"When I was a child, my mum was vehemently opposed to us getting a dog, although my brother and I desperately wanted one. Then on a weekend trip up north, we found a stand with black labrador puppies for sale. My brother and I were in HEAVEN playing with 10-month-old puppies.
"We asked if we could keep one, but I knew it was never going to happen. I remember my dad pulling my mum aside, and distinctly thought, This was it, it's over. Then our parents came back and told us to pick one out. I thought my heart was going to burst! To this day, it still stands as one of the best days EVER. Butch lived to the ripe old age of 14."
"When I was 3, I had leukaemia. That was, obviously, bad, but there was an upside – a charity sent me and my family to Disney World, and it was a dream.
"I stayed in a village with other kids and lots of volunteers, each of whom doubled as a character in the park's parade. I loved the princesses and made friends with one of them specifically. She gave me her autograph in my little autograph book (heart over the "i" and all), which I showed to absolutely EVERYONE.
"On my last day, I got pretty ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. My family left Florida in a hurry, and a few days after we got home, we realised I'd left my autograph book behind. I wept, as 3-year-olds do over toys, thinking I would never see it again and would be forced to forget the princess. But a week later, a package arrived through our letterbox. It was my autograph book, and now it was completely full — the princess had taken it to the entire cast of the parade and had them sign. It was packed to the brim with signatures — a particular mouse even had to squeeze to fit his name.
"I'll never forget her kindness. It proves that memories like this stick with you, no matter how small they may seem."
"I grew up in a lower-middle-class family, and my parents both worked long hours at their jobs. This meant that if I wasn't able to go to a friend's house, I would spend many hours playing with toys on the floor of my dad's office. My dad is a landscape architect, meaning he creates designs for parks, golf courses, outsides of buildings, etc.
"I thought his job was so cool because he got to draw and colour all day. On occasion, I took a few liberties to make his bushes and trees a little more colourful – Dad wasn't pleased. One day, my dad took me to a golf course he had designed. I was awestruck. Finally, I saw something my dad had been working on before my eyes. That day, my dad was a thousand feet tall and the coolest person ever. It was also the day I learned about my desire to create, and I am grateful to say that I still create to this day."
"My cousin was my best friend growing up. She lived in the Midlands and I lived down south, so we didn't get to see each other as often as we liked. We would post each other cards and letters all the time, and whenever I would visit my grandparents who also lived up that way, her mum would come and pick me up so that we could have a sleepover.
"Our greatest joy in life at that time was playing Monopoly (and getting into an argument about it) and having 'midnight feasts'. This meant going to sleep at a normal time and then waking up at midnight to pig out – usually junk food. I'll always remember how much effort my aunt used to put into it. She was more excited about it than us, because a lot of the time we barely even woke up for it. She would always stay up and make us something special, and one time she even drove to get us chips and chicken nuggets. It made those moments when I got to see my cousin even more special."
"One of my most-treasured memories was one of my birthday parties, which was animal themed. I was a bit of an animal obsessive, not going to lie. My parents transformed our apartment into this incredible jungle, and my mum made the most incredible dinosaur cake, which I wouldn't let anyone touch because it was so pretty and I thought that I could keep it in my room forever. (Mould? What's that?)
"My parents literally had about 30 sugar-crazed children running around their house – it was literally a zoo. But it was great, and no party I've been to subsequently quite has topped it."
"I grew up in a rural neighbourhood, and my three neighbours (who lived a half-mile away) and I spent so much time outdoors, playing with our animals and using our imaginations. They had horses, goats, chickens, and these incredibly big pine trees with huge clearings underneath. We would put blankets and plastic playhouse stuff in the clearings and pretend we were a family of orphans that lived there and had to survive on our own (until we got too cold, tired, or hungry and just ran back inside).
"We would do this in the summer before cooling off in the sprinkler, in autumn when the air was crisp and smelled wonderful, and even in the snowy winter. I love all of my memories playing outside and under the trees with those kids, being inspired to use our imaginations based on the nature around us. It was just so pure, simple, and happy."
"When I was younger, my parents used to take me to China for my summer holidays. I was always really excited to go to Shanghai, where my mum is from, because I got to hang out with my very cool uncle. He smoked cigarettes, gambled, got into a lot of fights, rode a scooter, and couldn't hold down a job. He also took me to zoos, parks, and once to go horseback riding.
