[In the Beginning]
Some of my best childhood memories are my earliest ones–those in the first house we grew up in, and the wonders us kids experienced in the rugged out door spaces surrounding it.
Some of those moments are still very much burned in my mind. In fact that period of time in my life made such an impact on me that I had dreams (as in the sleeping, not wakeful variety) of returning there one day (or even outright buying and moving into that house) well into my twenties. When and why that particular dream faded, I’m not sure. Maybe it faded with our money problems, which impressed upon me the discouraging idea that Andrew and I would likely never be able to afford a house of our own. Perhaps it was just left behind when we moved out of that very city–in which both my husband and I were born and raised–to venture beyond “The Shire.” Who can say for sure but God, if this is when my subconscious mind let it go, and left that great farm house behind.
We lived in a big white two-story house with black trim, on quite a large plot of land. Their was a generous sized field for crops in the back acreage, and a big red barn that stood off to one side. (between the house and field– beside it a chicken coup). Corrals for horses were located, one–behind the house, and another to the side of the barn. We also had plenty of trees that were perfect for climbing; cherry trees, and a large plum tree, lined one side of the front of the property. (There was one in the backyard too.) and larger trees lined the other front portion of the lot and down one side of the house.
My Mom’s garden, grew all varieties of pretty flowers, and she taught me all of their names. This is likely why I named my first doll, ‘Flower to Flower’. I had a series of these unusually nature inspired dolls in fact. ‘Flower to Flower’ was followed by ‘Plant to Plant’ and ‘Rose to Rose’. Those years were truly grandiose adventures that were lived out in reality, rather than virtually, as too often is the case these days.
Our landlord used the field out back for planting potatoes or corn alternately each year. In the years that corn grew, we would play hide-and-seek among the rows. However, some years the field stood empty, and this is when my three brothers (two older, one younger) had their “dirt-bomb” wars. Likely my cousins, on occasion were privy to those battles too. (I had four of them, all male.) That made me a rose between many thorns, but I was content to tag along with the gang. They were always so very entertaining.
Apparently, being hit by chunks of hard clay dirt is considered great fun, and I just wanted to be a part of all that fun too. I was told though, that this wasn’t for girls, and that I was bound to get hurt. I can remember protesting this though, and distinctly remember why dirt-bomb wars really aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, and the sting of said dirt-bomb when it makes contact with it’s mark. From then on those great battles–I more than happily–left to the boys.
We had space to run and climb, and we used our vivid imaginations to build forts (of course) because that’s just one of those childhood must haves. I remember forts up in the hay loft of the barn, and the more prickly variation that my brother’s created by hacking at, and hallowing out the blackberry bushes that lined the edge of one side of our yard. ‘Prickle Forts’ make a lot of sense really, what better defense than a spiky fortress? Forts were also built indoors as well–as so often is the case–with Chesterfield cushions, pillows and blankets. As imagination would have it, carpet was rarely simply carpet. It became bubbling, scorching lava instead, so of course we dared not set foot on the floor! We’d hop over all sorts of things to keep from searing off our toes, even using my dad’s record collection as, er… stepping stones. (Oops, sorry Dad.) Yes, my parents must have had their hands full with the four of us creative, calculating creatures inhabiting the house. That’s likely why more of my memories are of those great outdoors, where we were most probably instructed to go.
The trees were great for climbing, and like a cat up a tree, I can remember climbing too high a time or two, and our parents having to come and help me down. That never deterred me though, because trees were just made for climbing. Besides, however else was I to pluck and eat the ever beckoning fruit from their branches, so high? My older brother’s though, climbed much higher, way up into the tallest of trees (not just cherry trees, but much larger ones too). I’m positive there was an oak tree to the side of the house; I can remember the ground strewn with it’s distinctive leaves. We also had one special tree that we called the “Snuffleupagus” tree because of its branch that jutted out and up unusually, like this beloved Sesame Street characters trunk. I’m not sure exactly what kind of trees these were, but they grew exceedingly tall. (Possibly cedar trees).
I can remember one of my older brothers perched so very high in one of our lovely trees, saying: “Hey, you can see the mall from up here.” (Ha ha.) My younger brother and I of course would have loved to climb that high too, but our older brothers kept us from that precarious endeavor. We were too little and could all too easily fall to our doom. (Truth be told, I don’t think my parents were too keen on my older brothers up that high either.) I also remember some sort of dumbwaiter like contraption they rigged up in one of the trees, from a board and some rope. Yes, imagination and a bold sense of adventure made for some rather wonderfully grand schemes.
Those great out doors also welcomed hidden dangers though too. I recall the great commotion the day my brothers came running towards the house. They were calling for help for my cousin who had befallen some unfortunate event. I can also remember the feeling that gripped me in those rather tense moments. While riding his mini-bike speedily to and fro the yard, my cousin had mowed through a very tall patch of grass, running smack into an old forage harvester blade that was hidden from sight. He had to be rushed to the hospital, for the large gash in his leg, that if I remember correctly went clear to the bone. (I still wince at the thought of that.) He escaped the worst case scenario that day, along with the many other events he would have over the years. He seemed to be the type who is just prone to accidents, but fortunately, he also had nine lives. After that event our Landlord came by the house and removed that dangerous obstacle, and mowed down the over grown greenery.
We had a variety of animals over the years: guinea pigs that begot more guinea pigs, chickens, cats, and dogs. The Landlords daughter–Mary-Ann, even stabled her black stallion named Perry in the barn, and a friend of hers had a white mare (I believe.) named Sunny that shared the stall next to Perry’s. My younger brother and I would slip into the barn on many an occasion to visit them both and feed them hand fulls of oats with molasses that filled the bins near their stalls. We’d sneak a bite or two for ourselves as well, preceding Mary-Ann’s allowance to sample, and taste for ourselves. (I think really she meant that one time, but hey, now we had a taste for it. Maybe this is what instigated my granola addiction).
One year (Maybe it was just a Summer.) two younger girls came to the farm, and boarded their horses. The older one –who had to have been in her teens– owned a brown Colt named Fudge, and the younger one–closer in age to myself–had a tan Shetland pony with a lighter contrasting mane, named Frosty. We all loved Frosty. The younger of the two girls would take my little brother and I out for rides on that pretty little pint sized horse. She’d start us out with a slow walk, and a trot, then transition to a canter, ending with a crack of the whip, sending this peppy little pony galloping. My little brother and I both got a real kick out of this. One of my older brothers apparently wanted in on the action too, and on several occasions he took Frosty out of the corral. (Uh, I don’t believe he had any permission to do this.) My parents said they’d glance out the window to see him high tailing it across the yard on Frosty’s back. (After roaring with laughter at the mental picture of this, Andrew said to me, “Clop-pity clop clop, look at Frosty go!” Ha ha, indeed.)
The older girl practiced her trick riding in the corral behind the house–which was always entertaining to watch–and Mary-Ann taught me a thing or two, but when she wanted me to attempt something a little more precarious, it would prove to be a skill that I wouldn’t be adding to my bag of tricks. I was no dare devil like my cousins or brothers, after all.
Second half of the tale/tail —–> “A Penny for your Thoughts” —-> Right Here