Nostalgia ran high at The Mansion on Saturday evening as brave souls approached the open mic, clutching their paperbound elementary school journals, their padlocked diaries, and their angst-ridden teenage poetry as the audience nodded and laughed along to the universal memory of being young.
“Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids” finally reached Kingston after starting in Toronto in 2007 and going on a long journey around Canada. In every location, local writers dust off their decades-old notebooks from their attics and garages and find entertainment value in what their childhood selves had felt important enough to write down.
The results were hilarious.
“Today Chelsea called me a whole bunch of stupid names,” read Leanne Taylor, a Kingston local, from the diary she wrote between ages six and ten. “I called her dogmouth.”
“Sunday is my dad’s birthday. I made a birthday rap for him,” noted organizer Dan Misener’s five-year-old self. “Happy birthday Daddio, you can sit on my patio…”
Bad rhyming was a consistent theme, as was flawed grammar. The performers came from a wide range of backgrounds and varied in age, as did the audience, but the show was a charming reminder that a child in the 1960s was fundamentally the same as a child now in terms of concerns and clumsy, blunt expression.
...a child in the 1960s was fundamentally the same as a child now in terms of concerns and clumsy, blunt expression.
“Last night I gave a demonstration on how to use Tampax,” a twelve-year-old Wendy LeBlanc noted at camp in 1969. “No one else in the tent has started their period, but they were amazed!”
Of top priority in many of the writings was romance, especially of the “Do you like me? Yes, No, Maybe” variety. Cliché couplets and fantasies of holding hands and kisses on the cheek evoked the sweet fickleness of young love.
Cliché couplets and fantasies of holding hands and kisses on the cheek evoked the sweet fickleness of young love.
“Thinking about you is all I do, all I need,” Michael Williams, a St. Lawrence student, said in a touching recitation of a poem to his first love. “Together until the day I die, the apple of my eye.”
“Her eyes were the colour of a Twix bar,” read Sarah Currie, a Queen’s student, from her first novel, “and her hair, which fell past her shoulders, was the colour of the nougat of a Twix bar.”
Passions transcended into the bizarre, too. Taylor’s diary was mostly filled with declarations of love for the then-55-year-old Harrison Ford. Another girl revealed that she had stalked her “baby Jordan” from the New Kids on the Block. People laughed until they cried at Queen’s employee, Al Babcock’s confession of love to his fifth-grade teacher.
“You are the smartest, the coolest, and the prettiest teacher I’ve ever had,” he read, “although most of my other teachers have been men, so there’s not much competition.”
But the sweet gave way to the bitter, too. A 16-year-old poem on experiencing bulimia brought tears to the eyes of the poet reliving it. To look back through one’s past isn’t always funny, sometimes it can be painfully therapeutic.
This was mostly what made the evening so great, that in reciting even moments of distress from their childhood, people laughed. Not being asked to a school dance could carry the same weight in a kid’s mind as the first moon landing. Realizing how your priorities have changed is a welcome sign that you’re officially a grownup.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.
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