Identity, Self, & Relationships

This Was Me: The Growing Up Years

chain of stones in the shape of a heart
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

For a little something different, I thought I’d take a bit of a stroll down memory lane to the earlier years of my life. This first post in the “this is me” series looks at my childhood and the high school years.

author as a baby

Here’s me as a baby.  My parents had built this house (okay they weren’t physically doing the building) two years before I came along as firstborn.  They stayed in the house for probably 30 years, and while I wasn’t all that impressed with the small town I grew up in, having a safe, stable home was great.  We had the ’70s chic green carpet until I was in grade 7, I believe.  I loved our wood-burning fireplace, which was made from reclaimed bricks that possibly came from the original hospital in town, although I may also be making that up.

author at age 3 holding.baby brother and looking wistful

This is me at three years old with my newborn brother.  My mom calls this my “wistful look.”  I guess I was initially not impressed by having to compete for my parents’ attention.  Then I realized that he was a hairless guinea pig that could be played with.

author at age 9 holding a Popple

I think I’m 9 or 10 in this picture.  I started off with Winnie the Pooh wallpaper on the wall behind my bed.  I vaguely recall that my parents surprised me with the change to rainbows.  That’s a Charmkins house sitting on my chest of drawers, and a Popple that I’m holding.  Go ’80s!  And to my right is the striped “bankie” I’d had since I was a baby.  It’s a shame I didn’t hang onto that.

author sitting in front of her house before grade 7 first day of school

My mom always insisted on taking first day of school photos outside our front door.  I’m fairly sure this was my first day of grade seven, which was my last year at the elementary school right across the street from home.  My mom had tons of flowers planted around the house.  To the right of where I’m sitting were four o’clocks, which opened up each day in the late afternoon.  I also strongly associate snapdragons, irises, and lilacs with my childhood home.

author as a teenager in Japan, chopping noodles

The summer after grade 8, I went on a 2-week school exchange trip to Japan.  Another student and I stayed with a host family, who were quite nice.  They had a fancy computerized toilet in the bathroom that the other girl and I used, but I didn’t try pressing any of the buttons, mostly because I didn’t want to have to call anyone in to rescue me from whatever the toilet might do.

I wasn’t so keen on the food, and ended up losing quite a bit of weight while I was there.  I ate rice and not a whole lot else.  One morning they served us fish heads for breakfast.  I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do with it.

This photo is me chopping noodles of some sort.  You can sort of see the braces that I was rocking.

author in Quebec City as a teenager

This is the summer after grade 9.  I was doing a 6-week French immersion program in Quebec, the French-speaking province in Canada.  We stayed in college dorm rooms, which were pretty basic and had godawful plastic-covered pillows.  I came down with chickenpox not long before the program started.  I was probably still contagious when I had to fly out there, but my parents stuck me on the plane anyway.

I bonded with two girls and we were inseparable the whole time.  This photo is taken in one of the girls’ dorm room.  At that point in my life, I was a huge hockey fan, and it was a strong possibility in my mind that I might end up marrying Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks (the t-shirt I’m wearing had his name on it and the Canucks’ logo at the time).  The fact that he was already married wasn’t a deterrent at all in my imagination.

Grade 9 was the year when I decided a perm would be a good idea for some reason.  Clearly, that didn’t work out well.

author as a candystriper in her teens

I’m not sure if this was from grade 10 or 11.  I volunteered as a candy striper at the dinky little local hospital.  A couple of my friends were doing it as well, and we’d get a little party going at dinnertime in the extended care wing’s dining room.  We’d feed our assigned residents and keep up a merry chatter as we went.

Tucked into my pocket is a wrist brace.  I had developed tendinitis from playing piano, but it persisted for at least another year after I stopped playing.

author's high school graduation photo

This was my high school graduation photo.  I’d managed to ditch the perm by this point, but the bangs would persist for another couple of years.

I didn’t particularly want to go to my high school graduation.  For one, I just didn’t care, but also my best friend had a convenient excuse to be out of town at the time.  I remember one of the parents on the grad committee saying it would be one of the most important times in my life, and I thought what a sad life that would be if my dinky little high school graduation were to be the high point.

