The Object of My Desire

Have you ever wanted something so desperately that you would do almost anything to possess it?  Was there ever an item so vital that you knew you could NOT live without it?  I get it.  I’ve been there.

Years ago, I went to some extreme measures to get what I wanted.  The object of my desire?  A pair of jeans.

I’ve been selling vintage clothing for many years and I’ve discovered that the majority of people who buy vintage clothing are young and fashion-forward.  Designers and stylists continually reference the fashions of the past to create the styles of today. 

I’m no longer young and I’m far from fashion forward so dealing on a daily basis with clothing styles from the past 50 years tends to make me nostalgic.  I recently listed some 70s vintage bluejeans that made me reminisce about a particular pair of jeans I wanted when I was a teenage girl.

Let me rephrase that.  I didn’t just want those jeans.  I needed them. 

The year was 1976.  I was 14 years old.  Our family had recently moved from Toronto, Canada to the California Central Valley.  You would think, coming from a bustling metropolis filled with subways and freeways, hippies and high-rises to a small cow-town surrounded by orchards and ranches, that I would have had the social advantage but you would be oh, so wrong.  In that rare and strange kingdom known as adolescence, I knew I was a fish out of water the moment we arrived. 

We were Canadian.

Add the fact that my dad was a Pentecostal preacher and you start to get the picture.  Conservative, modest, polite – these are a few of the words that would accurately describe my parents (and almost every other Canadian I knew).  My mom and dad weren’t stuffy or strait-laced.  On the contrary.  They were warm, friendly and fun to be around.  But, still…  Canadian.  Pentecostal.

My dad accepted the position of senior pastor at Bethel Church in Modesto.  A long way from Toronto in more ways than one. 

I had mixed feelings about our move.  On the one hand, I was excited.  The lure of California, palm trees, beaches and celebrities was definitely on my mind.  I had no concept of the miles that stretched between Modesto and Hollywood but, how far could it be?

On the other hand, I was just starting to come into my own with my friends in Toronto and didn’t relish the thought of breaking into a new social group. “Didn’t relish” is my way of saying I was obnoxious and whiney throughout the whole move.

The breed of teenager that I discovered in Modesto was vastly different from any variation of the species that I had previously encountered.  It was like stumbling into some wild, lost tribe.  At the time, I thought this was a reflection of all California teens but, in hindsight, I think this particular group of kids was unique to that place and time.  It wasn’t long before I felt like I belonged, like a long-lost feral dog who finally reunited with her pack.  But those first few months were awkward, to say the least.

We arrived in town during Easter Break so our first encounter with locals was the youth group at our new church.  My sister, brother and I nervously walked in – the new pastor’s kids.   We dressed as we always had at church back in Canada, with Kathy and I in conservative dresses and Karl in slacks and a button-up shirt. 

As we entered the basement youth room I looked around and sized up the other kids.  Not a single girl in the room was wearing a dress.  The uniform of choice for male and female alike was t-shirts and jeans or shorts with a few overalls thrown in here and there.  Sandals, Vans and even a pair of bedroom slippers were the footwear options.

Immediately, I sensed how out of touch we were.  But, in spite of our awkwardness and differences in clothing choices, the group of kids we encountered were unusually friendly.  Not Canadian friendly, in that “nice to meet you”, let’s shake hands kind of way that we were accustomed to but in a singularly American way with big smiles, loud laughter and warm welcomes.  It was heartwarming and I felt like we were being greeted by a roomful of over-eager puppies.

That night, after we arrived home from church, Kathy and I laid it on the line with mom and dad.  We would-not, could-not humiliate ourselves by wearing (gasp!) dresses one more time to youth group.  We emphasized the fact that we would “never go back again” if we couldn’t wear jeans like the rest of the kids.  My parents, thank God, shrugged their shoulders, muttered something about “when in Rome…” and gave in to our demands. 

Maybe now you are starting to get the picture of how, in my desperate attempt to fit in, I needed The Jeans.  I discovered them a few weeks later. 

I am not talking about any old run-of-the-mill jeans.  The pair I coveted were the pinnacle of 70’s disco-era attire – Chemin de Fer bell-bottom, lace-up jeans.  These were the jeans that every Farrah Fawcett wanna-be, Studio 54 diva and Cosmo model wore.  In other words, they were as essential as feathered hair to any teenage girl in the 70’s. 

