local sporting events. Our mom was a pom-pom girl!

It all started in the late 1950s at a high school basketball game. She was there with her family, watching her brother, Dennis, play. My mom idolized her older brother and loved cheering for him at games, but that night, her attention was drawn to something other than the game. That night, she was drawn to the girls with the colorful pom-poms.

Their performance only lasted a few minutes, but that was just enough time to hook my mom. Although it took some convincing, she eventually talked my grandma into letting her try out for the team, and within a few weeks, she became the newest member of the squad.

My grandma went right to work making a pair of pom-poms out of maroon and white strips of crate paper, and sewing my mom’s uniform, which consisted of a white blouse, short skirt, and a pillbox hat with a strap that came around the chin.

The night of her debut, my mom was filled with nervous energy. She marched out with the other girls and stood in her designated spot. Then it happened. She failed to wait for the cue. She was a half-step ahead of everyone else. While the squad danced in perfect unison, my mom heedlessly performed against the grain. It wasn’t until she looked up to the bleachers and saw the horror on my grandma’s face that she realized she was out of step. But it was too late; she had completed the routine. There was nothing left to do but stand there and politely wait for the other girls to catch up.

I am proud of my mom for the resiliency she displayed at such a young age. She did not let embarrassment hinder her. Instead, she paid better attention, practiced harder, and performed with her squad the remainder of her 8th grade year.

I love that she and I share a similar childhood memory. What fun memories do you have in common with someone you love?  Tell us about them in the MemoryBlogger Forum!

~Viv

My Red Shoe Diary

Viv Dangling Her Red Mila Boots

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes you love? I do. Right now, they are a pair of red Mila boots from Allen’s Boots in Austin, Texas. I have always been drawn to the color red. I think I inherited that trait from my Grandma Schmidt (my mom’s mom). As far back as I can remember, she wore red. Red clothes and shoes, red lipstick, red fingernails, and for many years, she even dyed her hair red. I always admired her boldness and loved that she was so flashy.

Vivian Cumins Childhood Red ShoesI got my first pair of red shoes when I was five. My mom purchased them from the Goodwill store in Chickasha, Oklahoma. They were made of shiny patent leather and had a little chunk heel. A small strap crossed the top of my foot and joined a buckle on the side, and if you looked closely, you could see tiny hearts on the sides too. They were beautiful, and I felt like a princess when I wore them. And I wore them, literally, every day.

At five years old, my sense of style was questionable to say the least, as I paired those fancy red shoes with everything. Dresses, pants, shorts—it didn’t matter to me. I had a “no sock” rule that accompanied my fashion statement, and with that rule came severe consequences. My feet would sweat from hours of outdoor play and by the time I came in for dinner and a bath, my feet were filthy from a mixture of sweat and red Oklahoma dirt. Dare I even mention the smell? It was horrendous. My sweet mom knew how much I loved those shoes. I suspect she wanted to just throw the nasty little things into the garbage, but she did her best to eliminate the odor by pouring baby powder in them in the hopes it would soak up the stench. It never worked.

I wore those red patent leather shoes until the day I could no longer squeeze my growing feet into them. It was a sad day to have to say goodbye. Well, sad for me—my mom was probably overjoyed. Forty-three years later, I am happy to report I have a new favorite pair of red shoes. However, the old saying holds true … a girl never really forgets her first love. Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes!

~Viv

Little Miss Perfect

Colorful Roped Throw Rug

Nobody’s perfect. Things happen. We make mistakes. So, what makes a five-year-old little girl strive so hard for perfection? One would think a five-year-old’s life would be full of imagination, baby dolls, and Barbies—not anxiety, worry, and the need for everything to be “just so.” But for me, everything had to be perfect. I had to be perfect.

MemoryBlogger Vivian Cumins, Age 5, KindergartenMy first memory regarding this notion of perfection took place at West Elementary School in Ms. Clayton’s kindergarten class during naptime.

The carpeted area in the corner of the classroom was reserved for watching Sesame Street in the mornings and taking short naps in the afternoons. Each of us kids brought either a small blanket or a large beach towel to lie on. Those who were serious about naptime also had pillows. Not me, though. I recall my bedding looking different from the others. Mine resembled a roped throw rug but was softer and more flexible. I thought the thick woven threads of bright red, green, yellow, and purple were pretty. The texture was unusual, but I didn’t care.

I was always the last one down. One by one, the other kids would toss their bedding to the floor, curl up, and drift off to sleep … but not me. While everyone else was enjoying a siesta, I was busy fanning my throw rug. I needed it to lay flat and straight before I could lie on it. Most days, it took many attempts to get it right, but every now and then, I would get it right the first time. This was my daily ritual.

Ms. Clayton exercised great patience with me, so the day she snapped came as a total shock. Perhaps I had fanned my rug one too many times or maybe she was just having a bad day. Regardless, her tone that day suggested she was in no mood to put up with me or my ritual. From across the room, Ms. Clayton called out my name and said, “You do that one more time, and you are going to get a spanking!”

What?? Spanking? What had I done wrong? Embarrassed and confused, I let the rug fall to the floor and climbed on top of it. I tried to straighten it with my arms and legs, but it was difficult to do from a horizontal position. Less than satisfied, I felt my embarrassment and confusion quickly turning to anger toward Ms. Clayton—not because she yelled at me in front of the other kids but because she forced me to accept mediocrity.

Did you know perfectionism in children is common? According to child development researcher Katie Rasmussen, as many as two in five kids and adolescents are perfectionists. The good news is there is a plethora of resources available to parents nowadays. For instance, check out this article on How to Help Your Perfectionist Kid. It is a good, easy read.

For those of you who may be wondering … no, that incident did not stop my ritual. I just worked harder at getting my rug to lay flat the first time. And yes, I still struggle with perfectionism, but I have learned a lot over the years. I am a work in progress. In fact, I only rewrote this story three times instead of four!

~Viv

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