[In the Beginning]
Some of my best childhood memories are my earliest ones: those in the first house I grew up in, and the wonders us kids experienced in the rugged outdoor spaces surrounding our home. Many of those moments are still very much burned into my mind. In fact, that period of time in my life made such an impact on me that I had dreams well into my twenties of returning to, and even buying that house. 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 to venture beyond “The Shire,” the land from whence my husband and I were born and raised. Who can say for sure but God when and why my subconscious mind let that old farm house go, but it did. I may have stopped dreaming those dreams, but the memories still remain.
Situated on a significant plot of land, we lived in a big, white, two-story house with black trim. There was a generous sized field for crops in the back acreage, and a big red barn that stood to one side of the property. Beside the barn stood a chicken coup, that did in fact house chickens one year. Unfortunately, our chickens became sick, making that particular endeavor short lived. (literally.) A Corral for the horses was located behind the house, while another one was located to the side of the barn.
We had plenty of trees on the property: cherry trees and a large plum tree lined one side of the front of the yard. Another cherry tree stood in the backyard as well. Much larger trees lined the other front portion of the lot, and down one side of the house.
A variety of pretty flowers grew in my mom’s garden, the names of which my mom lovingly taught me. I thought maybe this was why I named my first doll, “Flower to Flower,” but I believe now that this is only half of that story. I’ll leave those thoughts for another time, but I had a series of these unusually nature inspired dolls. “Flower to Flower” was followed by “Plant to Plant” and “Rose to Rose.” My little brother and I took to naming some of the surrounding flora ourselves, such as Popeye flowers, Lego plants, and our banana tree which stood at near the entry to our driveway. It wasn’t truly a banana tree; it’s yellow flowers, however, hung in clusters that reminded us very much of bunches of bananas.
My mom also taught my little brother and I that if we dug deep into the garden we could find clay to satisfy our artistic side. This was something that we both were very much interested in, indeed. One of my more vivid memories is of my little brother and I sitting on the steps with our feet through the risers working on our clay masterpieces. We’d then leave what we created out on the steps to bake in the heat of sun.
Those years were true adventures to us kids; we lived out our fanciful escapades in reality rather than virtually. With all our gadgets and video games, too often the later is the case these days. While I like my gadgets, I love my outdoor spaces. I’m still up for a good adventure, even if it’s simply a ride-along. I’m also a huge fan of flowers and trees which is no big surprise considering my childhood.
Our landlord used the field out back for planting potatoes or corn, which grew alternately each year. In the years that corn crops grew, we’d play hide-and-seek among the rows; however, during those times when the field stood completely empty was when the real games began. This was when my three brothers–two older and one younger–commenced their “dirt-bomb” wars. Likely my cousins–on occasion–were also warriors in those great battles. I had four cousins, all of whom were 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 wanted to get in on all of that fun too. Unacceptable to me, however, I was informed by my brothers that this wasn’t a game for girls and that I would just get hurt. Though they were being protective of me, I didn’t understand this at the time, hence I made my objection known. When they did give in, I learned my lesson the hard clay way. To this day, I still remember why dirt-bomb wars aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, as well as the sting of said dirt-bomb when it does in fact hit it’s mark. In truth, I suspect that I just got caught in the crossfire. I doubt that my brothers would purposely fire on me. From then on, I more than happily left those boyish battles to the boys. Boys will be boys though, thus, I do recall a game of hide-and-seek that left me alone in the cornfield. I can also remember feeling hesitant to play hide and seek in that cornfield with them again.
We had ample space to run and play, and use our vivid imaginations; to build forts, of course, because that’s just one of those childhood must-do’s I can remember forts up in the hayloft of the barn which were difficult to climb up into without my brothers assistance. I think my older brothers preferred it this way There was also a more prickly variation that the older boys created by macheting a hollow in the blackberry bushes that lined one side of our yard. Prickle-forts make a lot of sense really; what better defense is there than a spiky fortress?
