Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scenes from a Childhood

Thanks everyone for your kind support of Shannon's Relay for Life efforts. My family is indeed touched by all your kindnesses.

The following is a little vignette from my childhood - as simple and as complicated as it was.

I found a kitten on the "side road" and brought it home (the side road was thus named as only the sides of houses bordered it - no fronts...and it was the side road). At least I think that's how it got there. I was a little girl and I put it in a box in the garage with a blanket. It looked a little sick to me - runny eyes, that I remember. The garage was not a place you could really play in. You would ride your bike in from playing and quick, put the kickstand down and run out. Sometimes you would just do a hop off as it was moving and run out without bothering with the kickstand. Anyway, I went and got the kitten a little bowl of milk. A day later (or whatever the time elapse was) when I went back out to check on the poor thing, it had died. I think I recall one of my brothers out there checking on it, something about distemper.

So when I think of such stories from my childhood and juxtapose it to my children's - imagine Tali bringing home a sick kitten, roaming the neighborhood alone. The freedom with which I traveled my landscape - don't get me wrong, there were plenty of dangers out there but somehow they never befell us. The truth is we were already hardened to dangers from living with an alcoholic. Yes sure, my father stopped drinking when I was around nine or ten, can't be sure. The dye was cast. I had lost the ability to be carefree.

Instead I developed a sense of humor that was more the armour required for survival in a large loud Irish family. Why do I share this with you? I'm not sure. Something made me think of summer days, dirt floors in garages, short haircuts with bangs, the haves...the have-nots, running in the house and drinking tap water on a hot summer day, the woebegone, the disenfranchised. Although to look at us, you would never know it. My mother worked so hard to keep our house in order and neat and clean. Our clothes never bore a wrinkle.

Sometimes the externals aren't so important, as it turns out.

19 comments:

pia said...

I'm trying to understand a road made of all side streets. Please draw a map as this seems physically impossible

as simple and as complicated as it was.

Wasn't everybody's childhood thus?

I think there were more dangers then--higher crime rates etc., but it was assumed that all parents would look out for all kids in the neighborhood etc. Can't work that way anymore

And by being independent earlier, we were ensuring that our childhood ended earlier

We no longer have false senses of security in the world at large, so we let kids be kids longer and I think that might be a very good thing

But I have no idea. I did like your simple and complicated story

First Nations said...

that covered a lot of ground with very few words. right on!
it's sad what we take responsibility for when we're children and have little or no control. i still feel badly about a baby robin i tried to rescue when i was about 8.

ariel said...

sometimes I think I had a quite good life until I didn't realize the externals.

I wouldn't dare to raise a child the way I grew up, I wouldn't dare to let them spend entire days out there alone or with friends knowing hunger will bring them home sooner or later. sad, isn't it?

your mother must be a very strong woman.

G said...

Pia, wasn't everyone's indeed - each in our own simple or complicated way. I kind of like kids getting to be kids a bit longer - innocence is nothing to be trifled with. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

fn: Sad indeed. That's the part about playing out and about on our own that you pointed out so well - the responses to situations that would have (or should have) benefited from a little adult intervention. Right on to you.

Ariel: Ah yes, the shock of recognition. It is sad in a sense that when I think of my childhood, it was often bereft of the gentle guiding hand that is so important.

My mother is a strong woman indeed who has lived through many trials and trevails in this ole world. I say she did the best she could with what she had.

Doug said...

You know, I think that's the kind of thinking that teaches the most. I agree with my friend, first nations, too- very economical with words.

Having no children, I worry about the fate of the freedom we had to pretty near get ourselves killed. It's really how we react to surprises that makes us who we are which makes me wonder if my nephews and niece will be anything in particular.

So, what I'm suggesting is it's wonderful how careful you are with your children but you should jump out from behind the couch and yell "boo!" sometimes. And a dead cat or two never hurts.

Claire said...

Whoa, G -memory lane
5 kids all on bikes
2 babies at home
mom said "Be Gone!"
and we were
all dang day
all summer long
that's just how it was
and will never be again

G said...

Doug: You know I still can't shake getting a big kick out of scaring someone by surprise - even if it is my kids. Cheap thrills. Maybe getting locked in the garage...

You're right though, we do have to learn to sit on our hands a bit as parents - in due time. Well perhaps, they'll have to tie me up in a closet but I will try to let them suffer a consequence or two.


Claire: Add three more older siblings and you've got my family :)

Yes gone are those days - for better and worse.

weirsdo said...

That reminded me of my childhood a lot, too, although we were dysfunctional in a smaller, usually quieter way, and I was only a havenot in contrast to my fellow private-school scholars. I also once found a squirrel that died--a dog had chewed on it.

