in which Highlights for Children is discussed at great length

Last night, on the way home from dinner, I asked Anne, "Do you remember Highlights for Children?"

"Of course I do," she said, "I remember how I hated going to the doctor when I was a kid, until I started reading Highlights in the waiting room."

"Turn right at this intersection," I said, "and Trader Joe's will be on the left in a block. She turned right, and I realized that Trader Joe's was actually to the left. "Oh, my bad. It's actually back there."

As we drove under the freeway to a place where we could make a U turn, I said, "Did anyone ever read Highlights in someplace that wasn't the doctor's or dentist's office?"

"The library at my school had a subscription, so we'd read it there," she said. 

We got to the next intersection, which featured a nice big NO U TURNS sign.

"Well, this quick stop at Trader Joe's is turning into quite an adventure," I said as we waited at the red light.

We were quiet for a second, and I said, "I bet seeing Highlights in someone's house would have been like seeing your teacher at the grocery store, you know? Like it was something familiar, but totally out of context so you wouldn't know what to do."

The light turned green and we made a left onto a dark, industrial street.

"You know what I always hated about Highlights?" Anne said, "some idiot kid had always circled the hidden pictures."

"Seriously!" I said, "fuck that kid, man. That kid's a dick."

"And what kind of parent gives their kid a pen to draw all over a magazine that's obviously intended for more than one kid to read?"

"Asshole parents," I said, "it's called Highlights for Children, you jerk, not Highlights for your Children."

"Because doctor's offices don't exactly have pens just lying around," she said. She pulled into a driveway about halfway down the street and turned around. 

"Yeah, some mom had to go into her purse, dig around the used Kleenex and that giant checkbook/wallet thing moms carry, and find the pen." We turned back toward Trader Joe's. I raised my hands over my head as we went through the freeway underpass. "Wheee!" I put my hands back in my lap. "I mean, that's a lot of time for her to think, 'Hey, maybe I shouldn't be giving little Johnny Snotface this pen to ruin the magazine for all the other children.'"

We turned into the tiny Trader Joe's parking lot and parked the car. As we got out and walked in, I said, "Highlights should have done a Goofus and Gallant about that, man."

"You've spent a lot of time thinking about this," Anne said.

"It's what I do," I said. I pulled a cart out of the stall and pushed it into the store. It had a wobbly wheel and pulled to the right.

I silently cursed the shopping cart gods, and caught up to Anne in the produce section.

96 thoughts on “in which Highlights for Children is discussed at great length”

  1. We had a subscription to it at my house when I was a kid, and neither of my parents was a teacher, although my mother was a NICU nurse, but I doubt that had anything to do with it.
    I LOVED THE SHIT OUT OF THAT MAGAZINE! Then a few years later I switched subscriptions to Nickelodeon Magazine (which, in retrospect, was awful) for far longer than I really should have been reading it. Then I got a subscription to PC Gamer (American version) which was totally awesome. The world needs more Greg Vederman.
    …what was I talking about?

  2. I had a subscription of it up until high school. I was the oldest of three, the youngest being 5 yrs younger than me. I loved doing all of the puzzles and then when I became addicted to reading, the stories. Now whenever I see the mags in the dentist/doctor’s office I do the puzzles in my head.
    Out of curiosity, why is Anne driving?

  3. Oh man, it’s the truth. Did Highlights have articles in it? Because all I remember is finding things, like a pair of scissors, a shoelace and a snake in a forrest scene.
    Highlights also makes me think of those weird toys in the pediatrician’s waiting room, the ones with the thick wires stuck in blocks of wood, with beads that you had to pass from one point to another. They were completely pointless and always looked like way more fun than they were.

  4. I remember the excitement I felt the first time I actually got hold of one at my doctor’s office that wasn’t marked up. All my mom had was a pen. What a blast I had marking off the pictures.

  5. My grandma worked at Highlights, so reading Highlights magazines at home & grandma’s house were good times (I really wanted to say a highlight, but just couldn’t). I always liked the hidden pictures (how could you NOT?) and thought Gallant was cute.

  6. I can see the cartoon now:
    Goofus circling all the hidden pictures “Too bad for the suckers that read this after I’m done with it!”
    Gallant leaves the page unmarked “I know other kids would enjoy reading this and trying to find the hidden pictures, too.”

  7. My mother-in-law sent my daughter a subscription to Highlights. It was weird getting at the house, and it took about 3 months of getting it before I realized it was okay for her circle the hidden pictures because no one else was going to read it.

  8. We had a subscription at home, too. If I remember right, it pre-dated my mom becoming a teacher. (Hmmm… Chicken and egg?) We took Highlights and Ranger Rick. I don’t think I could make a call between the two. Both were cool.
    I completely get the whole “who’s driving the car?” thing. Hard to whoop it up safely while going through an underpass if you have to keep your hands on the wheel.

  9. I remember having a subscription when I was a kid. I loved it. I also recall that even though the magazines were ours, I still didn’t want to mark them up. Never wanted to be that asshole kid.

  10. This is the kind of weird dialog that is great to work into a fiction story. So many fiction stories are dry and about the plot with few details of esoteric character development.
    And now I’m pondering how to adapt this conversation to be contextually relevant to the story I’m writing… heh heh.

  11. Heck, yeah. I felt the same way about Highlights – it would have been disorienting to see it outside of the doctor’s/dentist’s office waiting room.
    And now I know it was Rook who was marking them up. Dang it, Rook, *I* wanted to find the snake!

