Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Little Monster Turns Fourteen!

Yes it's true, today is the day that The Little Monster turns...fourteen(!!!). Wow, now that's really something to think about. Last year at this time I wrote (in Draclea vs. Frakenstein) about the scary thought that our Little Monster--the one who was the main inspiration for this blog when she really WAS little back in 2010--was turning thirteen and becoming a teenager. Somehow we survived this past year, and now suddenly another birthday is upon us. Fourteen doesn't seem like as monumental an age as thirteen, but the simple fact that she just keeps on growing and growing does give me pause to think and wonder just where my Little Monster went?

Here are some of our adventures over the years!

There's a lot I could say about this situation. The Tiny Creature is a ten-year-old herself and I can really see the end of childhood for both the Monsters coming toward us very soon. It's kind of a sad thought. But, of course it's also exciting to see them growing and thriving in their world. From little girls to young women, I guess it's what happens to us all (well, except that some of changed from boys to young men of course!). But I don't want to go on and on here about my continuing issues and battles with my old enemy Time. That can wait for another post. This one is actually something quite different from the usual kind of stuff that I write about. Instead of being a post about my thoughts on The Little Monsters, my past or any of that kind of stuff, this post is meant to be a Birthday Card of sorts. It is meant specifically for The Little Monster, so the rest of it will be written for, and to, her...

Then and now from last year when she turned 13

Happy Birthday, Mini! I can't believe that you're fourteen years old today! I know it probably sounds corny, but I still remember the day we brought a tiny, newborn you home from the hospital fourteen years ago--and promptly left you strapped into your car seat on the dining room table (asleep) while we both collapsed for a quick nap. And we also failed to even remember to close the front door! Luckily we got a little better at the parenting thing over time. We were rookies and there was much to learn. I'd like to think that we've taught you a lot over these past fourteen years (at least I hope we have anyway), but at the same time you (and your little sister) have also taught us everything that we know about parenting!

I'm sure I say something like this every birthday, but I hope that this year will be your best one so far! I hope everything goes your way and you will be healthy and happy throughout. Obviously you have been around long enough to know that life doesn't always work out the way we hope or plan and there are no guarantees, but I can still hope, can't I?

I do have to admit that I miss the "old days" when we'd watch so many movies and old TV shows together all the time (Godzilla films, "Eegah!", "Ghostbusters", Abbott & Costello, "The Brady Bunch", "The Incredible Hulk"...). But I'm glad that, even with changing tastes and many more time commitments, we do still manage to find a little time to watch some fun stuff together ("The 'Burbs", the Rocky movies, "Seinfeld", "The Office"...). You're definitely not little anymore (though at least you still aren't taller than me...yet), but you'll always be my Little Monster. At least I hope so!

So this blog post has sort of been my birthday present to you. But don't worry, there WILL be actual presents too! I just wanted to do something a little different, and kind of make my own personal e-birthday card for you. And now, to wrap things up I actually have a special surprise. Here's someone else who wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Take it away special guest star...


Monday, November 11, 2019

That Time Superman Destroyed My Hope of Finding True Love

aka: Superman vs. True Love

As the summer of 2019 wound down I found myself thinking about an incident that happened during the summer of 1983. It was actually a very minor incident, and to be honest, calling it an "incident" might be going a bit far. But even if it was in fact a very small and forgettable event, it has still managed to remain with me all these years (and even decades) later.

Starting a story by telling the reader just how "minor" and "forgettable" it is probably isn't a technique that would be recommended in a class called "Blog Writing 101". But this is going to be yet another of those little "slice of life" stories that, while not really seeming to be all that important or monumental, have nonetheless become a part of my history and my life. All these little things (along with the big ones of course) add up to equal who we are in life.

I've written about a few embarrassing moments from my youth recently. They've all been similarly "small" events, but ones that caused me some level of embarrassment and, like this story, have stayed with me throughout my life. There's no NEED to be sharing these stories. They've all happily remained in my own mind all this time and nobody has ever heard most of them until I decided to throw them out on the Internet. This story is like those; it's a small personal memory that never really seemed like it NEEDED to be shared. And in fact it wasn't shared. I had actually NEVER told this story to anyone until a couple months ago when I shared it with The Little Monster as we were talking about the summer. I thought she might find it interesting, and possibly kind of funny (maybe even somewhat relatable to her own teenaged life in some way). So what happened? And is it really worth spilling all these words over, or should I have just kept it to myself? I'll let the reader decide...

