I Hope Our Children Still Write Love Letters

It’s hard to believe that I wrote my last Huffington Post piece Giving Trees & Why We’re So Obsessed With The 90’s last summer after I visited my childhood home on a trip back to the Twin Cities.

One reader wasn’t a fan. He tagged me in a tweet accusing me of longing for a naive, Lisa Frank version of the 90’s, when, in fact, it should have been the “sleazy and politically incorrect” one. The reality is that I turned six in 1990. How sleazy should my 90’s experience have been? For many girls between the ages of six and 15, the 90’s actually was a cloudy haze of technicolor Lisa Frank school supplies and Little Mermaid songs

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Jennifer Hill, Age 6

In the 90’s I was six and now I find myself thirty, which feels strange. I’m vainly comforted by the fact that I still haven’t found a gray hair. There’s one near my forehead that’s gone translucent. It may be devoid of color, but I guess it’s still not technically gray.

Thirty feels like we should start a family. I assumed it would just happen and so far it hasn’t, or at least, not as easily as I had assumed. Every once in a while I dream about a little, browned haired girl and wake up knowing she’s mine. We struggle with the whole feeling of urgency to start a family and the reality that we’d probably freak out if it actually happened.

Thirty means I keep starting sentences with “Back in my day. . .” and feeling grumpy about things that never bothered me before. For example, I watched the American Music Awards and couldn’t stop staring at One Direction. The tween girls swooned while I felt maternal concern. Does the guy in the shiny jacket need a comb and why do they look like they’re from the future? Why am I still thinking about this?

Yesterday, I wandered into a Bath & Body Works for the first time in a decade and couldn’t find the Freesia. What the hell is this scent Mad About You and why should I care if it’s not the television show with Helen Hunt? I don’t understand why I want to smell like a Wasabi Apple and why is everything on clearance? This is not the store I remember.

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My 90’s haze exemplified by a collage I maintained: JTT, Dawson’s Creek, Jelly Roll pens, Lois Duncan books, Lip Smackers, Gap clothes, smiley faces, Romeo & Juliet. . .

Our kids will never meet friends at Snoopy’s water bowl at the Mall of America and eat Knott’s Berry Farm chicken there. At the rate things are going, they’ll hear Adam Levine on the radio more often than we heard Robyn. I don’t want to live in a world where Adam Levine’s song “Animals” continues to appear on national top ten lists. Bringing back Robyn is how you can show me love.

Over Christmas I went through my old photos and noticed a curious thing. We always sat around a big, rectangular Bigfoot Pizza from Pizza Hut. We looked pretty happy so it must have tasted good and so it should probably come back.

I hope real love letters never die. Most of my handwritten love letters went unrequited and I regret nothing. Before email and before texts, we actually wrote love letters on real paper.

Do you love me, do you wanna be my friend?
And if you do
Well then don’t be afraid to take me by the hand
If you want to
I think this is how love goes, check yes or no
-George Strait.

We wrote notes like this with check boxes and everything and then we stuffed them into locker slots or asked a friend to deliver them.

I hope young people keep writing lettersOne of my favorite memories from the 90’s includes scouring The Kid’s Address Book with a friend. We didn’t try to catch celebrities in phone selfies; we hand-wrote them letters for autographed photos and sent giant construction paper cards to Hanson. Tony the Tiger was the only one who wrote back. He wasn’t JTT or Rider Strong, but he sent an autographed photo and we so thought he was pretty greeeeat.

Amazon.com drones sound neat, but I hope malls can still be a thing. As kids we spent most of our free time outdoors, but sometimes we wanted to wander the mall. Some malls still hum, but many fade. I enjoyed the magical 90’s mall less as a place to buy things and more as a venue to stroll with people. We took family trips to the mall that ended with dinner at the food court. When my grandma and mom became ill, we’d pack up their wheelchairs and stroll the halls like old times. No matter how old I get, I never want to become too cool for the mall food court experience.

I hope our kids experience the glee that was the 90’s kid’s trip to the video store. A trip to the video store usually preceded special occasions like a family movie night or sleepover with friends. When we grew older, solo trips to the video store were rights of passages. It was the first place to which we could ride our bike without adult supervision and drive our car when we received our licenses. My folks enforced a strict “No Rated R” policy, so we watched movies like Scream and at someone else’s house (sorry parents!).

Video stores only carried a limited number of each new release. When your first was gone, it was gone and you just had to wait. I can now find answers and directions and distractions on my smart phone at all times. We scroll through movie options on Netflix and binge-watch entire series of television shows in the span of a weekend. I can skip commercials all together by DVRing cooking shows and sometimes I fear that I forgot how to wait. 

Buzzfeed publishes lots of great 90’s lists that hit me right in the gut, but it’s also a photo-stealing monster. And no, I do not “weep for the children of today” even though the closest they might ever get to our 90’s is a 90’s-themed school dance or our tattered copies of Goosebumps books. Frankly, that’s OK because life is change and change is life.

Nevertheless, may our children have lots of reasons to laugh and people who love them. May they still play outside, build forts in the woods, and find glee in whatever replaces the 90’s trip to the video store. Don’t get me wrong, I love being thirty, translucent hairs and all, but there’s a short window to dwell in that Lisa Frank haze and all of the time in the world to be an adult.

14 Comments

  1. I so love this post. And the one your wrote for Huffpo. So nostalgic, well-written, poignant. Glad I popped over–highlight of my day. 🙂

  2. Love it! I too wonder if this younger generation will write letters.

  3. This is great, I try so hard to write letters to friends and cards. I think handwritten things in today’s world are great!

  4. So many memories in this post- you are the same age as my daughters, so I know everything you talk about and feel that sad “I wish they were still young” pain. I still go to the MoA with them, altho I can’t walk the endless hours and miles like they do- rather, they park me on a bench and scour every store in that section…..and then we move along to the next “block.” As for Lisa Frank….. holy cow I can’t tell you how many TrapperKeepers, stickers, pencil cases and other assorted girl-mainstays I have bought over the years……

    • It’s funny to think that items that were so mundane back then are worth a lot of money! I never thought to hang on to my old school supplies or toys.

  5. You know I loved this post! I am all about the love letters and the letter writing. I have a box full of letters that Chris and I wrote to one another —–I may have to burn them before we die but they make me smile to know that I have them. I think you have a lot of great memories and I absolutely love that picture of you. So cute!!!

    • You’ll have to keep them so your family can read them:) Jake and I never wrote love letters. Those were all pre-Jake I think.

  6. Jeni, this is outstanding and everything a memoir should be. My oldest son is 30 and I’m sending it to him to read to see if he thinks growing up in Mason City, Iowa was similar. I had no idea you wrote for HuffPo but I think you have a book in you. I’ll read it for sure.

  7. I’m swooning, and now daydreaming… Thanks for the walk into the good ol days!

  8. Fantastic! And Beth Ann has inspired me to write more cards! And i have every note and every card that Tyler’s ever given me! This is so great as we grew up in a wonderful time!

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