I often share stories about my childhood with my daughter. She thinks that I had it so much better as a kid because I had two brothers and I had a sister to play with who was close to my own age. I also grew up in town and could see my friends just by walking out the door. She lives in the country and has no one to play with but her cat, which means I serve as the playmate. I don't remember ever depending on my mom for entertainment. I never asked her to play games with me or watch me draw. Mom was a mom, not a playmate. But I understand my daughter's need for companionship and I try to give her what she needs.
Growing up in the sixties and seventies was a completely different life compared to today. I'm sure my parents felt the stress of raising a family, but even from a child's point of view, life seemed more relaxing than it is today. My parents never ran us to all kinds of activities. We never rushed to get anywhere. The atmosphere in our home was a slower pace than the families of today. And there wasn't so much noise. Even with four kids, our house seemed quieter than today's households.
My childhood did have its charms. I spent a lot of time in a certain tree in our backyard. I remember having a lot of freedom to run around town and not come home until dinner time. I'd go for walks in fields or wooded areas looking for chestnuts, berries, or wildflowers. I'd hang out at a neighbor's house and chalk paint the sidewalk. Sit by the pond under the willow trees. Walk down to the bridge at the end of town and throw rocks in the water. One day in my teens, my friend and I rode our bikes all the way to the next town. My mom didn't know I was planning to meet a boy I liked. His mom had to drive us home because it was getting dark before we decided to leave. That's when she found out. If we lived in town today, I couldn't give my daughter that freedom. Too many girls are disappearing in the news.
My mom found ways to entertain us when we were kids. Ways that didn't cost money. We often went to a place known only as "the swimming hole," where we'd spend an entire day. I remember a rope tied to a tree that kept us entertained as we swung out across the water and let go at just the right time to make the biggest splash. And I remember Mom bringing a radio to the swimming hole. My Dad sold TV's and radios, so we had all kinds of gadgets like that, even battery powered. Mostly I remember the coolness of the water on those hot summer days.
I remember the music of that era, and I still love it. Emmy Lou Harris, Elvis, The Carpenters, whenever I hear a song that was popular during my childhood, it instantly takes me back to long summer days at the swimming hole, hanging out in the horse barn with my new radio and cassette recorder, or standing on the playground sliding board singing, "I'm on the top of the world looking down on creation.."
It's funny the glimpses of the past that come to your mind when you think of your childhood. I remember the ice cream truck. You could hear it coming in plenty of time to pest Mom for money. The sound was like bells ringing to a certain enchanted tune, like something from a Disney movie. I remember all kinds of trucks stopping at our house selling bread, potato chips in a can, meat, Tastycakes, all kinds of goodies. Then another truck would bring our milk in the morning. During the summer, when my bedroom window was open, I could hear the early morning clang of milk bottles. I see those old milk boxes at antique stores now, relics of a time we'll never see again.
I remember, too, the door to door salesmen that stopped at our home. My mom didn't work outside the home, so she always got hit with sales calls. I watched the vacuum cleaner salesman give his demonstration, the encyclopedia salesman, the Amway guy, and the Avon lady. I still have that set of encyclopedias we used as kids. With internet access, it serves only as nostalgia now and when stacked, the books make nice risers.
Pets are a big part of childhood. My mom loved pomeranian dogs. I remember the names Skippy and Cocoa. The dogs had long reddish hair. But my favorite dog was a grey poodle named Muffin. He used to sit in front of our fireplace in the winter and stare at the fire until he almost fell asleep. We would watch him on the sofa and laugh when his eyes went closed and he'd almost fall over. Then he'd catch himself and stare at the fire more until it happened again.
Muffin disappeared from our home when he infested the house with fleas. I was a teenager by then and not a big pet-lover. I think my complaining about the fleas helped to seal his fate. I remember being blamed for poor Muffin's demise. I'm still not sure where he ended up. I guess I don't want to know.