I have two tweens, and both have what I would call a somewhat serious obsession with the formative years of my life—the ’80s. I can’t pretend this doesn’t absolutely thrill me. It started a few years ago, entirely by accident, when my husband and I were listening to arena rock—Journey, Boston, and Aerosmith. Our son kept asking what the songs were, and we realized he was looking them up.
To our amazement and delight, while the other kids in his class were listening to Justin Bieber, my kid was learning the lyrics to, “Don’t Stop Believin.’” This would come to be his anthem, a song he would quote often (so frequently in fact, that I received a text from a friend thanking me for introducing her kid, via my kid, to the bitchin’ songs she grew up with).
But it’s not just ’80s music my kids love. They seem to have a sincere fondness for almost everything from my favorite decade. Each week when we sit down as a family to watch one of our favorite shows, The Goldbergs, they journey back with me to a time when life was simpler, even as they live the simple years of their own youth. This has been a true gift to me, to all of us. We have bonded in ways I never expected over decades-old memories I am so happy to remember and share.
On a recent trip to the mall, while shopping for summer clothes for my daughter, I was excited and surprised when she picked the same shorts I used to wear circa 1985. They were nylon, short, and extremely colorful. As she tried on the teal and purple shorts, I prayed that Jordache jeans would come back.
On that same trip, she developed a genuine love—that rivaled my own—for jelly shoes. They were bright pink and a size too small. I promised we would shop around for a pair and thought that maybe I’d get a pair for myself. I recalled my first pair, purchased toward the end of a school year. The hard plastic made my feet sweat and sometimes gave me blisters, but the way those shoes glistened in the summer sunlight made it all worth it.
My son, utterly uninterested in clothing, made fun of his sister’s newfound obsession and thought the hair crimper, bought her for birthday, was especially foolish. However, he spends hours watching YouTube videos on solving the Rubik’s Cube. He knows how to do patterns and can solve it at record speed. When he gets really cocky about it, I remind him that we didn’t have videos (or the internet) to show us how to solve the cube—instead kids would simply pull and replace the stickers to make it appear as if they were Rubik’s experts. One morning I heard a faint clicking and realized he was up turning the Cube—at 5:30 a.m.
While the fashion, novelties, and music of the ’80s were amazing, my favorite bit of that decade has always been the movies. I remember my astonished awe when Elliott met E.T. and the heart-wrenching sadness when they finally had to say goodbye. I will never forget the streaks of fire as the DeLorean peeled out of the Twin Pines Mall. Or my horror when the strange furry balls popped out of Gizmo’s back after he got wet. I remember all of these moments so clearly, and now I’m getting to relive them with my kids. The lessons I learned, they’re learning too. My kids understand that Goonies never die and that you don’t fuck with the babysitter.
We watch ’80s cinema together on movie nights, on sick days, and on evenings when we just need to recall simpler times. My son, home from school, fighting a virus, watched Over the Top, a movie in which Sylvester Stallone tries to mend his broken relationship with his son. He arm wrestles his way to the nationals in Vegas where he hopes to win it all so that he can start his own trucking business and be worthy of his son’s love.
Cheesy, yes. Fanfreakintastic, absolutely.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. My son denies tearing up, but I saw his glistening eyes. And that’s what we love about the years of my youth; they were simpler, kinder, possessing an innocence I have lost but still see in my children.
I’m so glad that the 1980s are making a comeback. They never really went away though, did they? At least not for those of us lucky enough to have spent the most important years of our lives living, playing, and growing up in the greatest decade ever.