During the summer of 1983 I was 13 years old. Yup, a brand-new teenager--with all of the awkwardness and confusion that go along with that phase of life. It was a time when I was in an "evolutionary" phase, moving away from watching monster movies and playing in the backyard and toward listening to music on the radio and hanging out with my friends. And, oh yeah, I was also a LOT more interested in girls than I had previously been. That's kind of an important detail to mention for this story.

At thirteen I was still a kid of course, even if I didn't always feel like it. It's a strange time where you really do kind of find yourself stuck between two worlds--childhood and adulthood. I still liked to do a lot of the things I liked to do as a "kid". After all, I was only months or a couple of years removed from actually being a true kid. One of the things I liked doing as a kid--and have actually never grown out of--is swimming at the beach. It's the kind of thing that most people like all their life (if they like it at all). As a kid you're more interested in playing by the water and building sand castles. Later you get more into the actual swimming, laying out in the sun and girl-watching (or boy-watching, depending on your preference).

On this particular summer day in June of 1983 my sister took me and a couple of my nephews to a beach area at a lake near our hometown. I don't really recall specific details about most of the day. I'm sure it was a nice day that included enjoying the warmth of the sun, playing in the water and having a picnic lunch. Pretty standard fare for a nice summer day for a small town kid. If that were all that had happened that day it would most likely have simply faded into the recesses of my memory and probably would have become a generalized event, remembered more as part of a "typical" beach day rather than for anything specific. So what made this beach day different from all the other ones that came before and after it? Well, to put it simply, I fell in love that day.

Before explaining further I need to remind the reader that I was just thirteen at the time, and not really very experienced in all things love. Heck, I'm now fifty and I STILL find love to be quite a mystery. But toward the end of our day at the beach something happened that has remained with me all these decades later. I believe it was kind of late in the afternoon and the sun was getting lower in the sky. It would be cool to be able to say it was setting over the water to really set up the romantic mood, but seeing as how it was around the time of the summer solstice I doubt we were still at the beach late enough for that to be the case. As we were preparing to leave, a girl in a black one-piece bathing suit showed up. She seemed to be all by herself. As everyone else I came with was busy picking up all our stuff and preparing to head back to our car, I kind of felt like I was there all by myself (even though I obviously wasn't). The girl was about the same age as me, so it should have been obvious that she wasn't actually by herself. But in the mind of a teenager strange things can happen and strange things can be imagined. For a brief time it really felt like this girl and I really WERE there on our own. It almost felt like we were the only ones on the beach. Maybe even just a little bit like we were the only ones in the whole world! Okay, that's going a bit far, but I'm just trying to get across the kind of feeling that my pubescent mind was experiencing at that moment. I suppose it felt like a case of love at first sight, seeing as how this girl simply walked onto the beach and I simply decided that I was hopelessly in love with her.

Summer 2019, The Wife unwittingly and unknowingly recreating the scene from June 1983

Considering how strong the feeling was and the fact that I still remember it to this day it seems kind of strange to admit to this fact: I don't actually remember what she looked like. I don't recall even seeing her face at all. I think I did as she walked by, but I can't actually REMEMBER what she looked like. What's imprinted on my mind is that she walked into the nearly empty lake and stood alone with the water about up to her knees. She was facing away from me, with the lowering sun in front of her. It was an image I thought was so beautiful that I had a spontaneous fantasy where I was sitting near the shore with an easel, drawing a picture of this perfect being--a drawing that she of course would appreciate so much that she would simply have to fall as deeply in love with me as I was with her. I was trying to figure out some way that I could talk to her (knowing that I'd probably never actually have the nerve). Those few moments seemed to last a lot longer than they actually did, and I wished they could have lasted forever.

But then the moment was broken. I was pulled back to reality by my sister telling me that it was time to go. Suddenly I was just an awkward thirteen-year-old leaving the beach without ever having a chance to find out if what I thought was true love could ever actually become something real. Suddenly I was leaving without even getting a chance to meet or talk to my dream girl. Suddenly my chance at finding true love was gone, like the sun setting over the horizon--as it would have done not too long after we left.