As so often is the case, those forts which were built indoors were cleverly constructed with Chesterfield cushions; just toss in some pillows and blankets and it’s a done deal. As imagination would have it, carpet was rarely ever carpet. Instead, that green, high-pile shag became bubbling, scorching lava! We dared not set foot on the floor for fear of scorched toes, or worse: a fatal fall that would render us lifeless! We’d hop over all manner of things to prevent this disastrous demise, even using my dad’s (er… well…) record collection as stepping stones. (Oops, sorry Dad!) My parents surely 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. I imagine we were often instructed to “Go play outside!”
Tree climbing was inevitable, and just like a cat up a tree, I can remember climbing too high a time or two. Mom or Dad would then be summoned by whomever had two feet on the ground, to come and help me down. I was also then instructed not to climb so high! That never seemed to deterred me though because trees were just made for climbing. Besides, however else was I to pluck and plunder that ever so enticing fruit from those branches beyond my reach? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and a child with focused determination.
My older brothers would climb much higher than us wee ones—way up into the tallest of trees. I’m almost positive there was an oak tree to the side of our house. Thinking back, I’m near certain that I remember seeing the ground strewn with it’s distinctive leaves—-and acorns! Yes, now I’m certain there was an oak tree. We also had one special tree that we called the “Snuffleupagus” tree; this was due to its branch that jutted out and up quite unusually, much like this beloved Sesame Street characters trunk. I’m not sure exactly what kind of trees these towering ones were, but they grew exceedingly tall.
(Haha… I love this pic)
(Snuffleupagus. A perfect example of what that tree branch looked like)
I can also recall one of my older brothers perched so very high in our lovely trees, exclaiming, “Hey, you can see the mall from up here!” (Ha ha.) My younger brother and I would have loved to climb that high as well, but our older brothers kept us from attempting that dangerous feat. Being so little, we could have all too easily fallen to our doom. Truth be told, I doubt our parents were too keen on my older brothers being up so high. Not only were my big brothers great climbers, but also, they they were very ingenuitive. One day, they decided to rig up some sort of dumbwaiter like contraption in one of the tall trees, using a board and some rope. Yes, imagination and a bold sense of adventure, made for some rather grand schemes.
Those great outdoors, however, also possessed some hidden dangers. One fateful day, I remember quite the commotion as my brothers ran towards the house, calling for help for my cousin who had befallen an unfortunate event. I can also remember the fear 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. Due to the rather large gash he incurred, he was rushed to the hospital. If I’m remembering correctly, it went clear to the bone. (I still wince at the thought of that.) He escaped the worst case scenario that day, as he did the numerous other unfortunate events he would have over the years. He seemed to be quite accident prone, but fortunately he also had nine lives. After that misadventure, our Landlord removed the treacherous obstacle; he also thoughtfully mowed down the overgrown greenery.
We had a variety of animals over the years: guinea pigs that begat guinea pigs, chickens, cats, and dogs. The Landlords daughter–Mary-Ann–even stabled her black stallion named Perry in the barn. As well, a friend of hers had a white mare named Sunny that shared the stall next to Perry’s. Frequently, my younger brother and I would slip into the barn to visit them both, grabbing handfuls of oats with molasses from the bins located near their stalls to feed our good-natured friends. We’d grab a bite or two for ourselves also, following Mary-Ann’s offer to taste and see. Perhaps this was what sparked my granola addiction. (Hehe.)
One year–possibly, it was just a Summer–two younger girls came to the farm to board their horses. The older one, who had to have been in her teens (maybe a tween), owned a brown colt named Fudge. The younger one, closer in age to myself, had a tan Shetland pony with a lighter contrasting main, 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 she’d transition to a canter, ending with a swat to Frosty’s rump which would send this peppy little pony into a full gallop. My little brother and I both got a real kick out of this. One of my older brothers apparently wanted in on this action too, ergo the occasions he uninvitedly took Frosty out of the corral. 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 as I read this to Andrew he said to me, “Cloppity clop clop, look at Frosty go!” (Ha ha, indeed!)
The older of those two girls practiced her trick riding in the corral behind the house; this was always entertaining to watch. Mary-Ann attempted to teach me a trick or two, but when she encouraged me to try something that was possibly perilous–at least in my mind–I wouldn’t be adding that trick to my bag of tricks. I was never the daredevil that my brothers and cousins were, after all.
Part 2 of this story: A Penny for your Thoughts