If you were a child in the 80s or the parent of a child in the 80s (and probably 90s – I stopped paying attention) you are probably familiar with the Pizza Hut Book It program. There was nothing better than collecting the last of the required five star stickers in exchange for the five books you read and turning them in for a Free Personal Pan Pizza gift certificate. Since I have always been a big fan of pizza, this was a good deal for me. Looking back I can see how it was not necessarily as good of a deal for my parents, because it basically forced them to spend money on an evening out at Pizza Hut. But I loved it – I loved collecting the stars and proudly displaying them on my Book It button, walking into Pizza Hut on a Friday night (the penacle of Pizza in the 80s as far as I’m concerned) greeted by the doughy, tomato-y scent of yummy cheesy goodness, and seeing a friend or two and her family, visiting “the hut” for the same reasons.
I’ve been taking lots of trips down memory lane lately, mainly fueled by my return to elementarty school this fall. I’m going to be working in four different schools doing enrichment programs in the classroom four days a week. Since school is starting soon (or has already started – like here in my neighborhood!) I have been attending a barrage of open houses and back to school nights. Being back in that environment has opened a flood of memories and I can’t get enough of the nostalgia.
The smell of erasers and freshly copied worksheets(or during my day- freshly ditto machined – remember all the purple ink?). The posters on the wall bearing inspirational slogans like “Believe to Achieve” and “Learning is Fun!”. The bald gym teacher with a Hulk Hogan-esque mustache who wears shorts day in and day out no matter the temperature. Well maybe not everyone shares that last memory – but I bet a lot of you do!
In a quest to open the door to more happy childhood memories, Kelli and I went to mom and dad’s house, trudged into their enormous basement, and dug out all of our old books. We each took a selection of our old favorites home to browse through and reminisce. My bag of books was a virtual life-story of my childhood/adolescent attitide in its progression from innocence to angst and doom to lots of drama and adventure.
Many of the books I brought home are Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I’m rediscovering my love for Ramona and have already devoured three of the books, started two more, and gone to the library to get the ones I don’t own. Here’s just one example of why Ramona rocks:
“Before the class started seat work, Ramona went to her teacher with her precious bloody tooth, and asked, ‘Would you keep this for me?’ Ramona wanted to be sure she did not lose her tooth, because she needed it for bait to catch the tooth fairy. She planned to pile a lot of clattery things like sauce pans and pie tins and old broken toys beside her bed so the tooth fairy would trip and wake her up.”
–Ramona the Pest -1968
Bait to catch the tooth fairy. Priceless. The Ramona books, while written for children, are also amusing for adults to read. I think the thing that attracts me to them to this day is their ability to capture what it really felt like to be a little kid and the kinds of things we really thought about in our childhood.
Besides Ramona and other similarly themed books, I found a treasure-trove of titles that could have only graced my bookshelves in middle school. Written by Lurlene McDaniel, I call them the “Death and Sadness” collection. I was obsessed with them and regular, happy books were no longer of interest to me. I guess I needed to create drama in my life which was all too often (according to my journals) boring and painfully tedious. Notice happy titles of my middle school reading list: Why Did She Have to Die, Please Let Him Live, and When Happily Ever After Ends.
And here is another jewel: Baby Alicia is Dying. Check out the cover art. On the back of the book it says that Baby Alicia’s fate is doomed because of a serious illness but after closer study of the picture I have an alternate theory.
Yep – there’s your problem. You have an evil clown living in your room, Alicia! He’d kill you in a second.
Once I left Alicia and the “Death and Sadness” phase I was ready for more adventure. Romance novels? Pshaw. Give me “thrillers” like: The Face on the Milk Carton (about kidnapping), The Other Side of Dark (about a shooting, miraculous recovery from a four-year coma, and the quest to find the shooter), Missing Since Monday (more kidnapping), and Shadowmaker (teen-age murder crime mystery).
My crime and action phase marked the end of my interest in fiction through the present day. I usually read informational books about whatever I’m currently in to – photography, crafts, dieting, etc. But I have had a lot of fun spending sweltering summer evenings in bed, safe inside the air conditioning, reading side-by-side with Randy – with a snuggly Zipper sandwiched in between. Admittedly, some of the titles in my library are not stellar examples of literary excellence while others are classics. But I’m drawn to the simplicity of children’s fiction and the sense of nostalgia it provides.
I’ve finished four books and am closing in on my fifth. I wonder when I’ll get my free pizza…..