Okay, I suppose I've written enough to get the point across that these few moments were pretty special to me. Special and painful enough to have remained with me for the rest of my life. But the funny thing is that the object of my affection, the perfect girl in the black bathing suit, almost certainly doesn't share ANY of this memory with me. It was most definitely a one-way love affair. As far as I know this girl was not only not affected by this incident in any way even close to what I felt and experienced, I'm pretty sure that it's likely that she didn't even SEE me when she walked past me and into the water. I suppose the one good thing about an unrequited love like this is that I can always imagine that she DID see me and she DID feel something too--even if I'm pretty close to being sure that she DIDN'T.

So that's the story of how I found and lost the love of my life at nearly the same time in June 1983. I'd say the story is done, but obviously I'm leaving the reader with one extremely big question: what the heck does all of this have to do with Superman? And, how did Superman ruin my hope of finding true love?

Well, it's actually pretty simple. As I've mentioned, this incident happened in June of 1983. That seems like a pretty precise narrowing down of a date that I didn't record in a diary or anything like that. How could I remember with such confidence that it happened in June of 1983? Well, if it weren't for one thing I really wouldn't be able to remember the date. If it weren't for that one thing I would probably only be able to tell you that it happened during a summer in my youth. I might have guessed that it was when I was twelve, thirteen or fourteen. That means I could have (not terribly reliably) "narrowed it down" to the summer months of 1982, 1983 or 1984. That's not very specific at all. But, in fact, I can even narrow it down a bit more precisely than just the month. I can confidently say that it was during the second half of the month. What is it that makes me so certain of the small window that I can narrow this event down to? Well, that's where Superman finally comes into the story.

You see, the reason I know I couldn't talk my sister into letting me stay on the beach even a little bit longer (besides the fact that I'd probably have to explain to her the ridiculous notion that I had suddenly and spontaneously fallen in love with a girl whose face I may or may not have even seen) was because we had plans for later that evening. We had to leave because we were going to be making a real event out of it. After spending the day at the beach we were going to the movies! And we weren't going to just any movie. No, it was going to be something pretty special. We were going to see "Superman III"! "Superman III" opened on Friday, June 17, 1983. That's the reason I know when this incident happened right down to an approximately two-week window. It had to have been on or after June 17th. And that's also why I blame Superman for causing me to miss my opportunity to find the love of my life.

You have to remember that in 1983 comic book-based superhero movies weren't as plentiful (ubiquitous?) as they are now. I remember the release of "Superman" in 1978 as being a pretty major event. "Superman II" was also pretty special, and I had no reason to think that "Superman III" wouldn't be more of the same. Heck, they were even upping the ante by adding Richard Pryor into the mix! There was no way I could know that "Superman III" was actually going to be the beginning of the end for the franchise--to be sadly finished off a few years later with the poor excuse for a sequel that was "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace".

Being thirteen, I was pretty excited to see the film. I wasn't exactly a tough critic of movies at the time (or now for that matter). I vaguely remember it having a different feeling from the previous entries. It had a strange air of silliness that came along with having Richard Pryor added to the cast. But I also remember being very disturbed by the image of Superman getting all angry after being exposed to the synthetic kryptonite. Seeing him in his dirty costume sitting in a bar was something I never expected to see from the Man of Steel. The movie might not have been as good as the first two in the series, but it will always be remembered by me for a reason that has nothing to do with what happened on the screen. Instead I remember it because of the fact that it took me away from the promise of love that I thought I had at the beach that summer day so long ago.

