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Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015
Ah...youth!Posted Monday, April 14, 2008, at 12:11 AM
There is something to be said for youth…
…and if I could recall what it was, I'd expound upon the subject.
With each day, however, it seems that I am less able to recall just what was so great about those days of yore. It's not that they weren't something to write home about. It's just that I can't remember what it is I should have written!
How might I be expected to recall the events of four or five decades ago when I can't remember where I parked my vehicle at the mall this morning or what I had for breakfast?
There are a few things, however, that I do recall about my youth that bear mentioning.
I recall going out to play at mid-morning and not returning home until nearly dark and no one worried about where I might be. In that interim, I might have been climbing a cherry tree or gathering nickels to walk to the "little store" for a "pop," (which later would become a "soda") or riding a bike with friends for hours on end. I recall gathering old unused boards or more often recycled ones, pulling the nails and using them for steps to a tree fort and then hammering together the tree fort itself. Seemed like it was 90 feet in the air. In reality, it was probably within jumping distance. Of course the jump might have resulted in a broken bone or two that required one doctor's visit and a plaster cast…why is it that today the same injury requires surgery and pins and rods and months of physical and occupational therapy? Could we be wiser or just more gullible? Hmmmmm.
I vividly recall watching from the kitchen window when I was about 10 as I helped my mother wash dishes. My younger brother was jumping from the wooden picnic table and on one of his jumps, he ground seemed to have appeared before he anticipated its arrival. He wailed a bit and managed to rebound to the tabletop, but sat upon it hollering for my mother's attention. I recall my mother leaning over and saying, ever so non-challantly, "Just ignore him…he'll be ok in a minute." The theory was, I surmised, that he cried too much and assuming he only wanted attention, we continued to ignore his cries for sometime. When after what seemed an eternity, however, someone finally gave in and sympathized with him…seems he had fractured his arm near the elbow. It never quite bent all the way to the shoulder again, even after removal of the cast months later. I believe after that, we paid more attention to the wails of the younger children. A lesson learned.
I recall plucking grapes off vines that grew wild along a fencerow on our property and no one seemed to notice, except those of use who make the trek to the "little store" on a daily basis during those summer days. No need to wash the grapes before devouring them. It never occurred to us. We'd pick up apples from the ground on the same short trip and polish them off on our shorts before swallowing them in a few bites. Bittersweet, they were. And I recall being dismayed when one of us bit into a juicy apple and drew it back to find half a worm! My thinking at the time was that it was better to find half than whole, but I later realized the greater impact that half had.
I recall, advancing a few years, that there were five teenage daughters at home at one time and all of us drove. The driveway must have resembled a used car lot and there were boys at home still. When we were all old enough to date, I recall cars lined up in the long driveway…our dates delivering us home. The brave ones "parked" for as long as they could get away with it in the circle drive. So, besides our various old Fords, Chevrolets and Volkswagens (and a red 67 Nova later on) there were the dates' "cool" cars of the 1960's, which made for about nine vehicles filling the circle drive. An anxious mother, donned in her babushka (look that one up), would go from vehicle to vehicle, tapping on the windows and telling us that it was past curfew. I think that she first surveyed the damage and chose the cars in order of how badly the windows were fogged.
I recall meals of everyone sitting at the table and each night there would be meat, potatoes and a vegetable. And each night there would be dessert…a homemade cake (a cake mix was out of the question!) or pie or cookies. And I recall one time when there wasn't dessert for some unknown reason and I wailed, "Do you mean that I ate all that for nothing?" It seemed a logical question at the time.
I recall staying out in three feet of snow in the winter months after digging in the mitten box for something warm to cover our hands. Fashion certainly wasn't a concern, nor was size. If we could squeeze it on and it was warm, that's what mattered. As I recall, "matching" wasn't even a priority. Navy and black was a close enough match. Blocks of snow were carved out of the drifted snow banks for igloo walls. I can even recall being amazed at how much warmer it was in those igloo walls than outside in the wind.
I recall egg salad sandwiches and chocolate milk..the real kind. And peanut-butter sandwiches dipped into the chocolate milk before devouring…you had to do it really quickly or you'd lose the best part in your glass. Some of us exhibited more expertise than others at this art.
I recall spending hours at a time at the creek down the road, where we'd catch tadpoles and watch them over time evolve into toads…the lucky ones, that is. Seems life in a Mason jar wasn't really conducive to the life cycle of a tadpole. Same with caterpillars.
Ah, but lightening bugs…if they lasted an evening in the Mason jar with holes poked in the metallic lid with the rubber guard, we deemed it a successful evening. I recall actually dissecting the defenseless little flittering things with the glowing yellow pouches just to see how they worked! Can't say that we ever quite figured it out.
And I recall sleeping out under the stars…sometimes on the ground, other times on the rooftops of buildings on the small farm that housed anything from chickens to sheep to horses. If there was a level side or a not-so-steep pitch, it was ours. No one worried about our safety. I suppose the theory was there was strength in numbers, although I recall worrying a bit after the broken arm incident and being told to ignore the wailing!
I recall a houseful of relatives each Sunday and again, a full meal and no buffet style…always a sit-down meal and everyone was served. How did she do it?
I recall bathing caps….hideously tight rubber caps with chin straps. They, too, were placed in a box and were doled out on summer days on a first-come, first-served basis. The lucky ones got first "dibs" and were granted the colored caps with the big, floppy rubber flowers draping from one side. Like plastic canisters or Howdy Doody lunch pails, they're probably worth big bucks today!
Speaking of lunch pails, I can vividly recall the scent (or was it the "smell") of the metal lunch pails. Mine had a hunch-backed shape and had little red barns painted on it. Every item was wrapped in waxed paper and the box itself bore a distinct smell…yep, it was a smell, not a scent.
I recall nuns too, and while some were kind, most were not. Still, my vocation in life was to become the "cook nun" at the local Catholic elementary school. My mother was so proud at the mere prospect, since none of my siblings seemed to have realized the long-term benefits in the chosen field. Somehow, it went by the wayside, along with the knowledge of how many sheep were raised in Australia and all the words to the second verse of "The Erie Canal." But the story of nuns and The Erie Canal for another time.
And I thought I couldn't recall my youth! Who knew!!
And, what do you recall?
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