The trinkets and tokens of my childhood may be lost, but their memories aren’t


Julie Woltil

My kindergarten yearbook photo, from a time when the ice cream truck was the best part of my week.

My childhood is chasing after the ice cream truck, rifling through my mom’s makeup drawer, collecting Shopkins, and making puffball creatures. 

Although I can’t quite remember everything as clearly as I used to, there are still the small things that stick with me. Each supposedly insignificant laugh, smile, and arbitrary piece of advice has stayed with me and has helped to shape me into the person I am today. I used to live at the very end of a cul-de-sac, and yet every time I heard the tune of the ice cream truck, I would beg my parents for a few dollars and sprint down to the end of the street. Every time I would get the Powerpuff Girl bar, and every time I would hope for a new type, but I only ever got Bubbles. It turns out they only make Bubbles and just put all of the characters on the wrapper, but back then, I thought I just had some crazy type of luck to get her that many in a row.

I remember sneaking into my parents’ bathroom when they weren’t paying attention, and I would sort through my mom’s messily compiled makeup collection. I tried on her mascara once and got it all over my eyelids, but when she asked me if I had used it, I lied through my teeth as if it wasn’t obvious. I would steal everything that looked possible for me to put on subtly, and over the course of a few weeks, I was slowly creating my own stash of makeup; I returned it all once we moved, but I don’t know if she ever realized it was missing.

On a trip to Las Vegas with my mom and younger brothers, I fell in love. I was eight years old in a Walmart when I discovered a pack of Shopkins and managed to convince both my brothers and myself that they were the best thing on Earth. We immediately found more and more excuses to keep buying them, and when we got mystery packs to give to our friends, I remember almost throwing a tantrum because one of them got the ultra-rare one. To this day I am still trying to figure out exactly what I did with all of the Shopkins I got; whether I played with them or simply kept them because they were pretty to look at is a mystery. All I do know is by the time I had moved on to my new favorite toy, I had, at least, a bucket full of Shopkins.

It can be hard to cope with the fact that my life is continuing to move forward, but it’s a fact that everyone has to face.

The next thing I moved onto is hard to describe, but for a few years, I would spend my days in the basement hot gluing puffballs, paper, pipe cleaner, and googly eyes together to create my own little characters. Together with my neighbors, I made an entire collection of puffball creatures with names, stories, and even miniature stuffed animals for them. For the time being, I was obsessed with making as many of them as possible, and every day the world I was creating would grow more and more. I had an assortment of minions, special USA-themed ones, and sprinkle boxes—which aren’t a thing—and although they seemed meaningless to everyone else, they were special to me. I treasured those, and throughout my time making them, I must have gone through hundreds of puffballs and googly eyes.

As much as I miss those times though, I can’t go back. I could chase after the ice cream truck, but it doesn’t come to my neighborhood. I could search through my mom’s makeup, but I have my own now. Even though I could still collect Shopkins, I would have nothing to do with them, and although I could still create a puffball world born of my imagination, it wouldn’t hold the same magic it used to. 

It can be hard to cope with the fact that my life is continuing to move forward, but it’s a fact that everyone has to face. I could decide to dwell on my memories and mope over the fact that I can’t get those years back, but I instead choose to move on and look forward to the things I will one day look back on with fondness.