Bright Young Women, Sick of Swimmin’

The other day, one of my blogger buddies, Clay over at, published a great idea on his blog. He invited readers to answer a handful of deceptively personal questions about themselves in his post: An Interview With…YOU! And now I just realized that many of those questions might be found as the Security Question on your bank’s website…if #10 had been “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” I would have been awfully suspicious.

But seriously, if you haven’t checked him out, clickety-click over there, hang around a bit, answer his questions, and tell ‘im Baby sent ya. I have no idea why I just said that.

One of his questions was “Favorite Movie Ever?” which might not be The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it might be pretty darn close. I was tempted to answer “42,” because that made more sense than even having a favorite movie ever, but decided to interpret the question to really mean, “First Favorite Movie Ever.”

Betcha On Land, They Understand

So I answered The Little Mermaid, the 1989 Disney Animated Classic that I, even today, can quote word-for-word. (“The salty sea air! The wind blowing in your face! Ah…perfect day to be at sea!” said Prince Eric, my first true love. “Oh, yes,” said a very green Grimsby before retching over the ship’s rail. “Delightful.”)

It made me think of the day my dad walked into our living room, told my little sister and me to sit down, so we rushed to his big, blue armchair (lovingly and creatively called, “The Blue Chair,” and that, despite my mother’s most valiant efforts, is still sitting in their house in Alabama), squished our little bottoms into the well-worn fabric, neither one of us giving an inch, and waited (im)patiently as Dad pulled a brand new VHS from his plastic AAFES bag, and popped it into the VCR, ignoring our excited questions. “What is it? Is it for us? Is it a cartoon? Can I have Skittles?” (Note: dialogue may not be accurate. I mean, I was six.) And as that mysterious phone dialing sound came on to a screen of black, my little sis and I didn’t realize something magical was about to happen.

And just like that, as if by Ursula’s magic potion, I was transported back. Forgive me, for I am about to wax nostalgic.

It was 1989; I was six years old. I had a bad, bad haircut. My family of six had just been stationed to Ramstein, Germany, where we would spend the next four years, where some of my earliest memories occurred. I was an American military brat living in a quaint German village near Ramstein Air Force Base. Our house was on Marktstraße, blocks away from a German Bäckerei that made the entire neighborhood smell like freshly-baked brotchen. I would walk there with my older brother, clutching my pfennig, the amount I needed to buy myself a KinderEgg.

The first year we moved to Germany, my parents opted to live off-base, I suppose to immerse our family in authentic German culture. We rented a beautiful three-story house, with a wall of lovely rose bushes that my dad tended religiously, rose bushes that speckled me with thorns one afternoon when I fell into them while riding my new big-kid bike without training wheels. Our neighbor was an old German woman who would yell at us incomprehensibly from her front porch when we would accidentally kick our soccer ball over the low stone wall bordering our houses and into her garden. In the center of our small backyard was a huge cherry tree, and whenever my much taller older siblings would ignore my pleas to pull some cherries off for me, I would pick the few that had fallen to the ground, eat them, and spit the pits out onto the grass, wondering if another tree would grow. Our narrow concrete driveway was partitioned by metal beams, which formed the perfect four-square court, and we would try in vain to best my brother, secretly glad he was playing with us in the first place.

My little sister and I shared the master suite, and we would sometimes push our twin beds together, whenever we were feeling particularly sisterly. My older sister had her own room adjacent via bathroom to my brother’s. I remember her ceiling being wooden and sloped, and she would hang posters of Vanilla Ice or  Tiffany or someone from the slope, leaving the bottom untaped and hanging. I always thought that was a brilliant decorating motif. I almost never went into my brother’s room, but if invited, or at least not told to go away, I would venture in and walk out onto his balcony, wishing we had one in our room. I have no idea where my parents slept, only that they were there, overseeing the chaos.

We would have to walk a little ways to the bus stop, a small sheltered area, and sit with a handful of American kids waiting to be transported to the on-base school for the military. I remember an older girl who looked a lot like Kelly Kapowski. I remember eavesdropping on my brother and sister, hearing slang words like, “psyche!” and “not!” and “duh!” and “gag me with a spoon!” I remember sitting next to a girl named Christina, a German girl who went to the American school, who ended up in my first grade class with Mrs. Kremple, who had the same black sweater with multi-colored yarn patterns on it and suggested we wear it on the same day, who chased boys with me. I don’t remember her last name, or what happened to her after first grade (I’m assuming she went on to second grade), only that she had short hair like me, only less boyish and much (much) more flattering.

I remember sitting in class, my teacher drawing a map of Germany on the chalkboard, drawing a line she called the Berlin Wall, erasing it, and telling us that the Wall was coming down. Her excitement was contagious, even if I didn’t understand it. I remember taking a train to Berlin for my brother’s soccer tournament, seeing the spray-painted wall, shattered in some places, completely demolished in others, marveling at how tall it actually was, and coming home with heavy slabs of it as a souvenir.

I’m surprised at how many little memories I have of that first year living in Germany, how completely I can remember the details. And it all started by remembering Ariel and her desire for, what do you call them? Oh, feet.

What are some of your favorite movies? What fond memories are they tied to? What are some things you remember and would like to share? You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!



Filed under Humor

15 responses to “Bright Young Women, Sick of Swimmin’

  1. Great story. One of the reasons I talk about movies so much is because those things are powerful anchors to so many memories. At least for me. I enjoyed getting to hear about your time in Germany and love of Ariel. And you are in the big show which starts next week. Did you see what you are backing? Very cool.

  2. I think The little mermaid was my favorite movie too for a long time….we watched it soo many times that at one point my mom had to hide it from us lol

  3. Jen

    I’m gonna have to correct you on this one. The Little Mermaid was, in fact, MY movie (no, not just the VHS tape, but the actual creation) and I memorized it from start to finish flawlessly. And my little sisters, always wanting to be like their wonderfully creative and brilliant older sister, followed suit. You’re welcome.

    • Haha, my bad. Maybe I loved it so much because you loved it, and not because it was my first experience with Disney princesses, or that it was a simply brilliant movie with catchy tunes that are now stuck in my head.

      Even if the movie was technically yours, you weren’t there for the initial viewing. I know this because I would have been banished to the floor, even if I had called, “Coming Back.”

      • Maiasaura Stinky Face

        I totally remember Dad buying it for us that day!! He was so dramatic. He did that with Peter Pan too, because (I think) he bought them on the same day. Peter Pan never stood a chance. Wendy sucks.

      • Hahaha, I don’t remember Peter Pan being in the mix, but we acquired it somehow. Must have been that same day. Just goes to show its true inferiority. And I agree: Wendy Moira Angela Darling did suck.

  4. Pingback: Bright Young Women, Sick of Swimmin' « Meet the Buttrams | Cartoon World

  5. I love the details in your post: the cherries on the ground, the hanging posters, the sweater. Lovely. All this from reflecting on a movie. Brilliant.

    By the way, I honestly don’t remember what movie I chose on Clay’s blog. It is hard to pick a favourite. Maybe I should have gone with 42, too!

  6. Love this post – from title to “oh, feet.”


  7. “I have no idea where my parents slept.” Funny.

    The part about your teacher being excited about the Wall coming down is interesting. You were there for a major historical moment. Do you still have the a chunk of it?

    • I know, I wish I had been old enough to appreciate the historical and political significance. Instead, I just remember watching news coverage of all the Germans dancing on top of the Wall, and then my brother walking into the room and convincing me that he had been there dancing, too. What a weirdo.

      My parents still have the slabs at their house. It’s pretty cool, and they say it can cure shingles.

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