To this day I have never seen "Superman III" again (though I think I might after ruminating about it so much while researching and writing this post), but I have always associated it with that beautiful summer day when the image of the mystery girl standing in the water at the lake was etched onto my mind. I wonder just who that girl was? I wonder what that girl is doing today? I wonder if she had any idea of the connection that I thought existed between the two of us that day? I wonder if she even saw me, or was even aware that I was on the beach when she walked by? I wonder if she has any memories of that day at all? I wonder if she ever saw "Superman III"?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Oreos, 2019 Edition

It's that time of year again. Halloween is always a special time for The Little Monsters (and me too for that matter). But I'm not sure just how much longer it will remain the special thing that it has been in the past. It will always be Halloween of course, but as kids grow up they tend to see Halloween in a different way from how they probably had experienced it over their first decade or so. The Little Monster is about to turn fourteen, so I can really see many of those changes happening now. I just wrote about some of my thoughts on those changes in An Especially Eerie Halloween. And this morning (October 31st) the first thing The Little Monster did after she woke up was to come into our room, sit on our bed and say, "I'm sad. I think this might be my last Halloween." Apparently she's become aware of those changes herself. She knows that Halloween will continue of course, and she  still has many Halloweens ahead of her. But she also realizes that they just won't be the same as what she's (and we've) experienced in the past. There are obviously a LOT of changes that happen around this time of life. Losing the innocent enjoyment of Halloween is an incredibly small part of those overall life changes, but the realization of it can be a sobering thought nonetheless.

The Little Monsters in 2012
But this post isn't about the sad realities of outgrowing the childlike enjoyment of Halloween. No, this post is about a very specific aspect of Halloween that has become quite a tradition for The Little Monsters and myself. It is about the strange phenomenon of Halloween Oreos! Oreos come in a dizzying array of flavors and varieties these days (a trend I chronicled in The Overwhelming Onslaught of Oreos back in 2015 and a topic that I've been meaning to revisit). At first glance this might seem like a very small and insignificant aspect of Halloween, considering all the decorating, trick-or-treating and candy involved with the holiday, but it's something that I feel is an important part of the overall celebration of Halloween for our family.

Unfortunately the annual unveiling of the Halloween Oreos hasn't been well documented in our home. I know from photographic evidence that we've been celebrating the limited edition cookies since at least 2013, and have photos of us doing so from that year, 2015 and 2018. I'm pretty sure we had them in at least some of the years I don't have photographs from, but it was during my extended period of writing hibernation, when my blogging output was extremely sparse. In both 2015 and 2018 the Halloween Oreos were written about in the posts The Overwhelming Onslaught of Oreos and Halloween Oreos, 2018 Edition.

The Little Monsters in 2013

The Little Monsters in 2015
The Little Monsters in 2018
Before we actually take a look at this year's Halloween Oreos it's probably worth mentioning that there's another very important element that goes along with the eating of the first of the Halloween Oreos. It may seem very random (and I suppose it IS), but it's what really makes the whole experience a true "tradition" for the Monsters and me. You see, before I actually bring out the package of spooky treats (the idea is to unveil them as a surprise, but by this point The Little Monsters usually know what's gong on as the process begins to unfold) I have to put on and start the "Ship of Ghouls" episode of "The Love Boat". That might not seem like a prototypical show to be watching to really usher in the Halloween season (what about "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"?) but it's what we were watching the first time I decided to make a big deal about buying Halloween Oreos and sharing them with The Little Monsters. There are a lot of other things I try to show them each year around this time, but "Ship of Ghouls" is simply a must--especially when it's time to snack on those Halloween Oreos! And, not only does the episode take place during Halloween, it also features none other than the great Vincent Price as a guest star and passenger on the Pacific Princess!

All of which brings us to the 2019 edition of Halloween Oreos. In years past I've had a tough time actually finding them in stores near us as Halloween approached. Eventually I learned that they actually come out toward the end of summer--about TWO MONTHS before Halloween. Sometimes they simply disappear from the shelves long before All Hallows Eve. It seems that by the end of October the stores are already over Halloween and looking forward to the holidays by stocking up on the seasonal varieties Winter Oreos and Peppermint Bark Oreos.

I've learned to make my Halloween Oreo purchase earlier in the season than I would normally want to. This year I got them at the end of September and had to hide them from The Little Monsters for nearly a month! Which means that I also had to resist the urge to crack into that package myself for nearly a month! I should probably mention here that The Wife tries hard to keep us a healthy family. As a result we don't really have a steady flow of snacks and sweets (junk food) coming in the house. I'm a pretty big fan of Oreos, but generally speaking, the one package of Halloween edition Oreos is usually the ONLY package of Oreos we purchase during the entire year. It's another factor that goes into making this whole experience a special one, and also adds to that feeling of it being a true tradition and not just another yummy snack treat. And here they are...

