- Quality of Life & Wellness
A Childhood Remembered - The Foundation Built by Parenting
Do you think about your childhood often? Are your childhood memories wonderful or are they memories you'd just as soon forget?
"A Childhood Remembered" is a tribute to my family, my community, and my generation. I was one of the lucky ones. At the age of three, my family moved from the city to the county. Our home was modest, built by a friend of my Dad's who was a contractor. Had he not arranged the financing, I am sure my childhood memories would be very different.
Our neighborhood was young, created from the subdividing of an old family farm. It was 1958 and looking back, this was probably the beginning of the end of financially viable small family farms. Our family was the third house built in the newly divided farm. Soon, another five or six families joined us. What a thrill that was. Unlike our old neighbors in the city, our new neighbors all had kids my age. Our parents were close in age and income and we quickly became a community.
My Toy Box
The outdoors was my toy box and each season brought new toys. It's a good thing because my family couldn't afford to buy new ones very often.
Toys of Winter: Winter snows kept my Mom busy with wet laundry. I couldn't get enough of the snow and would play outside until every piece of clothing was soaked. Mom kept a watchful eye and would force me to come inside to thaw. Warm grilled cheese sandwiches and a cup of soup would precede the required afternoon nap. Bedtime schedules were sometimes relaxed so that I could stay outside well after dark building igloos and snowmen and of course, making angels in the snow.
Toys of Spring: Oh how I loved the toys of Spring. My toy box overflowed with new toys and I was a happy little girl. Roaming from lot to lot, I picked all the dandelions that had turned to balls of white fluff and blew those seeds all over the neighborhood. No one seemed to care that year after year their lawns were gradually consumed by dandelions. My second favorite toy was a June bug. What fun it was to catch them, tie a piece of string on their leg, and soar around the neighborhood with them. I still don't think you've had a childhood if you haven't soared with a June bug.
Toys of Summer: As a new subdivision, there was a lot of mud to play in and I loved the feel of the cool red clay as it squeezed between my toes. Summer rains would fill the ditches between lots and I couldn't wait to splash and play in that fresh rain water. The creek down behind our house was my haven from the summer heat as was the little grove of white pines down the road. Whether I was skipping rocks and catching crayfish at the creek or laying in my little hideaway on a bed of pine needles, I was free to dream. I have always been a dreamer and I guess summer will always mean "dream time" for me.
Toys of Autumn: Leaves, leaves, wonderful leaves and weeds too. Leaves have always held a special wonder for me with their varied shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. I spent many an autumn afternoon raking them into a pile only to make a running dive into them, sending them scattering all over the yard again. On rainy afternoons, there was always a stash of collected leaves waiting to be pressed between pages of wax paper. Ah! My collections. Grasshopper weeds were a special toy as well. I was a good shooter. I could make a loop with the stem, pull it tight against the seed pod, and shoot it at least 3-4 feet. On a good day I could get it to land in my brother's cup of Kool-aid. I loved it!
The Simple Life With Values and Boundaries
It scares me when I think of children growing up today, with all the electronic stimulation and obsession with technology. Living in the city now, I am reminded daily of my glory days growing up in the county. With darkness of the evening, came quiet peace. Without the noise of honking horns and traffic buzzing by, one could get lost in their thoughts and dream of horizons yet defined. No artificial light lit our footsteps as we played outside long after dark on summer nights. And most remarkably, we were safe. There were no worries in our neighborhood. Our parents could get their chores done without worry of a stranger stealing us. The concept of gangs and mobsters, guns and drugs, never touched us. We were immune. Life was simple.
Our parents expected something of us. They expected respect. "Yes ma'am" and "Yes sir" were part of our vocabulary. So was "I'm sorry" and "I did it". We were expected to do what we were told, apologize if we didn't, and own it if it was ours. There was no excuse for rudeness, lying, or deceit. And we were okay with that because we didn't know anything different.
All the parents in our neighborhood were in the same boat; trying to raise their kids on a modest income and wanting them to grow up healthy and productive. They looked out for each other's kids and for each other. Their doors were always open to us but we were expected to behave. If it wasn't ours, we didn't touch it. If we wanted something, we asked first. We knew the rules. No one was exempt and life was good.
Our parents deserve a lot of credit. They raised us on a strong foundation. We had schedules and obligations. For the most part though, we all had stay-at-home Mom's to provide that structure. After school, we would arrive home to a snack, a brief break before doing homework. Ah yes, homework came first before we could escape for a bike ride around the neighborhood or a good old game of kickball or badminton with the neighbors.
No matter how much fun we were having, one ear pointed towards home, listening for Dad's whistle, the call to dinner. Mom always had a hot meal on the table and we always ate together. It was family time. We prayed before the meal too. Always!
- Evenings were spent getting baths first, then perhaps a board game or a little TV. Whatever the choice, it was done as a family. We didn't watch TV in different rooms in our home. We watched together. It might have been different had computers been around but you know, I wouldn't change how it was if I could.
- Weekends were pretty standard at our house. Saturday was the day for chores. We each had our own and we knew they had to be done before we could have any fun. We didn't argue. Sometimes I dragged my feet a little but I managed to get it done. Sunday was church, plain and simple. After church was my favorite time of the weekend. Dad would take us for a drive in the country. I learned my way around the area very early and developed a good sense of direction and a curiosity for exploring. It was during these rides that I touched my first horse. I'll never forget the softness of the muzzle as it stood against the pasture fence. My first taste of a green persimmon is burned into my memory. What a laugh my Dad got as he told me to taste this wonderful little fruit. I still haven't forgiven him for the bitter taste but I adore him for the experience.
All these memories are precious today. I realize that my parents were building my character; putting underneath my strong personality a foundation on which a simple girl from the country could build. That foundation wasn't built on fear or threats. It was built on love and a steady hand. Mom and Dad didn't force my boat to flow down the center of the river but they guided me gently through the rocks that threatened to harm me or take me off course.
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I Made It !
I made mistakes along the way and have paid for most of them. For a few years, rebellion was my middle name. I tested the boundaries and sometimes I skinned my knees. I've hung my head in shame and I've tossed my head back and said "just watch me". My mother sometimes reminds me of the time when I was a little thing and she told me I could not do something I wanted to do. She says I put my hand on my hip, shook my finger at her, and proclaimed (loudly)..."don't think I can't!" Personally, I think it was my defining moment and I'm proud that at such an early age I didn't think anything was im-possible.
So now I'm all grown up, a middle-aged woman who is proud of the foundation she stands on. I whisper a thank you to the universe every day for having grown up when I did with the parents I had, and in a community of neighbors that cared. My heart is saddened that there are so many children growing up without parental guidance and without the opportunity to have a toy box full of bugs and plants and...mud, like mine. I know the world would be a better place if all children could grow up really seeing the stars at night or hearing the lullaby of the crickets. Surely the world would be a kinder place if children today could be raised by a community of parents with values and boundaries and expectations.
Technology is wonderful and progress necessary but I know without a doubt that we are paying a price for forgetting how it was. Wishing won't change the world and I can't stop progress. I wouldn't want to. I can remember though and be grateful for the gift I was given - a simple life as a child who was loved. That love gave me confidence and hope. The proof is in the old photographs, the precious memories captured by my parents. It is clear that at a very early age I had lots of attitude and wanted to be a hero. Nothing's changed!
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.