A few years before I experienced the “Magic Summer”, I turned ten. My 10th birthday gifts in 1987 marked several rites of passage.
1. Ear piercing – This actually happened a few months before my birthday. I think it may have been sometime in the spring. My mom took me to Claire’s at our mall, Town Center. The Claire’s associate took her little piercing gun out and pinched each of my earlobes, leaving a glittering cubic zirconia stud in each.
To a pre-teen girl in the 1980’s, going into Claire’s was like stepping into a life-size version of Barbie’s accessory box. Everything in that store seemed to have a shine or twinkle to it. Every trip to the mall meant a stop to see what Claire’s was showing for the season. A quick glance at the store website confirmed my suspicions: the true classics never go out of style. There were still cubic zirconia studs and golden spheres alongside earrings featuring Elsa.
2. Swimming Lessons and Swimming Test – In the summer, your subdivision’s pool was the place to be. Most subdivisions had their own pools. As long as your parents paid the pool dues and you were accompanied by one of them, you were welcome to swim in your subdivision’s pool.
However, once you turned ten, you could take a swimming test for the privilege of going to the pool all by yourself. The test was swimming from one end of the pool to the other and treading water in the deep end of the pool. I don’t recall the exact duration of time we had to tread water, but it must have been somewhere around two to five minutes.
Kids who had birthdays at other times of the year had to wait until the summer after their tenth birthday. With the timing of my birthday (middle of July,) I would have a decent month and a half before school started in late August to swim by myself.
There was a lady in town who gave swimming lessons in the pool in her backyard and my mom signed me (and my brother) up to take lessons with this lady. She was a good teacher.
However, the help of one of our subdivision lifeguards really made a difference. I passed the test and I was happy. So was my mom because she wouldn’t have to take me anymore. She did still have to take my brother though.
3. Starburst She-Ra
According to the Ghost of the Doll website, the Princess of Power toy line was discontinued in 1987. Either my mom found this She-Ra at some kind of liquidator like Kaybee or they were discontinued later in the year, but there is something bittersweet about my vague memory of opening this doll.
I had also received my original Princess Adora/She-Ra for my seventh birthday. We went to Chicago to visit family that year. I was told on the drive back home I could have the doll out, but I had to put her accessories back into my travel bag. I didn’t listen and She-Ra’s sword fell between the seats.
I also played with She-Ra outside with another girl in the neighborhood. The doll’s shield ended up having an unfortunate encounter with my father’s lawnmower. I don’t remember what happened to her headdress, but that did not survive either and her cape is gone too.
Starburst She-Ra is still mostly intact. Her skirt is torn, but all of my dolls from this line have threadbare skirts. They could all use some serious spa time like Blueberry Muffin was lucky enough to have not too long ago. On the other hand, Starburst She-Ra does have her sword, shield, and headdress intact.
4. Sharp QT Cassette Recorder – An exciting thing about birthdays and Christmas was there was often the possibility of a surprise package from an out of town relative.
The surprise box for this birthday came from one of my aunts who had moved from Chicago to California. We had tape players before, but they were mostly to play pre-recorded storybook tapes like Charlie Brown. This was my first radio. It was exciting for what it was at the time, but in our nostalgia community, these models have gained “iconic” status.
If you search for “80’s Girl” in Instagram, you will probably see the pastel versions of this mini boombox. It came in lavender, peachy pink, and mint green. I had the lavender one. When I did a search on eBay last week, I was surprised to find they also came in cherry red and royal blue.
This was the cassette player I made my first mix tapes from, but I also recorded myself talking on some tapes. I guess it was an early form of dictation or maybe even a form of podcasting, but along with the cassette player, I received two cassettes. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my boombox because my mom’s camera had a flash bar and those were getting more and more difficult to find.
I still have the two cassettes I received.
5. Bangles- All Over the Place
I was a big fan of The Bangles and played my Different Light cassette often on the tape recorder I used to play tapes on before I received the purple Sharp QT.
Different Light featured “Walk Like an Egyptian”, “Manic Monday”, “Walking Down Your Street”, and “If She Knew What She Wants”.
All Over The Place has a copyright date of 1983, so it was probably their debut. My favorite songs on this tape were the first track on Side A, “Hero Takes a Fall” and “Going Down to Liverpool”, the third song on Side B.
Later that year, in the fall, the movie Less Than Zero came out and featured The Bangles’ cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”.
6. Bon Jovi- Slippery When Wet
This was a great album from start to finish and even on cassette, there were several great songs on each side. Side 1 had “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, and “Wanted Dead or Alive”. Side 2 had “Raise Your Hands”, “I’d Die For You”, and “Never Say Goodbye”.
So those were my tenth birthday gifts in 1987, when I went from toys to fashion accessories, recreational independence, and Top 40 music. Toys would be revisited a later, but the end of the Princess of Power line soured me for a few years. After that, my allowance and babysitting money went to things like teen magazines, cassettes, and, of course, earrings.