Farrah Fawcett

This was a non-negotiable issue.  I had to make them mine.

There was one major hurdle in acquiring these jeans. My mother.  She did not share my sense of urgency regarding this necessary purchase.  When I showed her the must-have pair at the store in McHenry Village, she shook her head and said, “You already have a couple pairs of jeans and I’m not spending $35 on that pair!”

It still boggles my mind, how my mother could have been so callous and neglectful of my most essential needs but, there it is.  I don’t think she meant to be cruel but she clearly didn’t get it. No amount of pleading and begging was going to change her mind.  It was clear that I would have to take matters into my own hands.

The opportunity presented itself a few days later.  Mom and dad were out of town for the night, attending a conference and they left my brother in charge, which basically meant, we were on our own. I knew I had to act fast.

I discussed the options with my new friend Tamara.  The one part of this memory that’s fuzzy is where I procured the necessary funds for my purchase.  I didn’t have a job.  My parents were not overly generous with allowances and I never saved any money I was given.  So how, exactly, I ‘found’ the $35 to buy the coveted jeans is anyone’s guess.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Money in hand, we had to get to the mall.  Now, Modesto isn’t that big and I was used to riding my bike or walking wherever I needed to go but for some reason, on that particular day, I felt that we should be transported to the mall in a car.  Maybe it was the importance of the task at hand.  What to do?

I opened the door to the garage and there it sat.  My parent’s 1972 baby blue Lincoln Continental.  This vehicle was more boat than car.  Not exactly the sporty race car I would have preferred but reliable transportation nonetheless. 

Let me remind you, dear friend, that at 14 years of age I was still a long way away from obtaining a legal driver’s license or even a driver’s permit.  But I was not about to let technicalities get in my way.  After all, how hard could it be to drive?

I had observed my dad for years, as he drove.  From the front bench seat, between my mom and dad, from the back seat, peering over his shoulder and even, on occasion, sitting in his lap –  my small hands gripping the steering wheel while his big, steady hands guided the vehicle.

My dad taught me how to turn the key in the ignition.  He showed me how to put the car into gear and had even let go of the wheel once or twice, letting me steer the vehicle.  I felt that he had given me all the necessary training and essentially granted me permission to drive whenever I felt I was ready.  At 14 years of age I was almost six feet tall, so I could easily reach the gas and brake pedals.  I was ready.  What could possibly go wrong?

Tam hopped into the car beside me.  I started the engine, put the car in reverse and slowly backed out of the garage.  Success!  This driving gig was even easier than I had imagined.  I could picture those bluejeans in my mind’s eye.  It was now only a matter of driving a few miles until I would make them mine.

Slowly, we made our way through town and eventually arrived at the store without a single hiccup.  I made my purchase, clutched the heavenly denim to my chest and made my way home.

Two blocks away.  Just around the corner.  Almost home.  We pulled up to a stop sign.  To my left was a van.  You know the type.  It had an awesome paint job with a wide pinstripe down the side and a bumper sticker that read, “If This Van’s A Rockin’ Don’t Come A Knockin’!”  This was no mini-van.  I slowly pulled forward to turn right when, out of nowhere, there was a kid on a bike.  I slammed the brakes!  Oops.  That was NOT the brake pedal. 

There he was, lying on the ground looking up at me with abject terror in his eyes.  I had knocked that poor kid right off his bike and onto the ground.  To make matters worse, Tam started wailing.  “Is he dead?!  Oh, dear Jesus!  My mother’s going to kill me!  What if the cops come?!  We are in SO much trouble!” 

“Just.  Shut.  Up!”  I screamed at Tam.  As I assessed the situation and tried to calm my friend and my nerves, the boy hopped back on his bike and pedaled away furiously. 

With my heart pounding in my chest and Tam still freaking out in the seat beside me, I drove the rest of the way home.  Slowly, I pulled into the driveway and eased the car into the garage.  That’s when I heard it – a high pitched “Screee!” as the driver’s side of the car scraped against the garage door frame, leaving a two-foot scratch in that beautiful baby blue exterior.

