My Childhood Home ~ Summertime ~ Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood
Whenever I hear Dolly Parton's song, In My Tennessee Mountain Home, it makes me think of my own Texas childhood home where life was (almost always) "...as peaceful as a baby's sigh."
I grew up during the golden era between World War II and the Vietnam War. A hundred acre farm on the edge of a national forest was the setting of my childhood home, a white frame house built by my father. I remember some farming being done but not much, maybe because of the 1950s drought, but we had cows, chickens, and a huge vegetable garden.
The thing I liked best about living there was being close to nature. It instilled in me an abiding love of God's beautiful creation. Our land was located down a dirt road and in places it felt like you were driving into a fairy tale to get there. Summertime meant tons of beautiful flowers, planted and nurtured by my mother... lantana, hydrangeas, begonias, petunias, phlox, zinnias to name a few. There were also wildflowers, honeysuckle vines and violets growing on the property along with grapevines, a few crape myrtle and holly trees, many hardwoods and lots of pine trees. There was a natural spring, 2 small plum orchards, blackberries growing everywhere, and a clear creek with sand dollars embedded in the rock creek bottom.
My daily goal was to be the first kid to get up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. The goal was always achieved.
My mother was very protective but she sometimes allowed us to play "explorer" as long as we didn't venture beyond our property lines. I climbed trees, kept track of every bird nest with eggs I could find, collected rocks, looked for dried cicada shells on barbed wire fences. My sisters and I played hop scotch, red rover, 1-2-3 red light, tag, jump rope, London Bridge. We played Monopoly, Chinese checkers, checkers, pick-up sticks, card games, tic-tac-toe. On rainy days we "dressed up", had "tea parties", and took chairs and sheets and made "houses" in the living room. We were allowed to run from the house to the barn and back as fast as we could in the summer rain showers as long as there was no lightening or thunder. If there was thunder and lightening, my mother shut us all up in the hallway and closed all the doors. We laughed at her for doing this but she was frightened of storms. On summer evenings we played tag with the water hose, caught lightening bugs in glass jars and laid in the front yard on quilts and looked up at the amazing brilliant stars.
I had many skinned knees and elbows, wasp stings, splinters and burr stickers in my feet from all my escapades.
During the summer my mother and grandmother canned vegetables and made blackberry jelly and fig and peach preserves. Then we got a freezer and the vegetables were frozen. I did my share of picking and shelling peas! Clothes and linens were hung out in the sunshine on the clothesline to dry. There is nothing like climbing into bed on sheets that have that wonderful fresh scent of being dried in the sun. Clothes were all starched and ironed. Dishes were washed by hand.
We had 3 square meals a day, all taken in the dining room. The noon meal was called "dinner" (not lunch) and the evening meal was called "supper". Very Southern. We didn't snack between meals but mid-morning we made a pitcher of Kool-Aid and mid-afternoon we had had tea cakes that my mother baked almost every day. Often she baked a cake or a pie instead. Our kitchen was a busy place.
Like everyone else, we had no air conditioning and we got our first television when I was in second grade. Our lucky parents didn't have to worry about anything inappropriate for children being on tv or commercials or even in books or magazines. Ah, the age of innocence!
We went to church a lot! In summer we attended Vacation Bible School, a youth revival, and a regular revival in addition to church and Sunday school each Sunday morning and evening church and BTU each Sunday evening and church events during the week. I memorized so many bible verses that to this day, whenever a challenging moment comes up, usually an appropriate verse automatically comes to mind without even thinking about it. I can also recall every hymn in the Baptist Hymnal. LOL
As was the Southern custom we answered adults with "Yes, Ma'am" or "No, Sir", called adult family friends "Miss FirstName" "Mr. FirstName" and other adults "Miz LastName" "Mr. LastName."
No other homes could be seen from our house except for our grandparent's house across the road. Sometimes my older sister and I spent the night at their house where we listened in the darkness to our grandmother's stories that had been passed down to her about our ancestor's early days in Texas. She was a wonderful storyteller and we were entranced... until our patient grandfather finally announced that it was time to be quiet and go to sleep.
My grandparents were very important to me and were the major positive influence, enriching my life just by being there. (It made up for my father who was sometimes in an ok mood but often was either in an over-the-top mood, teasing and laughing, or in a raging, angry mood. It was no fun, to say the least, and my sisters and I were glad when he wasn't around... but now I look back and think, bipolar?)
Our long summer days were filled with the sound of a thousand male cicadas serenading the ladies. Summer evenings were filled with the sound of frogs and a thousand crickets down by the creek and spring serenading. Those noisy males! Night time was punctuated with the sounds of an owl here, a bobwhite there, a whippoorwill somewhere.
Like almost everyone else, I have had my share of joys and sorrows, even in childhood. Despite that and although I didn't fully realize it at the time, my childhood home was really quite wonderful. Thank you, Mama, for giving me a wonderful childhood home!