The Way it Was

profileIt is hard for me to look at this picture and know that it really is me.  Where have the years gone?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that I sat on a rock by Twitchell Pond fishing with the alder fishing pole Tink cut for me? How he tied the fishing line and put on the hook and asked me how long I was going to sit and drown the worm….wasn’t that just yesterday? It is so hard to take it all in…all the years, the changes in the world and..in me.

The world and society, in general, behaves so differently now that sometimes I can’t wrap my head around it at all. There are still wars. My earliest memories are of World War 11 with conversations centering around my uncles and when would they come home. It instilled a fear of low flying airplanes in me until I was in my early teenage years.

My world was a very small world..a world that stretched , at the most two miles..a mile in either direction of our little house. The farthest in one direction was Dan Cole’s farm with its stately white house, and perhaps a hook to the right to the back of Twitchell Pond when I walked with my Grit newspaper bag. There was the Case family cottage below the Cole farm. The wonderful Case family from New Jersey who blended into our neighborhood each summer like butter on warm toast. They were not summer people in our eyes, but neighbors who went away for a few months and returned. My great Uncle Elmer lived in a brown house and it was my spot for buying Smith Brothers cough drops. Tina Morgan , the Lester Cole farm and finally the house next door where my cousins lived. Oh, there were other buildings here and there, but none played a part in my young life. If I were to walk in the opposite direction , my Gram and Grampa Martin’s house was right there. It was my place to seek warmth when I needed a little extra love and attention.  Below was the home of Grace and Charlie Day. With no children of their own, they reached out to me and gathered me in on stormy days. At least I thought they were stormy!  My Uncle Dwight had a huge home built and the Pralls had a summer home  nearby. I never did venture close to the Pralls, thinking they were rich people.  The Sullivans on the point each summer and the tarred road ended right there. The dirt road began and I trudged many times to the home of my Uncle Roy and to see my friend, Gladys Bailey.

That small hamlet was my entire world with perhaps a ride to the village of Locke Mills and to Greenwood City in the other direction. Although not realizing it at the time, the entire neighborhood was like one big family and we looked out for each other.  We spent hours running up and down the tarred road, rolling old automobile tires and racing against each other. I played in the dirt with my brother using his trucks to haul pigweed ( our logs) in the sand. I used the Teeny Weeny family from the cardboard in the Shredded Wheat to fuel my imagination as I played alone. I read constantly and on rainy days, cut pictures of little girls from the discarded Sears catalogs my Grandmother saved for me.

What would I have done without imagination. It took me everywhere and I confess I became a day-dreamer. Many a time, my mother would say, young lady, get your head out of the clouds. I always did, but in a short while, the head was back in the clouds again.  I became a voracious reader, something I got from my Dad, I believe. I found I could travel anywhere with a good book in my hands.

I have noticed over the years the change in behavior in our youth. I accept their music as my parents accepted mine. They didn’t understand mine anymore than I understand some of the music of today. But that’s ok. I am open to change. I remember the emphasis on respect when I was growing up. I was not afraid of my parents, but on the other hand, when they spoke to me I obeyed. Were they too strict? Perhaps by today’s standards, they would have been considered strict. My mother had , what she called, a “switch stick”. I remember the sting of that on the back of my legs. Did it hurt? Well, yes. Did it harm my psyche for life? No. Did I repeat the action that required the sting? No. There is a huge difference between spanking and being brutally beaten. Sadly there are some parents who have never learned the difference. I never dreamed of hitting my parents, kicking them, whining for something or sassing them. Oh, I did my share of sassing, but the punishment followed.

I respected my grandparents. I never forgot to be polite and one always behaved when in their presence. Now you are thinking, boy, she had to be one perfect angel. No, that would be the farthest from the truth. I was always in trouble for my sense of humor and not getting chores done. But we were taught respect and I, in turn, taught my four children respect. Somewhere, along the years, the respect has faded in our society.  For someone my age, this is sad , but such a delight to come across younger people who have still been taught that very important element.

We were a poor family in terms of material wealth. We had our share of hardships, but the core of our family was working together and music. Who can be sad where there is music??  I had a neighborhood of people who were there for each other and cared deeply for others. It was a simple life. It was a poor life. We didn’t realize we were poor because we knew nothing else. We rode on wings of imagination and took each storm in our stride. I would like to think that somewhere there is such a place still where a little girl can sit and read, sit and fish, sit and think without fear of violence.

It is a different kind of world today. Much of it is for the better. Sadly, there is the other side of the coin. Tomorrow I will have lived 77 years; look at the picture and particularly the eyes for those eyes have seen more changes than words can tell.

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