Halloween weekend, 2016. Some friends of ours had hired a driver and a group of us costume-less forty-somethings were enjoying a kid-free evening visiting local craft breweries and distilleries. That night, the only thing better than the free-flowing drinks was the excellent people watching. While Halloween for us parents usually involves super heroes and witches of the not-so-naughty variety, grown-up Halloween costumes were a whole different animal. Wait, let’s amend that to hipster grown-up Halloween costumes. Twenty-somethings all vying for the best pop culture reference with just the right amount of cleverness, wit, irony, and an air of “oh, this old thing?” Pass the popcorn, please.
Amidst the Bob Rosses, the Richard Simmons, and the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, there was one repetitive costume that I just could not place: blond wig, pink ruffled dress, athletic knee socks, dark jacket. No one in our crowd could identify who these girls were supposed to be and finally, I asked a group of all similarly dressed women, “Who are y’all dressed up as?” After an epic round of eye rolls, giggles, and guffaws, one girl finally answered, “Um, we’re Eleven…like, from Stranger Things? It’s a show? On Netflix? Um, do you, like, know what Netflix is?” In response, I promptly took my walker and beat her over the head with it and shuffled the hell out of there with my posse. No, not really, but how I wish I could have. I’m old, but yes, I do know what Netflix is…bitch (no question mark).
Fast forward to Fall 2017. I still hadn’t watched Stranger Things but signs were everywhere that this is a thing. Not to be left behind (FOMO is real, people), Chris and I started watching and were quickly hooked. What’s not to love? The 80s! The sound track! The fashion! Those bikes with the banana seats!?! It hit our nostalgia spots in all the right places.
Amidst our own preoccupation with the show came Sarah’s own interest in watching the series. At twelve, she had been hearing from friends about this must see TV show and was begging us to let her watch it. Chris and I definitely had reservations. The swearing! The medical experiments! The blood-seeking monster! Nancy losing her virginity! Those are some uncomfortable seas for me and Chris to navigate…well, maybe just the virginity part. But despite these concerns, we told her yes with the caveat that one of us watches it with her. She quickly agreed, and for the past two months, we have been sneaking in episodes, or “Chapters,” when the house is Katie-free.
Chris has taken on watching most of these with her and I’ve only had the chance to watch one with Sarah: “Holly Jolly” from Season 1. And boy, is it a doozy! Barb has disappeared! Nancy spends the night with Steve! Joyce goes nuts with the Christmas lights! Hopper begins to suspect that something strange is afoot at the Circle K! Will’s body is pulled out of the quarry! OMG. Action. Packed.
Yes, this is the episode where Nancy sneaks back into the house after having sex with Steve and her mom begs her to tell her what is going on. It’s what you might call a “teachable moment” for us parents. When the credits rolled, I turned to Sarah and asked her what she thought of the episode….did she have any questions about what had happened? When she replied in the negative, I pushed a little more and asked if she understood that Nancy and Steve had sex and that’s why she was sneaking in? Crickets. Finally, one last stab- did she want to talk about it? And after a lengthy pause, she says, “Yes.”
Cue the flop sweat. What will she ask about? Premarital sex? High school sex? Premarital, high school sex? Premarital, high school sex in the 80s? I girded my loins to answer any and all manner of questions regarding sex, relationships, love, rebellion, friendships, mother/daughter relationships…this could get D-E-E-P.
Sarah: You know when Hopper goes to the library?
Me: (slightly confused) Um, yes.
Sarah: What was he doing with that thing?
Me: What thing?
Sarah : You know, that thing. That machine….where he read that article?
Me: You mean the MICROFICHE MACHINE?!?!
Yes, my daughter wanted to know what in the sam hill the microfiche machine was. This I could do. I began explaining that before Google, before Yahoo, and even before a thing called AOL, was microfiche. They would take pictures of articles in newspapers or journals and put them on small cards of film (“Film? What’s that, Mom?”) called microfiche. Librarians would catalog the microfiche by title, keyword/subject, and author. Then you’d look it up, request the microfiche, and that machine would blow it up so that you could read it.
As I explained, her brown eyes got bigger and bigger. It seemed almost unbelievable to her. And when I told her that I myself used microfiche to research papers, her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. With a sad shake of her head and a pity-filled glance my way, she proclaimed, “I knew you were old, but not that old.”
So, there you go. Of all the stranger things in Stranger Things (The telekinesis! The Upside Down! The government-sanctioned experiments on kidnapped children!), this is Sarah’s Strangest Thing: