01 December 2016

My First Selfie

Going through a box of old pictures the other day, I came across what I believe is my first selfie. Based on the glasses (and the teeth and the bangs and the seersucker shirt), this is roughly 1992, and I am 8. We had the 1989 GMC Safari van for at least 12 more years. I remember because I passed my drivers test in it. I was too scared to drive my yellow, 1970 Beetle named Lola. She's a manual, and I was afraid of stalling out.

Looking back, I really understand what people meant when they said I'd "grow into my teeth". I also can't believe I lived in that shirt... and the matching pair of rose-print shorts. I have no shame about my beloved neon pink, purple, and teal jacket sticking out of the back of the Safari though, that thing was a solid piece of art. I wore that a lot too. This must be after I learned to ask my Dad to cut my bangs - my mom hated doing it so much she'd cut them super short until I finally stopped asking her.

We took great road trips in that van. My mom in the front seat, my twin-sisters in the middle, and me in the back. My dad bought a top-of-the-line 13" TV with built in VHS player that plugged into the cigarette lighter and we'd watch Aladdin and The Lion King on full blast, my parents plugging their ears and us begging it to be turned up louder because the speakers were off the back of the unit. He still had that thing until a few years ago.

My dad kept the van after my parents' divorce, and when I was 11 we took a long road trip down to Disneyland. We pulled the middle seat out, and I relinquished my solitude in the back, instead taking the spot in the front next to Popi (as I had re-branded him) while trying to learn how to read a stupid road map. Driving through the night, we'd sleep on the over-hearted floor of the van with a thick blanket under us to keep from burning up. Popi would drink a lot of water and drive until 3am, using a full bladder to keep him awake.

The California trip was the first time I can ever remember wearing seatbelts. No one had a car seat. My sad would smoke his cigarette while driving down the road, using the smoke to teach us about the physics of wind and aerodynamics with the windows cracked at different distances.

Those were different times. Gone are the days where you let kids steer the car when they're 5 or move the shifter when they're 7. No more sleeping on the floor or going without a seatbelt. No more manual cars or reading physical maps or VHS movies or cigarette lighters with actual lighters that get hot enough to actually light a cigarette.

I'm not so much sad about these changes as nostalgic for the past. I think kids should learn how to drive a manual. I'm still not a great navigator but dammit, I did eventually learn how to read a map. And while science lessons by cigarette are not the best for you, they're certainly easy to understand.

My niece is 10, and she'll never know what it's like to take a photo and not be able to see it instantly. I'm sure in 20-years she'll look back on today nostalgic about a different set of things, but for now I'm a little sad for her that she'll never experience the surprise of finding her very first accidental selfie.

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