When I began university, I knew very quickly that I was where I belonged; high school was what got me there, but really wasn’t worth remembering beyond that.

All photos are the property of the author.

The rest of the “this was me” mini-series can be found here:

You may also be interested in My Favourite Simple Things & Other Lists.

62 thoughts on “This Was Me: The Growing Up Years”

  1. Were these photos in an album? Are you feeling nostalgic? Do you surf memory lane based on a mood? We liked seeing the period-defining fabrics of clothes and carpet. You were a Little! Haha. Our Littles want to play 💕❤️ ⛲️

    1. I have a few photos from back then, but my parents have most of them. I put this post together a couple of weeks ago when I didn’t actually feel like writing, so this seemed like something easy to do.

      Playtime! ❤️

  2. Aww these are so cool! That rainbow wallpaper is cute. I have to ask though, what’s the ‘bankie’ in that paragraph (‘striped bankie’)? Is it a typo or am I missing something? I love that you had that chic green carpet too, that rocks. We also had puke green kitchen cupboards. It’s amazing how some memories and things we attached with our time growing up stick with us so many years later. Loved taking a walk down memory lane with you! xx

    1. Bankie was what I called my blanket back then.

      There were som,e pretty weird colours back in the day. I don’t know how people people ever thought they were attractive.

    1. Not really. It was a positive time in my life, but it’s the past, and while it shaped who I am, it doesn’t have any emotional impact in the presernt.

  3. Such gorgeous pictures! You looked pretty hip on your first day of school. Thanks for sharing your memories, I’m glad you had such nice ones 🙂

  4. Cute pics!

    I don’t know if it’s this bizarre time right now or what, but I too am feeling increasingly disconnected from everything “before,” especially my long ago past. I know it profoundly shaped me, but meh. I miss my kids terribly, but old photos just make me go huh.

  5. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing! It is nice to have a home to take a first day of school pictures in front of and plant flowers around. I didn’t have that. I wish I did.
    I was also the first born and my parent were busy figuring out how manage their life and struggling at for along time, while I too was just figure out life as a child. I am glad to say I learned so much from my experience growing up. It did show me what to do and what not to do as a parent. I’m doing much better by my children because of my childhood and because of the way that I grew up I am much more resilient, independent and kind.
    Still looking at your pictures makes me a envious.

  6. I really enjoyed this post. It’s lovely to look back at old photos, though I have to be careful how it impacts on my mood. Lovely pics xxx

  7. Lovely post Ashley and great photos – really enjoyed reading this with the different evocative memories of your childhood home and experiences – I might dig out some old photos during the lockdown too! Xxx

  8. Beautiful…Ashley xx
    I am grateful ones like yourself had parents that did their best and what they were supposed to do.
    And that you had a stable and loving childhood. It does make a difference overall.

    I do have some happy/joyful bits, but they were fleeting, and often overtaken by the overall pain and abuse.

    It is often hard to think about the good along with the bad if that makes sense.

    Do the good bits make the abuse and everything else mean you can just forget the bad, and pretend like it didn’t happen?

    Does it make me seem ungrateful to have had some joyful bits?

    It gets all complicated in my head at times.

    Unfortunately you could not take the predator out of my father. But parents are not perfect I know. The predator was always there, but I guess there were some bits where the predator was less active…so I’m grateful for that.

    With my mother in the 11 years I did know a little, I was grateful for any times where she was sober and it felt like she was there and recognised me ya know?!

    1. I think even in horrific situations there are usually some flickers of goodness to have some gratitude for, but that could never be enough to compensate for abuse.

      I feel very lucky to have had a positive childhood, because it’s not that way for a lot of people.

      1. True. This was a poem (though not very good one) about my childhood I wrote recently, and it felt good to get it out:

        Will she fall under the weight of what was?