Diesel said...

I went to see a comedian named John Heffron a few months back who joked about how when he was a kid he'd be gone all day and nobody would even look for him. He would finally come home at night and his dad would say, "In for the night?" And he'd respond, "Nope, just getting a flashlight!"

HMBT said...

As a kid we ran wild all day too. Our only rule was that we had to stay within whistle hearing distance of my house. My Dad would do one of those fingers in the mouth whistles that you could hear for about a mile and we knew to come home for dinner. If not that then the standing rule was when the streetlights came on we had to come home. Whole different thing now...I won't even let the boys ride their bikes in front of our house unless I am sitting out front. They can't go door to door with their school fundraisers any more. They can't go to a new friends house unless we meet the parents first. They can't walk to the school or home in the afternoon by themselves. I think keeping them kids is great and all...but damn it's a lot of work too. My Mom would put an apple and a bag of cookies in my pocket and tell me to keep out of trouble and be home by dark...my kids will never know that kind of parenting...and I think that's good. My parents were not there when I needed them...they were drinking rum and coke in the pool, while I fought the boys off from down the street. When I went home and told them about it, my drunk Dad taught me how to throw a punch, ( I have a hella good right hook now) but never went and delt with the bad boys that were attacking me. I did fix the boys...and the punch throwing has come in handy a few times in my life as well...but you know...it would have been nice for him to go and talk to those parents instead.
Great post.

Logophile said...

Simple and complex and messy and tidy.
Ah yes.
I remember it well.

neva said...

i grew up in the "country" -- our house was in the middle of a cotton field (my dad was a civil engineer, but he liked the house, so that's where we lived). the "adventures" we had were priceless, and filled with dangers, both imagined and real.

my kids have had a bit of that same opportunity, when spending time in California with their dad (my ex) but the apron strings and/or boot straps were fairly short, denying them the right to encounter the chance hobo and/or mountain lion (yes! a mountain lion!) my sisters and i had to contend with as children. i don't mind... tho' i did try that "boo" thing with my oldest son, when he was about 8, and after he screamed, wet his pants, and stopped crying we agreed that was never going to happen again.

these days i'm the one waiting to wet my pants and/or scream because of something scary my boys do, but i guess that's just part of the deal.

all this to say... loveloveloved your story, dearest NBFF, not to mention your imagery -- and i'm not worried in the least about what your kids are missing. they'll be fine. hopefully, you will be, too! xox

Al said...

Nicely expressed, G.

Was that stray cat you? Mine was, when I was little.

tsduff said...

Thank you for your story. I'm sorry the kitten died. I remember with fond nostalgia the freedom I was afforded as a child... we lived in a rural canyon area, with cliffs, chaparral covered mountains, horses to ride where there were no fences, a trout pond where we spent our allowance on candy, and my most inspired place... the creek. It smelled so good, with moss covered rocks along the creekbed, and long green algae "willies" streaming along the slow current underwater, water striders skimming top of the surface, black pollywogs wiggling along the shallow bottom, and baby toads - black with red spots hopping around on the wet sand so numerous you had to be very careful not to step on them... ah, what a lovely memory. We too had a dad who whistled us home at dusk... Sorry - got carried back for a moment. Kids find ways to make do with their surroundings, no matter how grave or difficult it seems.

ariel said...

hmbt, I like the parenting of your parents OTHER than the drinking and the never being there for you. actually, the whistling thing made me laugh.

ann said...

our childhoods inform on our adult lives more than most realise... it certainly has for me. It made a big differece on how I brought up my children. It's beyond sad that freedom we enjoyed, the safe environment we took for granted is a long and distant memory.

hope you and yours are well.

Shavuah tov

lotsa luv ann xxxx

G said...

To all, I am so sorry that I have not been a great blog host, but my own parental duties have called me astray. There are Torah portions to study, science projects to build (ov vay) and so on and so forth.

Suffice it to say, that I have read and appreciated each bit of your comments and glimpses into your own Scenes from a Childhood.

Hope you all are having a wonderful day and building some nice memories of your own. xox

Minka said...

wow I am late! But I am glad I caught it before another post would push it down :)

Maybe it is because spring is arriving...but somehow spring cleaning happens in many a mind these days. Some memories need to be polished, some re-arranged...some discarded and some wrapped in bubble wrap to protect them of breaking.

Not only the outside needs to be sorted, the inside needs to see a broom every now and again!

G said...

Minka, I just came in to lock up when I saw your beautiful and thoughtful comment. I loved it.