I had no idea what to do at that point so I did what every other conniving, spineless, lying teenager would have done.  I closed the garage door, hid the jeans in the back of my closet and waited. 

I had put the entire incident out of my mind when, two days later, I heard my parents in the kitchen. “Anita!” my dad called out.  “You scratched the side of the car getting into the garage.”

I’m not proud of this, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.  I sat in the family room and listened as my sweet, innocent mother protested and my dad blamed her for something I had done.  I sat there, with the flames of hell licking at my feet for surely, anyone who would let their mother take the fall for their sins was heading ‘down there’ on the fast train.

But my seared conscience held firm.  I never said a word. 

My list of transgressions related to those jeans was already long. 

Grand theft auto.

Driving without a license.

Hit and run.

Destruction of property.

I was in deep.

Two weeks later, I pulled those Chemin de Fer’s out of my closet and added to my list of sins when I lied to my parents and told them that my friend had given me the jeans.

Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, with those jeans on, I thought, “I am surely going to hell!  But, man these jeans are cute!”

Over fifteen years later, when I was a mother myself, with my first teenage daughter, I remembered the incident and ‘fessed up to my parents. They sat there looking at me with jaws dropped.  My mom turned to my dad and said, “See, Albert, I told you I didn’t scratch the car!”

I’m still grounded.

Looking Forward – Looking Back – A 70’s Road Trip Remembered

Today is the day we were supposed to start our Fleaing Across America Road Trip.  Right now, I should be tweeting and sharing pictures of the landscape between home and Las Vegas.  Instead, I’m at home, in terrible pain, waiting to hear back from my dentist’s office,  praying he can put me out of my misery some time soon.

Eventually, we will hit the road and over the next few weeks, we will be sharing the highlights (and possibly the lowlights) of our upcoming adventure but until then, take a trip back with me to a road trip adventure from my childhood.  Let’s reminisce, shall we?

It was 1970.

There were 9 of us.

In one car.

In the summer.

On a road trip to Boston.

I know it’s hard to imagine but there was a time, way back in the day, when children roamed free inside moving vehicles.

It was a time before seat belts, before tinted or electric windows, before air conditioning and before child safety locks on doors.  It was a time before SUV’s, even before minivans.

The station wagon ruled the summer road trips of my youth.  The faux-wood-paneled Ford Country Squire was the vehicle of choice for every free-wheeling road tripping family.

Ford Country Squire

The 70’s Family Dream Car

Because there were no seat belt laws, we could sit where we pleased.  Little ones often sat in mom’s lap, or on the front seat bench between mom and dad.  Older kids could sit in the back seat, or crouch on the floor.

But there were two prime spots that were hands-down my favorite.  One of them was the back-facing bench that folded up in the rear cargo area, where we gleefully waved at drivers behind us, pressed our noses up against the back window and pulled imaginary air horns, in hopes of getting other drivers to honk back in response.

My other favorite spot was in dad’s lap, in the driver’s seat, with my hands planted on the wheel at 10 and 2.  That is where I fell in love with driving and the open road. When I wasn’t in dad’s lap, I would lean over his shoulder from the back seat and watch his every move, mimicking the way he would steer and casually lean his arm on the open window. I couldn’t wait for the day when I would inhabit that coveted seat and drive where ever I pleased (in fact, I didn’t wait, but that’s a story for another day).

Now, I have no idea if it was even legal to sit with dad like that but, knowing him, it’s highly likely that it wasn’t.  After all, this is the same man that staunchly defended his right to not wear a seatbelt and for years, disabled any dinging, chiming, device that dared remind him to “buckle up”!  I can still picture him, on his hands and knees, leaning inside the front driver’s door of a brand new car, grabbing at various wires and cables, yanking them out until that infernal chime was silenced.

I inherited my love of driving from my dad.  Because of his passion for the open road, our go-to activity on his days off, or on any holiday, was to pile into the car and head out on the highway.

Which brings us back to the fateful Boston road trip.

We lived in Toronto, Canada and my dad’s brother Ray lived in Boston with his wife Audrey and their large brood of kids.

