It never ceases to amaze me how certain things, activities, even people that seem irreplaceable are, in fact, not. Along the lines of favorite things that no longer are, https://oldladywriting.com/2019/08/06/a-few-of-whose-favorite-things/ I once kept a list of “Things that I Loved That Got Discontinued”. When life was less full of stuff, before a certain gazillionnaire made everything magically available for purchase online, finding a substitute for certain beloved items was much, much harder than it is today. I have to say, though, some of these still have no parallel.
The items I miss the most are: Celestial Seasonings Irish Cream Tea, Breyer’s Vanilla Chocolate Almond Swirl Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Jelly Pop Tarts, and Lean Cuisine Linguine with Clam Sauce. I actually wrote to Lean Cuisine when I could not find my favorite entrée in the frozen section of my local Meijer’s, and they wrote back that it had a “small but loyal following”. What they meant is, it was not selling well. What I read was, there are others like me, who are they, where are they, can we form a club? To this day, I have not found a more delicious linguine with clam sauce at any restaurant from North America to Italy itself. As for tea, I visited Celestial Seasonings headquarters—which merits a separate story, because it was a magical experience—and was told roughly the same thing about the Irish Cream tea. A pity about all these delicious foods. Tastes are hard to replace.
Amongst the non-edible items, I miss St. Ives Henna Shampoo, although it is quite possible that I just mourn the thick hair of my younger days. I just searched and saw it on EBay for $80, and died laughing. That’s nothing, though—the apricot variety, with which I am not familiar, is going for $120. I don’t know what miracles shampoo would have to perform for such price. I would probably pay that much for the linguine with clam sauce, though—I have my priorities.
I also listed several experiences that are never to be repeated, such as the Oktoberfest weekend at Shanty Creek resort in Bellaire, Michigan—a magical weekend during which spouse fell in love with spaetzle and won an apple pie in a pumpkin seed spitting contest, and just had fun badly dancing the polka. This was even before I liked beer! We attempted to make it an annual tradition, but as soon as we registered for the following year, it was cancelled never to be enjoyed again. Until we went to the original Oktoberfest in Germany—and again, our luck manifested itself, because the following year, the plague came, and Munich has not held its celebration since…
But there is nothing that I miss more than Murder Mystery Weekends. Back in the days before all information came from the interwebs, we used to search for fun activities in the magazines. This seems impossibly quaint now, but I remember vividly perusing the pages of AAA’s Michigan Living and uncovering all sorts of cool stuff, like the aforementioned Oktoberfest.
Participation in murder mystery weekends required teams of three or four, and spouse and I joined forces with his parents. This was over 20 years ago, which is shocking in itself, and remain the pinnacle of my relationship with my in-laws. Oh, this was serious business! We would show up at the Marsh Ridge resort in Gaylord, Michigan for a Friday night dinner, when the plot was set and the first murder would occur. Inevitably, we missed it. No one is that focused after a week’s work and a drive Up North. Then the real entertainment began.
Certain rooms at the resort were designated as “crime scenes”. Teams would be allowed to enter for a few minutes at a time. We could question the suspects—a pointless task that was usually left to my mother in-law, as it yielded little to no results, but kept her occupied while spouse, father in-law, and I searched for clues by lifting and opening everything that could be lifted and opened. My first move was always to lift the toilet lid. There was never anything there. I still maintain that it’s a great hiding place.
Murders and searches would continue throughout Saturday, with a break for lunch. It was intense, alternately frustrating and exhilarating. At one point, my father in-law said that even when you return to your own room, you just want to tear everything up looking for clues! Saturday after dinner, after the last desperate rummage and the last exasperated interrogation, we had to prepare and submit our detailed solution. On Sunday at breakfast, all was revealed, and the team who solved the most crimes and found the clues was awarded the most points and was declared the winner. I have to add that the young man by name of Jim Russell who masterminded and wrote the intricate scripts and played the chief detective who served as the sort of advisor to us hapless sleuths was an earnest and thorough host whose genuine love of the game prevented the experience from becoming the random unsolvable farce that murder mystery dinners and weekends usually are. No, this was like the early seasons of Midsomer Murders, convoluted plots full of wacky characters, mild shocks, unexpected laughs, and satisfying conclusions.
We progressed steadily up the championship ladder, ransacking hotel rooms and working our little gray cells, and finally won—of course we did! But as is the way of things, instead of being rewarded with the grand prize of free return the following year, we were informed that the resort will no longer be hosting murder mystery weekends, and were given gift certificates for the pro shop. We loaded up on sweatshirts, the last of which, barely worn, I just recently donated (it had neither hood nor pouch, and the sewn on logo was scratchy). It is small wonder, because the cost of the weekend was a bargain, and the additional property damage inevitably caused by overzealous amateur investigators was not sustainable.
A couple of sad mystery-less years followed, during which spouse and in-laws and I in vain searched for a replacement. Then the weekend was remounted, but with a different cast and crew. It became unnecessarily challenging, and it didn’t take. We did win the consolation prize for funniest answer with a hilarious poem which we sadly did not preserve—but the prize itself lives on, my lucky running hat which accompanied me on three half marathons, two marathon relays, and countless races from one to ten miles.
Then I had another kid, another job, and life became busier. The more things change, the harder they are to change back. But I miss the utter escapism of those murder mystery weekends, and I miss the good times with my in-laws. Both are high on the list of Things that I Loved That Got Discontinued.