When The Wonder Years was a new television show, I wasn’t allowed to watch it. I felt the sting of indignity, because every other kid in my class was watching it. The series ran from 1988 to 1993, which means I was 8 years old when it started. As usual, my parents were probably right after all, and Kevin and Winnie’s romance could wait a few years before I became a spectator. As a parent myself now, I get it. We want to slow down the time warp that begins in earnest when scrawny newborns turn into plump babes, who turn into never-stop-moving toddlers, who turn into independent kindergarteners. In twenty years, my kids will probably be laughing about how they weren’t allowed to watch Pokéman. Or those shows that were pretty innocuous in my day, but are kind of sexualized and full of attitude, in their new incarnation, like My Little Pony. Actually, my boys might thank me one day for not letting them watch ponies.
When I was a bit older, my parents and sisters and I would often watch The Wonder Years reruns together on our long tweed sofa. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have picked up that nostalgia is one of my favourite emotions. It's an emotion that leads to gratitude; what a gift to be able to look back on periods of life with fondness. It’s the positive side of being a packrat. The bursting storage areas of my house would be the negative. I loved watching The Wonder Years with my parents because it gave me a peek into their reminiscing about their childhood and teenage years. It might pique memories of where they were, or whom they were with when important world events happened, even if they were mostly American on that show, like the moon landing, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream Speech.” I suppose American culture has been influencing and impacting our own Canadian culture since the beginning. Watching my Dad’s reactions to all the music that he loved as a kid was always a treat, and we discovered one of his best kept secrets, his good singing voice. We grew to love that music too, and even bought the 5-disc soundtrack to The Wonder Years.
A few months ago, Dave and I discovered The Wonder Years on Netflix, and we watched a few all the episodes. While we were lounging, watching one episode, Dave suddenly grabbed the remote and paused the show. “That’s our cookie jar!” he shouted. The scene was paused with Norma Arnold standing by her kitchen sink, above which sat a white cookie jar with cookies all over it. After reigning in his laughter, he proceeded to tell me about the exact same cookie jar that his family had when he was a kid. Once, when a teenaged Dave and one of his brothers were arguing with each other, their dad came in the kitchen to diffuse the situation. After grabbing a digestive cookie from the jar, he placed the lid back on the jar more emphatically than usual out of frustration with the boys' antics, cracking the whole cookie jar in half, which then fell into pieces. Instead of feeling repentant for their part in precipitating the destruction of the cookie jar, Dave and his brother howled with laughter. I’m not sure if I would have raged or cried if that was me, but thankfully my father-in-law is an exceedingly gracious man. It took me a long time to even believe this story because I couldn’t imagine him being frustrated enough to break anything.
Not even a month after noticing Norma Arnold’s doppelgänger cookie jar, we happened upon the exact cookie jar while checking out a thrift store in White Rock during Spring Break. Dave had convinced me to do a thrift store crawl to all his favourite thrift stores along the main thrift area, and I was silently itching to get back home to watch the Whitecaps game. Truth be told, the situation was reversed. I was feeling a bit dejected that I hadn’t found any treasures on our jaunt, when Dave found me in the book aisle with the kids, holding the cookie jar. Given that my father-in-law’s birthday was just a couple of weeks away, and that it would pretty much be the best gag gift ever, we had to get it for him. The bonus: it was only $3.00. Dave purchased it and went to wait in the car with the kids while I finished perusing the store. While I was gone, he had managed to find the cookie jar online, and we were stunned to find out that this cookie jar, the "Cookies All Over" jar, is actually quite collectible, as in between $50 and $200 collectible. Pretty good turnaround on a $3.00 investment. Being the awesome, selfless daughter-in-law that I am, I asked “So…are we still going to give it to your Dad?” My better half came up with the idea to give it with him with the caveat that if they didn’t want to keep it for nostalgia’s sake, then we would gladly take it back. My guilty conscious had already risen to the surface at that point; good thing that man loves me, selfish foibles and all.
I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I went on three thrifting sprees during our Spring Break getaway to Crescent Beach. Okay, I'm not actually embarrassed at all. Some people treat themselves with pedicures, I treat myself with the thrill of a bargain treasure, and every thrifter knows that a bargain is even better when you spill the beans on how much you spent. Quite undeservedly, my selfish little heart, three sizes too small, was somehow repaid with cosmic thrift generosity. Incredibly, Dave spotted the exact same cookie jar at the neighbouring thrift store the next day. Without seeing the cookie jar since his childhood, suddenly here it was three times in a month. At $4.50, the second find wasn’t quite the steal as the first, but pretty close! I bought it with visions of flipping it for a higher price, spending the money on a nice dinner out, or some practical new running shoes, or maybe next month’s hydro bill. But, I saw that irresistible spark of nostalgia in my best friend’s eyes, and that was enough for me. The homely little cookie jar has burrowed its way into my memories now, and on our highest shelf it will sit safely, away from little (and big) hands.