I do have to admit that The Little Monsters might have been a bit bemused--and maybe even somewhat unimpressed--when I put The Love Boat DVD in and started the episode, but once they realized what was going on and I brought out the Oreos they happily settled in for some quality pre-Halloween fun!

The Monsters decided to add whipped cream to the Oreos this year

That's pretty much all that there is to our little tradition. It might seem like a very minor thing, but it really is a big part of how The Little Monsters and I have been kicking off the Halloween season for quite some time now. I don't know how many more years we have where Halloween will be special enough to them to continue the tradition (see The Little Monster's observation at the beginning of this post). But I will try to keep it going for as long as possible...

2013 Halloween Oreos
2015 Halloween Oreos
2018 Halloween Oreos
2019 Halloween Oreos


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

An Especially Eerie Halloween

There are only two days until October 31st, and it's been a very strange Halloween season around here. I suppose that Halloween really SHOULD be eerie and strange, but this one is not eerie and strange because of witches, ghost, goblins and things that go bump in the night. All of those things would be welcome additions to the season. No, this Halloween has been odd for different reasons. It's kind of hard to explain. I guess it's odd mainly because of my old scary enemy...Time.

You see, I loved Halloween as a kid (who didn't?). I also have always enjoyed Halloween as a grown-up--though in sort of different ways. After we had The Little Monsters that old childlike feeling of Halloween as a fun and exciting (and maybe even just a bit scary) night was back. I could enjoy the season all over again through the eyes and experiences of The Little Monsters. From picking out what costumes they would wear, to decorating the house/apartment, to going trick-or-treating and getting all that great candy, it was great to be able to kind of vicariously soak in some of the fun and excitement they were feeling.

Halloween 2012

But a funny thing happened on the way to Halloween 2019. The Little Monsters were suddenly not so little anymore. The Little Monster will turn fourteen in a few weeks and the Tiny Creature is ten. They're at the point where they are kind of aging out of the holiday (The Little Monster more so than the Tiny Creature of course). Up until last year the magic still seemed to be there, even if The Little Monster was about to become a teenager. I remember that the planning for this Halloween started pretty much as soon as the trick-or-treating and sorting of the candy was done last year. The first ideas for this year's costumes were laid on November 1st.

Then Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around and Halloween was kind of put on the back burner for a while. Once school started in September I reminded the Monsters that Halloween wasn't very far away. When September turned to October I let them know there was only one month left. Then...nothing much happened. The Tiny Creature had some vague costume ideas, but nothing ever really materialized. The Little Monster was too busy with school, activities and friends to really put much thought into Halloween.

Suddenly there was only one week left until the big day and we realized that nobody really had any solid idea what they were going to be on the 31st. The Tiny Creature wanted to purchase a costume--which has traditionally been somewhat verboten in our household. The Monsters have usually done a good job (with a little parental help) of putting together some interesting costumes with stuff we have around the house and a few purchased additions and accessories. But with time getting short the options were getting short as well.

Another difference between this year and Halloweens past is that The Little Monsters simply don't have much free time. We used to read all our Halloween books at bedtime and watch a bunch of Halloween or related shows and movies through the course of October. But between all their homework and activities, and the fact that we generally adhere to a no-screens-during-the-week policy, there simply hasn't been time to watch too much fun stuff to get ready for Halloween. We certainly haven't seen some of our old favorites like "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" and "Young Frankenstein" in a long time (it's been years actually, and I'd dare say that they are not really among The Monsters' favorite titles anymore). When there IS some time to watch something they have plenty of other shows that they would prefer to see. And finding the time to watch movies is especially difficult.

