The Cow Palace

I grew up in the eighties. As a little kid, I remember telling my mom (on more than one occasion) that I felt sick when I didn’t so she would let me stay home from school. I remember her putting a cool cloth on my head and making me tomato soup from the can with torn up white bread stuffed into the bowl.

In hindsight, I suppose I was fashioning my own “mental health days” by staying home from school. I was shy, introverted and probably a bit anxious and possibly even a bit depressed. My mom tells me that I often used to come home from school with my lunch untouched and proceed to eat it all on the front steps of my house the moment I got off the bus. I must have been too nervous to eat at school, but I don’t really remember.

I used to tell stories, er…lies to my friends and teachers. I had my kindergarten teacher convinced my grandmother had died when she hadn’t. My mom was pretty shocked when the condolences starting coming in. She had to actually double check that her mom was actually still alive (she was). I guess I was pretty convincing.

I told classmates I had an ice cream truck in my basement, owned a horse and goodness knows what else. I must have needed attention.

The day before I was supposed to be a flower girl in a family friend’s wedding, I chopped off my hair. As you can imagine, five year olds, don’t give themselves good haircuts. Someone had to actually sew a hood onto my dress to try to hide the damage. I will dig up a photo and try to post it.

I always had bad haircuts as a little kid, even when I didn’t give them to myself. My dad always cut my hair. Yup, it was as awful as it sounds. He might have actually used a bowl, but I kind of blocked that out.

My favorite outfit around that time was a hot pink jumpsuit that had a rectangular patch over the right breast pocket that read “Buick”. Just me and my bowl cut, a walking advertisement for a faux wood panelled shaggin’ wagon.

My favourite past time was cutting pictures out of the Sears catalogue. Maybe I was way ahead of my time and was actually vision boarding. I would spend hour upon hour clipping out shiny pots and pans, vacuum cleaners and mix-masters and pasting them onto brightly coloured bristol board. What I didn’t include on my posters, I carefully housed in a shoe box. I don’t recall what the point of it all that was, but I sure liked doing it.

During my childhood and teen years, I had absolutely no understanding of what brand names were (even with my Sears catalogue and pink Buick jumpsuit obsessions). Boy was it a culture shock when I moved away from home to university. The other girls in residence thought it was crazy when I had to ask them…”What’s 90201?” “Who’s Hugo Boss?” What the heck is a “Billabong” or a “Gap?”

I tell ya, I was an alien. Imagine my confusion when we were all discussing the part time jobs we held in high school. My friends answered “I worked at McDonald’s” or at the mall, or babysat. I nonchalantly answered “Oh, I worked at The Cow Palace”. They must have laughed for a good 20 minutes. The Cow Palace had been the name of our local convenience store and my job had been to fill the milk cooler, stock shelves and occasionally operate the cash register. It was actually quite an esteemed position in my little town.

My own kids are so much cooler than I ever was or will be. Might I even be so bold as to say they are “cool AF”. They have iPad, Under Armour and YouTube down pat and I don’t let their dad cut their hair.

BUT, they do love tomato soup from the can with torn up white bread stuffed into the bowl. Some things never change.