I admit there's a lot going on here.

He was snaking his way through the neighborhood on foot selling his vile, overpriced California Raisin baby magnets.

Smiling flame magnet. Vivian gets chicken pox at Disney World and says she will never return to that disgusting place --> Mickey and Minnie magnets. Vivian becomes a nationally-ranked harpist --> Harp magnet. Vivian wants to become an astronaut (until her worsening eye sight changes her mind for her) --> NASA magnet. You have to care a lot to buy magnets commemorating every silly twist and turn your kid takes.


My favorite magnets, however, are the California Raisin babies (look underneath the wolves). I remember the day my parents ended up with this odd addition to the fridge magnet universe. A young boy had come to the door selling these things for his baseball team. Somehow, my parents had been talked into buying California Raisin babies in a nest of grapevines. Each raisin baby comes out of the nest and can be used as individual magnets but, being babies, they are a bit too small to really hold down anything substantial, so they usually just hang out together in their nest.


My parents’ weakness for kids selling crap door-to-door is one of the rare exceptions to their otherwise penny-pinching way of life. Penny-pinching is deeply, deeply ingrained in me. (Just the other day, my boyfriend said to me: “I am frugal, but Vivian, you are miserly.” I took it as a compliment.).


As a kid, I berated my parents for caving in and buying these ridiculous magnets.


“Five dollars?!” I recall exclaiming. Yes, I still remember they cost five dollars in 1990 (a veritable fortune) at the height of the California Raisin craze. “You spent five dollars on magnets?!”


I was nine at the time, and I remember this conversation well, because it was one of the first times I ever made my parents act sheepish.


“It was for his baseball team,” my dad stuttered.


“I think they’re cute,” my mom said.


I wanted them to go find the kid and return the baby raisin magnets immediately. (The kid couldn’t have wandered too far; he was snaking his way through the neighborhood on foot selling his vile, overpriced California Raisin baby magnets.) My parents refused. The magnets stayed.


I’m happy to report that the California Raisin babies are still with us. They have a hallowed place on the fridge in my parents’ new home in a significantly less carcinogenic zip code. I have to admit, the dang things have grown on me. I mean, jeez, they’re in diapers. One wears a bonnet. Another shakes a rattle. You can just imagine them growing up to become cool and collected adults who catch gossip through the grapevine and sing about it.

--> I snapped this pic months before Freeze Frame went live on SMITH. It's one of the many pictures I took of my childhood home before it was sold. Though I was sad to see my house go to another family, I breathed a sigh of relief when my parents moved away. It was I who pressured them to leave.

My childhood home sits dangerously close to one of the largest chemical industrial complexes in the U.S. in a county that takes first place (not second, not third, but first) in the U.S. for the most releases of cancer-causing dioxins and has a cancer risk 316 times the EPA’s “acceptable” cancer levels. Still, I loved this home. It was little things like these fridge magnets that caused me to have an irrational attachment to the place. Though the house was occasionally invaded by ominous chemical smells, I always felt safe there. To this day, whenever I smell sulfur, I am reminded of peaceful mornings waiting on the driveway for the school carpool lady.

As for the magnets, they are a testament to the interest my parents took in my upbringing. Vivian joins Campfire Kids --> Smiling flame magnet. Vivian gets chicken pox at Disney World and says she will never return to that disgusting place --> Mickey and Minnie magnets. Vivian becomes a nationally-ranked harpist --> Harp magnet. Vivian wants to become an astronaut (until her worsening eye sight changes her mind for her) --> NASA magnet. You have to care a lot to buy magnets commemorating every silly twist and turn your kid takes.

My favorite magnets, however, are the California Raisin babies (look underneath the wolves). I remember the day my parents ended up with this odd addition to the fridge magnet universe. A young boy had come to the door selling these things for his baseball team. Somehow, my parents had been talked into buying California Raisin babies in a nest of grapevines. Each raisin baby comes out of the nest and can be used as individual magnets but, being babies, they are a bit too small to really hold down anything substantial, so they usually just hang out together in their nest.

My parents’ weakness for kids selling crap door-to-door is one of the rare exceptions to their otherwise penny-pinching way of life. Penny-pinching is deeply, deeply ingrained in me. (Just the other day, my boyfriend said to me: “I am frugal, but Vivian, you are miserly.” I took it as a compliment.).

As a kid, I berated my parents for caving in and buying these ridiculous magnets.

“Five dollars?!” I recall exclaiming. Yes, I still remember they cost five dollars in 1990 (a veritable fortune) at the height of the California Raisin craze. “You spent five dollars on magnets?!”

I was nine at the time, and I remember this conversation well, because it was one of the first times I ever made my parents act sheepish.

“It was for his baseball team,” my dad stuttered.

“I think they’re cute,” my mom said.

I wanted them to go find the kid and return the baby raisin magnets immediately. (The kid couldn’t have wandered too far; he was snaking his way through the neighborhood on foot selling his vile, overpriced California Raisin baby magnets.) My parents refused. The magnets stayed.

I’m happy to report that the California Raisin babies are still with us. They have a hallowed place on the fridge in my parents’ new home in a significantly less carcinogenic zip code. I have to admit, the dang things have grown on me. I mean, jeez, they’re in diapers. One wears a bonnet. Another shakes a rattle. You can just imagine them growing up to become cool and collected adults who catch gossip through the grapevine and sing about it.

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