"We did a lot of fun things, but what I remember most was when we visited the aquarium. I had asked him prior to going whether or not they had whales. He said they had a lot of them, and I was very excited. 'Big ones?' I asked him. 'Yes!'
"When we got to the aquarium, he showed me the 'whales'. They were goldfish. In Mandarin, the words for 'goldfish' and 'whale' are homonyms. I remember being pretty disappointed, but I also remember having a great time – just me and my badass uncle. And in his defence, they were some pretty big goldfish."
"I grew up in a very religious household. There were certain shows I couldn't watch, songs I couldn't listen to, and words I couldn't say. One day, without parental supervision, I heard this amazing song on the radio called 'Sex and Candy'. Of course, I didn't know what it meant, of course I sang it when I was home, of course my mum was pissed and forbade me to listen to or sing the song.
"One day we were driving back from a road trip when I heard the opening chords to the song come on. I went to change the station, but my mum looked at me and said, 'It's OK, Clark. You can play it this time.' It was a small gesture, but it still stands out to me. It was a sign of trust and maturity, and a happy moment concluding a great road trip."
"As a kid, my best friend's grandmum had the coolest car. It was a vintage, high-end, German, luxury, convertible roadster – a far cry from my family's used minivan. It was in a garage and covered most of the year, but my friend and I used to dream about riding in it all the time. The summer I turned 8, the unimaginable happened – my friend's grandmum told us that she was going to take us out for ice cream in the car. Ice cream...in THAT car.
"So naturally, we put on our coolest outfits (neon swimming costumes), stole some of my friend's mum's lipstick and perfume, and put in our best scrunchies before the trip (because nothing says 'sophisticated adult' like a hot pink swimsuit, lipstick, perfume, ponytails, and ice cream). We ate our double-scoops and waved to other cars like we were beauty queens on a parade float. My friend's grandmum risked her upholstery and significant public embarrassment that afternoon, and made all our wildest 8-year old fantasies come true."
"My really cool uncle got married when I was 12, and my two sisters and I were bridesmaids. I remember the excited feeling I got when I was asked to be a part of the wedding and the fun of looking through photos of dresses with my soon-to-be aunt. To top it off, the wedding was in July, when I was away at camp, so I was whisked away by a private driver to fly out to Los Angeles while the other campers watched in envy.
"The day of the wedding was epic: breakfast by the pool, getting my hair and makeup done with my aunt, sisters, and grandma, walking down the aisle in my grown-up dress, and dancing the night away beachside. I've been in many weddings since then, and none could match the pure, youthful delight I experienced at my uncle's nuptials."
"When I was little, my family and I spent most holidays at my grandparents' farm. My sister and I used to love going up there and seeing all the animals. I remember once there was a little baby lamb whose mother had just died. My grandpa had been trying to get the lamb to feed from a different ewe, but the lamb kept rejecting her. If he didn't feed, he was going to die.
"I was saddened by this, so I spent the day in the stables playing with this baby lamb (who I named Lewis). After a couple of hours, the lamb thought I was its mother and started sucking on my finger trying to feed. I was so excited, I ran into the house to tell my grandpa, who then tried one last time to pair it up with the ewe. Finally, they accepted each other, and Lewis started to feed. He was saved!"
"My grandpa – my mum's dad – died when I was pretty young, so I don't have a lot of memories of him. He was one of those hardcore Greatest Generation grandpas – born with nothing, no formal education, fought in France in WWII but never talked about it, brilliant mechanical engineer, no appliance he couldn't fix himself, etc.
"On afternoons when he would babysit me, we would always drive in his spotless Oldsmobile to a convenience store called the Country Korner, which he, for reasons no one could ever explain, called "Jim's Chair." He had a lot of those unexplained expressions.
"It was understood on these trips that grandpa would buy me one toy, and that I could pick my own. I invariably chose the tackiest, brightly-coloured novelty item in the whole shop. He would remind me, patiently, that it was my choice, but that the toy I'd picked out was 'flimsy' and would break immediately. Not once did I listen. Then he would drive us back to the house where I would play with the toy for maybe an hour before breaking it. Then my grandpa, who landed at Normandy, who raised bridges while being shot at, who spent 30 years designing and building industrial machinery, would sit at his little kitchen table and focus on fixing my flimsy toy for me. He always got it fixed too."