My Uncle Elmer and Aunt Beulah lived in Toronto as well and it was decided that we would travel with them and their two boys, to Boston, for a visit.  So, my mom and dad, my sister Kathy and brother Karl, plus Elmer, Beulah and our cousins, Gary and David, piled into the station wagon for the long ride.  Sandwiches and snacks were packed for the journey ahead.

We left in the evening and the plan was for the dads to take turns driving the through the night so we would arrive in Boston by morning, minimizing bathroom breaks and meal stops. The open rear cargo area was where four of us, the youngest in the bunch, lay like cord wood, on a pallet of blankets, pillows and luggage, for the long trip ahead.

It happened without warning.  Somewhere between Toronto and Boston, in the dead of night, my cousin David bolted awake and barfed…everywhere.

That’s right.  We were rudely awakened by the unmistakable sounds, smells and… sensations of puke.

We quickly pulled over to the side of the road, and the four of us kids spilled out of the back tailgate – crying, screaming and gagging.  We stood, bleary-eyed in our pajamas wondering if we were caught in the middle of some sick, smelly nightmare.

My Uncle Elmer, blustering and annoyed, came barreling and hollering out of the car to assess the damage and give David a piece of his mind.  He didn’t make it within three feet of us before he proceeded to lose his lunch in the gravel on the side of the road. Around the same time, my mom came around the corner, looked at the group of us, then over at Elmer, and joined him in a little barf-fest.

In case you’re not counting, that’s three down and four to go.

Fortunately, calmer minds and less queasy stomachs prevailed.  Dad and Aunt Beulah managed to hold it together and helped clean up the nasty mess.  I’m not sure how much they were really able to clean up, standing by the side of the highway, in the middle of the night, with no fresh water, Purell or disposable wipes within sight.  Somehow, they managed to wipe up the mess as well as they could and we piled back in the station wagon with the acrid odor clinging to our nostrils.

The windows were cranked allll the way down and Karl, Kathy and I huddled as far away from David as was humanly possible, in our cramped quarters.

The rest of our little holiday was relatively uneventful and most of our time away is lost in my memory. But three other things stood out in my mind, besides the disgusting barf-fest on the side of the turnpike.

When we drove into Boston, we couldn’t find my uncle’s house.  Without cell phones or GPS (hard to imagine, I know), we needed to find a phone to get directions.  We pulled over to phone booth after phone booth and discovered the phone books had been ripped out of the wall and in half of those phone booths, the receiver had been yanked out as well.  I have no idea why we didn’t have my uncle’s phone number written down somewhere but apparently, a phone number and address were not on the list of ‘things to bring on a road trip’. While driving through the gritty Boston streets, it slowly dawned on me, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!”.

The second thing that stood out in my mind was when Aunt Audrey announced, at eleven o-clock at night, that she was going to the store to get groceries. I was incredulous. “What kind of crazy, American invention is this?  A grocery store that’s open 24 hours a day?  You mean, you can buy Cap’n Crunch at two o’clock in the morning, if you want?”
Mind.  Blown.

The last thing I remember is, that weekend I smelled weed for the very first time.  We were sitting in the living room of my uncle’s house when I sniffed a peculiar, sweet odor.  I asked my cousin what the smell was.  He laughed and told me his long-haired brother was smoking pot outside.  My naive, blond pony-tailed 8-year-old self was shocked and a bit thrilled to be related to real, live hippies. I’m not sure if that was before, or after, they mentioned that the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang had just rolled into the neighborhood.

We had a nice visit and it was good to spend time with family that we didn’t get to see very often, but I was left with a very distinct overall impression from that road trip. It is an impression that has stayed with me for years.

Boston was bad-ass and we were not.

70s family photo

70s photo, family picture, vintage photograph

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Fleaing Across America – Top Ten Road Trip Essentials

It’s almost here!  The road trip we have been talking about, planning for and dreaming of for months.

Honestly, I’m still pinching myself that we are really going. This trip is a thrift-a-holic, vintage hoarders dream come true.  We will be traveling through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona, visiting friends and family along the way and filling our car to capacity with vintage clothes and other can’t-leave-it behind treasures! 

Steve and I have been married for 33 years.  We have done a lot of traveling, with and without kids (mainly with). But the last time we took a real bona-fide road trip together, without children, for more than a day or two was the year after we were married.