        From the transparency and clear memory because

        Like finding something whilst looking for something else

        Searching but not knowing what

        And only realising til after an event,

        A feeling you cannot circumvent

        That minute detail, of something, that makes the mixture work

        Of great significance and the joining of dots

        The puzzle begins to form and takes shape thereof

        For a long time, it didnt fit, it felt wrong, like something is missing

        Did you hope I would forget, and into the void sink?

        Or did you hope I wouldn’t get back up, be lost, and totally destroyed?

        Were your thoughts of me, consumed with every last detail?

        Or was it that you needed to move on, play like nothing happened, its ok!?

        I learned what it was to be nothing, to feel like I do not belong

        To repress, keep storing away, to destroy everything that mattered

        I pretended it never happened for your peace of mind, and not mine

        For so long, I felt crushed with no way to make a sound

        Like a bird in a cage, stuck, and filled with dread

        I know now why and what you said

        You cannot change the past, nor from it hide

        But since I chose differently I will let dogs lie

        Yes, time will be your enemy, and slowly gnaw away

        The gentle wind of uneasiness, and the not knowing when

        You taught me how to endure adversity, rejection and to crouch

        To withstand unjust treatment, to have no choice, to doubt

        Yes, to feel the different layers of pain, and depths of emptiness, churning away

        The sensations of going insane, and feeling my heart totally drain

        To battle an unseen enemy, day after day

        But do you know how to suffer, to gradually wait, cry for hours?

        Have you got what it takes inside, to knock down evil and let it slide?

        Do you even know what real fear is? To face yourself, and your deepest inadequacies?

        To be truly alone, with nobody to turn to ,everyone an enemy, away they’ve flown?

        To be forced to do as you say but not as you do. To play the game like I knew what I was doing?

        Once again, I know, and I feel, and now I understand.

        Can you feel me itching closer to your heel?

        You will see…

        and you will feel, I swear, and it is coming for you

        Of this I absolutely know without any doubt!

  9. I hoped it would be ok to share it. It was only recently I wrote it and your post reminded me about it.

    One of things I truly admire about you is the fact that you are consistent, loyal, stable (even though I know we all have our wobbles)… I just think, at 43 years old nearly I wanna be just like that when I grow up lol!

    It is hard for me to imagine what your childhood was like, as it is probably hard to imagine what mine was like.

    But maybe we will meet somewhere in the middle?!

  10. Wow…thank you.
    Some know me from my other blogs. Some don’t.
    To be honest, I think you know, I never wanted to come back again. I am not good in groups, communities and the like.

    I’ve been smeared and misunderstood by some.
    I let them have their say.
    People will come to their own conclusions, this we cannot change.

    But others have been very kind and supportive like yourself.

    I know now I cannot blog publicly, because I’m too unstable, but I’m truly honoured to be able to comment on a few people’s posts.

    And the fact that some perceive that it is not easy, but I persist, that makes all the challenges worthwhile.

    You are a pillar in this community! For sure…

    Sending hugs 🙏🤗💓

  11. This is freaking awesome! Popples and Charmkins…….I was big on my little pony, cabbage patch kids and strawberry shortcake…….We definitely had the best toys in the 80’s. Shit these days is exactly that: shit

  12. Aww, so cute! You look so happy in the one of you sitting on the bed. And realizing that your brother was a hairless guinea pig that could be played with — lol!! I loved playing with my younger siblings when they were babies (and toddlers, and kids, etc.).

  13. Great fun post Ashley. The pics are cute and it’s easy to see it’s you. It’s looks and sounds like you had a comfortable, stable and loving family home Ashley. It’s a shame, cos’ of course that should be the norm and the fact that I’ve pointed it out shows how I missed that.

  14. “…although I may also be making that up.” That’s funny because we tend to do that in our writing…especially when it comes to memories. I know that I’ve convinced myself that certain things happened in a certain way, only later to realize my version was impossible.

  15. It’s nice to meet you Ashley! Really cute pics! You were such an adorable child! I didn’t really like my high school years much either. Then again, my time in elementary school and middle school weren’t very great either. The bullying was awful. But I had great teachers to help me through those times, and I built precious memories with my parents and siblings during those years!

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