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The Family Knock

Updated on November 20, 2012

The family knock and other traditions from my childhood.

We parked in front of a home today that was about the age of my childhood home, and very much like the style.

Many memories flashed back.

From the dormer on the roof to the brick front porch, along with the the screen door on the outside of the front door, and event chimney that indicated a life-size working fireplace all brought back memories of that house. Then there was the alley in the back of the house, rushing memories, good and bad, through my brain, lingering, as we sat there borrowing the curbside to eat our lunch. I lived in a home like this one, downtown Indianapolis, from ages 4 to 13.

All of these elements along with that uneven sidewalk stretching from the porch in cement squares, all laid so long ago - they've each taken on their own personality; with angles and chips and a variety of weeds growing between their cracks, I'm convinced each one could tell an individual story.

The path of cement leading to the neighborhood sidewalk, drops down with a few step size blocks of cement crookedly shoved into the embankment. The public walkway was in even worse shape from all the snow shoveling, tree roots pushing from underneath and destruction by the masses of people who have tread along it's surface for more than half a century.

One thought led to the next:

The dormer windows were huge - to a little girl. My sisters and I had a plan IN CASE OF FIRE, pick up a chair and throw it through the window, then climb down the roof. Then jump from the 2nd story roof would've done a lot of damage.

The front screen door, of the old house, instantly reminded me of the FAMILY KNOCK.

Photo credit for intro photo.

My home was a lot like this one.

three girls in front of childhood home.
three girls in front of childhood home.

The Family Knock

My parents married right after World War II

They weren't experienced at marriage or children when the first, second or third daughter was born. They celebrated their 1st anniversary with a 3 week old baby girl, their second anniversary expecting their 2nd baby girl, and their third anniversary expecting their third girl

Wow, their 4th anniversary and from then on we were a family of 5. Three little girls to provide for and protect. They both worked hard, in downtown Indianapolis.

We were escorted to the city bus and into downtown Indianapolis for shopping ventures, dressed alike as preschoolers. We got a car before I started kindergarten, so trips to Grandma's on Friday nights became routine. For as long as I can remember, we've hand the "family knock," in our little family unit of 5, so I'm not clear what brought it on, but my Mom worked for the newspaper as a type-setter, so I know she read a lot of bad news.

Some of the safety training in our family included the family knock. The family knock consisted of 3 knocks with a pause between knock 2 and 3. If anyone knocked using any other knock we were instructed to call an adult, and not open the door, we were home alone a lot, and when a parent was home they were busy or napping from working nights.

We were silly little girls. We picked up on the knock instructions, added drama and embellished with gusto. We had secret codes we used when we were being silly or sneaky, and they always included a "secret tap," or a "secret hand sign," even with our friends. But we never revealed the secret family knock to another person outside our home.

I remember a time when we were home alone, after school and before our parents returned from work.

The knock on the front door startled us.

It wasn't time for parents to return, but it was the family knock. We argued over whether to open the door or not and it was impossible to see who was at the door as this was before peepholes in front doors.

We stood at the door in a line, reinforcing each other and opened the front door a crack to see our Uncle - that's family - standing there. He was wondering why we hadn't opened the door sooner. He was coming to take us home with him because one of our parents had to work over time. Whew! So glad that was family at the door. There were many long nights laying awake in bed wondering what type of situation would bring strangers to our door who weren't family and didn't know our secret code.

We lived on an alley, why are they so spooky? Our Grandma also lived on an alley, and she had a man come to her back door one time. They think he had come on a rail car. He was looking for food, and a place to sleep. He moved in with Grandma and Grandpa for years. Slept on the back porch and did household chores. You never know what the alley will bring to your home.

Photos by me: The three sisters heading to baby sister's first day at Kindergarten.

Chocolate Stars

Here's a SWEET family tradition. An uncle was famous for showing up when one of us was sick, and bringing a container of Brach's Chocolate Stars.

I believe it was the same Uncle, who, about a week before Christmas each year, called the house and pretended to be Santa, asking many questions about what we were hoping to find under the Christmas tree. At the time I was convinced Santa actually called me personally. What a fun thing to do with little ones.

The milk man came to the door. - ... and placed the milk in a metal milk box on our porch if we weren't home.

Once a week the milk man put milk on our porch. We needed to bring the milk into the house when we came home from school. Lots of responsibility for elementary school aged children, but we loved the responsibility.

I recently visited an area of downtown Indianapolis that has been restored similar to my old neighborhood. This porch even had a milk can from the 50's. Another childhood tradition, is, our Mom's love for the cream on the top of the bottle of milk. She would open the bottle, skim off the cream and eat it before pouring milk from the container. The cream would be nearly solid at the top of the milk bottle.

She also loved buttermilk, but never convinced me to drink it. Now I love Greek yogurt, which is very similar to buttermilk.

Mid-century remodeled houses in Indianapolis

Wow what an awesome transformation!!

Family dinner table. - One tradition was the evening meal.

set the table
set the table

We did sit at the table for dinner every evening. If my Mom was still at work, dinner instructions were left in the kitchen for us to prepare and put on the table when Daddy came home. We sat at the table for meals even when one of our parents wasn't able to get off work. We set the table with the knife and spoon on the right, with a napkin, and the fork on the left. There was a knife for the butter dish, and bread and butter were served with nearly every meal. We drank a glass of milk with dinner. After dinner we cleared the table and stood on stools to reach the sink and wash and/or dry them. Washing dishes and having the water get my sleeves wet is where I learned to hate wet sleeves.

I always thought washing dishes was an over the top expectation for two little girls. Our youngest sister became gravely ill in Kindergarten and was bed ridden. She couldn't help, but wanted to so badly, we wanted her help too, because she was into the domestic stuff. Now I'm thankful I had that training. I love hand washing dishes, and many clothing items because of my training those years.

What childhood family traditions do you remember?

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      What a wonderful lens - my family was never particularly big on traditions, besides our yearly trip to Florida back when I was young and lived in New York. Blessed by a SquidAngel!