But that's not to say that we haven't watched ANYTHING fun this fall. Over the course of the month I've managed to sneak in a few of the shows that have been old Halloween standbys of ours. Because of their schedules not all of these shows have been seen by both Monsters, but we're doing the best we can. Here's a rundown of most of what we've seen so far: The "Ship of Ghouls" episode of "The Love Boat" (with Vincent Price!), the "Trick or Treat" episode of "CHiPs", "The Hazzardville Horror" episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard", the "Fright Night" episode of "The Brady Bunch", the episode of "The Muppet Show" with Vincent Price, the "Treehouse of Horror VI" episode of "The Simpsons", "The Paul Lynde Halloween Special" (featuring KISS!), the cartoon "Spookley the Square Pumpkin" and, of course, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". It hasn't been easy squeezing those shows in, and there's still a lot more I wish we could get to. There simply isn't enough time or opportunity to do so.

"The Love Boat"
Vincent Price in "The Love Boat"
Vincent Price in "The Muppet Show"
Watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

While we haven't carved any pumpkins or done much decorating, we have managed to keep up a couple of other traditions. The first is more of a fall thing rather than anything specifically Halloween, but I like to take the Monsters to the grocery store to pick out a couple mini pumpkins to put on our dining room table. It's not a very impressive sight, but for whatever reason it's always a bit of a special thing that we try to do each year around this time. Well, it USED to be kind of special anyway. This year I simply never had an opportunity to take both Monsters, so The Tiny Creature and I went and picked out hers and one for The Little Monster, who had other plans that afternoon.

Our mini pumpkin/gourd dinner table centerpiece

Another activity that became a tradition a few years back (and has even been featured in a few blog posts of their own) is the annual purchase of the seasonal Halloween Oreos (see Halloween Oreos, 2018 Edition and The Overwhelming Onslaught of Oreos). Sweets in general and Oreos in particular are not things we get to bring into our house too often, so getting a package of Oreos kind of counts as a big event. When those Oreos are of the Halloween variety it becomes even more special. For some reason I've generally had a hard time finding Halloween Oreos just before Halloween. It's made for some interesting adventures as I've had to search high and low for them in an effort to not disappoint the Monsters (who am I kidding, I don't want to disappoint MYSELF!). Last year I think I was able to figure out the problem. They actually ship out and start selling the Halloween Oreos in August, a full two months before Halloween. By the time it seems appropriate to actually buy some they tend to be long gone--replaced by the holiday ones in advance of Christmas. This year I noticed the Halloween Oreos in our grocery store early. I waited until later in Spetember to pick up a package, but didn't want to wait too long. Wouldn't you know, this is the year they decided to keep them on the shelves right up until Halloween. Oh well.

Anyway, the finding and purchasing of Halloween Oreos is the first part of our little tradition. The second part is when I put on the aforementioned "Ship of Ghouls" episode of "The Love Boat" as I unveil the sweet treats to The Little Monsters. Just WHY this has become our tradition I'm not exactly sure, but it has. And I'm happy to report that we were able to get the tradition in (with both Monsters present) for at least one more year!

As I started writing this post on October 29th The Tiny Creature and The Wife were out shopping for last minute costume components at a thrift store. It now appears that the Monsters' costumes have finally been finalized. The Little Monster is going to be some sort of angel with wings and a white dress, while The Tiny Creature will be a bag of jelly beans. There's definitely still some work to be done, but hopefully they'll be able to get everything put together by the 31st. Time is getting very short. And it looks like the forecast is calling for rain on Halloween. We're crossing our fingers that we'll be able to get in a good one before we get too soaked. Who knows how many more Halloweens are going to be special ones in our household before everyone is too "grown-up" to enjoy them?

Checking out the new costume components
I mentioned earlier that we haven't done much decorating of our own. That's something I feel kind of bad about. The Little Monsters don't seem to be too bothered by it, but I do remember them enjoying making our apartment look more Halloween-y with fake spider webs and various other spooky decorations. We also have a neat witch door hanging that lights up, but it's in our storage unit and we haven't seen it for six or seven years. I think a nice way to end this post is by reporting that Mother Nature seems to have stepped in to help us out with our decorating and put us in more of a Halloween mood. Recently this giant spider spun a web and took up residence outside The Little Monsters' bedroom window. They were kind of freaked out by it (and it's hard to blame them, it IS a big spider!), but I kind of felt bad about taking the web down and/or killing the spider. It has remained and somehow survived a pretty big storm with a lot of wind and rain a few days ago. Looks like our new "friend" will be with us through Halloween!