  12. We actually have a Highlights subscription NOW. My kids are 4 and 7, and they get the regular magazine and the “High Five” magazine for little kids. The Timbertoes are still around, but Goofus and Gallant aren’t anymore.
    Oh, but the Hidden Pictures are still there. Did you know there’s even a Highlights Hidden Pictures app for the iPhone now? Oh, yeah.

  13. I, too, had a subscription. Also had one to Chickadee, which later evolved into an Owl subscription (educational Canadian kid’s magazines). Now? I get ones about wine that I don’t get around to reading.

  14. ZOMG! I have had THIS EXACT DISCUSSION with my spouse! Except, from my point of view, it was more along the lines of, “WHY did it never occur to me that I could get this magazine I loved at HOME?!” I even HAD a subscription to Ranger Rick for a long time, so it’s not like I didn’t know about subscriptions…I think I just thought anything that AWESOME could clearly not be affordable for me to have at home.
    My kid currently has a subscription to High Five, which is the new Highlights for kids in the 3-5 age range. (Highlights is apparently for 6-12 year olds.)

  15. We had a subscription at home too but I grew up thinking it was a local publication because it was published in my home town of Columbus, OH. I think it’s since moved from the old downtown location but still somewhere nearby. I remember driving past the old publication headquarters building when I was a kid. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I learned it was a national magazine.

  16. Hee hee! They are fun for very young children, or at least SOME very young children – my daughter has enjoyed them, hmm, probably from around 9 months through at least 2 years. I don’t think they are intended to amuse children who are capable of, say, reading Highlights magazine. :-)

  17. I too had a subscription to Highlights. I was always the first one home from school/work, so I would get the mail and it always thrilled me to no end to find that magazine! And the beady-wire thing is very entertaining to very little children – my 2 year old still likes it. Sometimes I play with him and find it oddly soothing to push them around and hear the “click-click-click” as the beads drop.

  18. Yea, I had Highlights magazine at home. I loved the Timbertoes and Goofus and Gallant. I remember one issue in particular had some totally fun ideas for throwing a half birthday party for yourself. I was super excited about the idea, but my mom wasn’t having it. I still kinda want to throw myself a half birthday with half of a round cake, served on paper plates cut in half, personal pizzas and sandwiches cut in half, and a game where you pass out half pieces of paper with half animal faces on them and everyone has to find the person with the matching half of their animal face. Damn, am I too old for that now? Also, I got Ranger Rick. I remember one issue where they talked about spiders and it had a huge picture of a tarantula sitting on some bananas. I didn’t want to go to the produce section of the grocery store for weeks after I saw that.

  19. I haven’t thought about Hidden Pictures in several years. I too did not understand that I could get Highlights delivered to me – IN THE MAIL.
    A couple of years ago I very enthusiastically shared a Highlights Hidden Pictures with my son. He did not share my thrill of finding combs, cats and cups amongst lines of tree trunks or clouds in the sky. I actually tried to convince him of the “coolness” of the puzzle.
    I learned a lesson that day as a mom. Cool stuff from my childhood is not always cool in today’s childverse. It ouched.
    So glad that at least Star Wars is cross-generationally cool.

  20. When I was a kid, we got a subscription to Highlights sent to our house. I would go through each copy meticulously for about a week, then put it in the stack of other “forgotten” issues. It wasn’t until I was about 20 or so, and I brought it up to my Mom, that I found out why we actually had the subscription:
    My step-dad loved reading it. ::head shake:: I swear, the things you learn about your parents when you come of age…

  21. I had Highlights for years as a kid but I never liked reading it for some reason. I always thought they were particularly boring and ended up playing with Legos or something else instead.

  22. I’m pretty sure we had a Highlights subscription when I was a kid–I know we definitely got Ranger Rick.
    Out of curiosity, why shouldn’t Anne be the one driving? I mean…is it really that odd that she would be?

  23. My relatives were always getting me subscriptions to these when I was a kid. I got Highlights for Children and Jack and Jill. I remember Jack and Jill as having better stories, but I liked them both because I liked reading everything. I was the kid who got Weekly Reader all summer long and sent away for the books in the back because I recognized the comic artists that were doing some of the illustrations, and … well… I love books! I never read those magazines in the doctor’s office, though. I wanted folks to think I was more sophisticated than that, so I’d pick up Time or National Geographic. Those magazines were never scribbled in!

  24. Wait… your doctor’s offices don’t have pens? How do people fill out the “Have you ever had alien chest-bursters as a pre-existing condition?” forms?
    (/meaningless obsession over one sentence)

  25. I always stole my brother’s Boys Life magazine. I asked my parents to keep that subscription for a few consecutive years after he got his Eagle.

  26. I love Highlights for Children.
    My grandma worked for them back many years before I was born.

    Now for bonus points:
    Do you remember Cricket magazine? That was truly one of my favorites as a kid.

  27. One year, I got my own subscription for Highlights! That was a strange thing… to have Highlights at your own house! (and I still didn’t circle the hidden pictures – just so I could play again)

  28. Hehheh.
    My daughter’s grandparents got her a subscription a few years ago. She wasn’t into it at first and so I would take it upon myself to do the hidden pictures. Yeah, that didn’t go over too well when she finally became very interested in Highlights and I didn’t stop doing the hidden pictures. IN PEN! Mwahahahahaha!
    Man, I was that dick kid but in an adult body. Yeah well, I’d do it again if I could! Neener neener!

  29. My daughter had a subscription from my mom. They would sit and do the hidden pictures together the week it came to the house. My daughter no longer has interest in the magazine.
    I was always disappointed when the hidden pictures in the doctor’s office copies were done already. Mom would never let me do them if they weren’t. She said it wasn’t mine and other children might like to find the pictures themselves. Why didn’t more parents give children that advice?

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