U Haul, Road Trip, vintage Cadillac

There we are – young and innocent and oh, so clueless!

It was spring of 1982.  We traveled from Clearwater, Florida to Orange County, California in an old U-Haul truck.  The heat was brutal, the truck was NOT air conditioned, the seats were vinyl and nothing about that truck was automatic – simply put, it was a beast of a thing to drive. 

Things started off well enough, in spite of the stifling heat, but somewhere in the middle of Texas (I swear we drove through Texas for a week!), Steve got heat stroke and I ended up driving that hulk of a truck in the 100+ degrees heat through the rest of Texas, New Mexico and into Arizona. 

Well, we survived the trip and, an even greater miracle, we survived 33 years of marriage, which is WAY harder than any road trip from hell!

This time, we’re leaving the U-Haul behind, we’ve checked and double-checked the A/C and we’re tempting fate and the strength of our marriage by heading off on a three-week adventure. 

Want to follow along on our sure-to-be-hilarious, possibly drama-filled road trip through the Southwest? Head over to our Instagram and Twitter feeds and follow us there.  We will be tweeting and sharing photos, travel tips, mishaps and of course, all the amazing vintage finds that I can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on!

Also, there just may be (hint, hint) a contest or two where you will have a chance to win some amazing vintage treasures from our trip.  Just sayin’.

As we pack for our adventure, I put together my Top 10 Must-Have Road Trip Essentials.

1. My pillow from home.

For real – the older I get, the more desperately I need my own pillow.  Don’t judge.

2. Snacks.

We always pack healthy go-to snacks like nuts and fruit plus a little somethin’ somethin’ that’s not-so-healthy.  In such close quarters, you need to make sure nobody gets hangry!

3. Earphones. A pair for you and a pair for me!

There are so many reasons that earphones are a must.  In fact, I believe that they are one of the essentials for a healthy marriage. Period.

Different musical tastes – check! 

Need some ‘alone time’ – check! 

Husband Spouse snores – check!

4. Music playlists and podcasts or audiobooks – variety is key.

I definitely hear some classic rock, a little bit of Aretha and some Justin Timberlake happening, with a smidge of classical music for those moments on the road when the atmosphere gets intense. 

Lately I have become obsessed with podcasts.  I listen to them on my way to and from work.  My favorites right now are After the Jump with Grace Bonney, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and This American Life.  Also, the Bible Gateway app is great for daily devotions.

5. Travel coffee mugs and water bottles.

Pet peeve – a car filled with trash and empty water bottles.  Plus, it’s the least we can do for the environment, considering all the fossil fuel we will be burning.

6. Paper road map.

We popped by our local AAA Travel Store and picked up some old-fashioned paper maps. 

Vuarnet sunglasses, AAA maps, floppy beach hat

Remember these, kids?  Kind of nostalgic and also, great for those spots when local mobile phone service may be less than stellar.

7. Sunglasses, reading glasses and spares of both. Because, duh.

8. Travel apps and websites.

I seriously can’t live without Yelp.  Okay, that may be a bit dramatic but I do rely on Yelp to help me find local eats, great thrift store shopping and a decent cup of coffee. 

Steve had the forethought to download a weather alert app.  Since we’re driving through Tornado Alley, we thought it would be nice to have a warning before we drive right into the eye of an F-4 tornado. 

My go-to website for finding local estate sales is www.estatesales.net.  And, of course, we can’t forget Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  After all, we’re not barbarians!

9. A sense of adventure.

You have to check out the website www.roadsideamerica – dedicated to the weird, wonderful and bizarre roadside attractions across the United States. A road trip is not complete if you never stop to see a giant ball of twine, an underground salt museum or the grave of Billy the Kid.  God bless ‘merica!

10. A sense of humor. Please see above.

A sense of humor is your best friend when you run out of gas, get lost, become annoyed at your travel partner’s music selection, can’t find a cup of coffee to save your life or just get tired of the endless miles.

Be sure to join us on our adventure and let us know, what are your travel essentials?  

Oh, yeah. One more thing.  Baggy pants.  Gotta wear some comfy, baggy pants.