Weekly Column: Nostalgia never tasted so good

©2007, Stephenie Freeman

I was sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald’s the other day when I saw something on the menu that actually made me smile. This was odd since fast food isn’t something that usually brings me any certain amount of joy, but seeing the Shrek-themed drinking glasses for sale definitely brought a smile to my face.

Once upon a time, character-themed, movie-promoting drinking glasses filled my family’s kitchen cabinets. Life was good when you could drink your milk with Chewbacca, Miss Piggy, or McDonald’s Mayor McCheese looking back at you. If you complied all of the character glasses together, mixing and matching, I’m sure that we had enough of them for a formal seating of twelve. It’s a shame that they were haphazardly thrown away years ago. What I wouldn’t give to be able to use at my next dinner party.

“Bill, would you like a little more wine?”

“You bet. But only fill it up to Smurfette’s skirt. I’m driving.”

I can just imagine the conversations that these glasses would spark around the dining room table. Phrases like, “Do you remember…” would be followed by conversations about original Cabbage Patch dolls, Donkey Kong and Mrs. Pac-Man, and “Who was it that shot JR anyway?” Talk would probably include things like playing Space Invaders on Atari, watching movies on your Beta VCR, and who was cuter, Webster or E.T.

Sitting in the drive-thru that day, I began to wonder whatever happened to the girl who just wanted to have fun. It felt like it was only yesterday that I was wearing shoulder pads and acid washed jeans with a mouth full of heavy metal. Digging through my purse now full of diapers and grocery store receipts, I suddenly longed to spray my bangs with Aqua Net so they could stand up straight, six-inches tall at least, and wear my way cool, neon yellow jelly shoes to a Huey Lewis and the News concert.

Jellies are actually coming back in style. I’m not sure about Huey and his band.

Instead, there I sat in my SUV with a 5-year-old kicking the back of my seat begging for his Happy Meal. I can still remember when Happy Meals were “for a limited time only.” Considering the childhood obesity problem and the millions of plastic Happy Meal toys in our landfills, maybe they should have been. But back in the day when all you wanted was your MTV and you were trying your best to party like it was 1999, none of that really mattered.

During the 1980’s, I was busy copying Michael Jackson’s moves while watching the “Thriller” video and dancing to “Let’s Get Physical”, totally innocent and ignorant of the real meaning of Olivia Newton-John’s lyrics. I dreamed of going back to the future in a DeLorean with Michael J. Fox, and completely understood why “nobody puts Baby in the corner.” I was a product of a material world and I was a material girl.

Some people wonder why the men and women of my generation have gotten themselves into so much debt. The 1980’s was a decade of excess. We grew up hearing phrases like, “Greed is good.” My generation, the mothers and fathers now in charge of raising the future leaders of tomorrow, grew up immersed in a culture where bigger was better. And I’m not just talking about the hairstyles.

This might explain why I bought four Shrek glasses—that of course we didn’t need—that cost way more than a Happy Meal. My kids hadn’t even asked for them, but I thought that these glasses might bring back a small piece of my personal history for my children to enjoy.

“Mama? Who did you buy these for?” The 5-year-old asked on the way home.

“I bought them for you and your brother to drink out of. Won’t that be fun?”

“Uh, that’s okay. You can have them.”

And let me just tell you. My Merlot has never tasted so good.

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