Nostalgia can be a good source of inspiration. As you might have noticed from the past few blogs, I have indeed been waxing nostalgic these days. When I’m blocked (creatively that is), I find that I drift back to very specific moments and things from my childhood. I tell myself that ‘m searching for inspiration – and sometimes this is true as those feelings can be raw and whole – but too often it just a way to avoid the hard work and focus of writing.
My favorite ice cream was called Checkerboard, vanilla and chocolate in the shape of…? Guesses anyone? That’s right, a checkerboard! (It’s not pictured above sadly.) I have vivid memories of eating this remarkable stuff at the kitchen table, my fat little legs sticking to the vinyl cushions. I remember the heat. I remember the window just open onto the neighbor’s driveway, the sound of their car coming in. I carved the edges of each square carefully, first vanilla and then chocolate – I always saved the best for last – going sharply down the line with the edge of my spoon, eating tiny bits, and then boldly, rashly gouging out a scoop and then carving and cleaning slowly again. I couldn’t be too meticulous though because the ice cream would melt. I hated that.
I bought a Whacky Watermelon Pull Toy at a school flea market when I was ten. I thought it was an amazing thing. I mean, it was a watermelon on wheels that flapped out slices like wings. It also made a crazy clicketing racket as it rolled along. It was only 50 cents. I would have paid a dollar. But when I got it home, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was boring pulling it around my room and I wasn’t allowed to drag it around the house. It was too loud! And so I took it around the block, all the way around the entire block. I suddenly had no idea what I was doing with this Whacky Watermelon, making such a racket behind me. I felt like a goof doing it. It clicked and clacked crazily. I passed two teenagers and a woman with a kid. I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them. What was I doing? I almost picked it up and carried it home, but decided that I needed to finish my odyssey. I don’t know why. And I did. And then I put it away and never played with it again.
My drawer was full of crazy kid crap from souvenir shops. I bought it all: magnets, buttons, stickers, plastic animals, giant erasers, bendy figure pencils…but the best thing was a frog on his lily pad made out of shells. (The picture above is close but lacks the color, lily pad and pipe cleaner arms.) I named the frog George, and I talked to him. He was patient. He listened to everything I had to say. George was always there…until his lily pad cracked and he got dumped.
My favorite cookies were Pantry ginger snaps. (Neither is that me eating them, nor are those the cookies.) They were discontinued 25 years ago, and there hasn’t been a cookie as good since. Time to get back to work.