Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Childhood Memories

I was talking to my boss today about something I've wondered about often as I raise my children. I also read an article about being frugal recently that reminded me of why I am the way I am. I was raised in a very frugal household. Truth be told, frugal is a nice way of saying my parents were CHEAP! I don't think I had a glimmer of understanding as a child or teenager growing up there. Sorry mama and daddy! I can now see the wisdom of your ways. Better late than never, eh?

So today my boss and I discussed 'then vs. now'. He killed a wild hog and made us all sausage biscuits for breakfast. That's the kind of boss I have! I mentioned that my dad killed hogs too, for food, and that I was paid a quarter per coffee can full of acorns, which we fed the hogs. I should have gotten rich but I bet I only made a few dollars worth. Then I told him that I worry about kids today, especially my kids, because they can't even understand the kinds of things I had to do growing up. Do all parents feel this way? Or is my case extreme? I don't know!

We didn't have air conditioning growing up. We did have an attic fan to pull in the cooler air at night but that was it. I moved away to college before I ever had central a/c. We gathered firewood all winter long to keep warm. We closed off our house and lived in the back half that had a fireplace and wood heater. One unlucky kid was picked every night to run up a half hour before bedtime to turn on every one's electric blanket so we wouldn't freeze solid overnight. You could see your breath up there! Our house was 100 years old and didn't have insulation.

The only way you could earn enough money to go to the skating rink on Saturday afternoons was to help get enough firewood for the week onto the side porch. I'd arrive bone tired and listen as my friends talked about the OTHER fun stuff they'd done that day.

The other extreme was to be set out in a hayfield and told to pick up rocks and put them to the side so the hay baler wouldn't pick them up. That has to be the hottest job on earth!

In the summer we tended our garden. We'd get up before daylight and head out with buckets and bags to pick so we could be back on the back porch steps when the sun got high and hot. I still remember my fingers getting raw snapping green beans. Once my sister had a little friend come visit as we shucked corn. She was a 'city kid'. I remember her eyes got really big and she exclaimed, "I didn't know you had to PEEL corn!" I admit, I was part envious that you could make it that far in life without knowing that. You couldn't escape garden patrol even if you went next door to your cousin's house. They had just as many bags of beans that needed snapping as your house did. At least Uncle Frankie made up silly songs though!

But you know, I really appreciate my upbringing now. I realize I wasn't being intentionally tortured. In fact, my parents did ten times more work than I did, working right along side me. My poor mother had to take all those snapped beans and combine them with the tomatoes, corn, okra, etc and can it all. We sure did eat a lot of homemade vegetable soup in the winter. Still a favorite of mine! And the soup had meat in it. Meat from our cows. When I say homemade, I mean all the way.

And don't even get me started about homemade clothes! Whew, some of the stuff we wore would itch a warthog to distraction! My dad worked in textiles and he brought home fabric remnants. Mostly knit, unfortunately. Then he'd size us up and start cutting. Then my mom would take over and, VIOLA, I'd have a new outfit. And both my sisters, too. And we'd all match and itch in our air condition-less house.

Which brings me to our family. My kids are clueless, and I regret that. But I am at a loss as to how I could do anything differently. We have a garden, on that fits into our subdivision yard. My kids didn't get to grow up on a 60 acre farm. Gardening is a hobby to them, not a way to eat through winter. And firewood? What's that? Just push the up arrow on the thermostat and the house warms up. Magically!

We are going to Myrtle Beach soon for a long weekend. Taking the kids out of school for a day. It is sort of our last hurrah for the summer season. Time to make our peace with the end of summer. Get a grip on ourselves and decide that fall really is upon us. It is hardly on the kid's radar screen that we are going, although we've mentioned it frequently.

Back in the day, first of all, you'd have had to have been on deaths doorstep to get out of school. I don't know of anybody who got out of school for FUN. That was blasphemy! And this weekend trip, that means hardly nothing to my kids was longer than our entire summer vacation when I was growing up. We went to the beach for three days. Yep, we all but passed ourselves on the road headed back! And the excitement was over the top. We had those paper chains counting down the days til we left for our HUGE SUMMER VACATION. My goodness. I remember seeing the ocean for the first time, between the shops along Ocean Blvd. It looked like a mountain, like it should just swallow us up as we got closer. And then the rides at the Pavillion would come into view and I wonder how they kept us from jumping out of the car! Probably the only reason was because it was daytime and no one was riding them yet. I remember eating all our own food, because just because you went on vacation didn't mean you had to eat out. I remember getting a few tickets for the rides and making what seemed like life and death decisions over what we'd ride that night. I remember water boggin' til I could barely make it back up the steps with that heavy mat. I remember renting a float, red on one side, blue on the other. I remember my dad's really white legs! (Gardens and hay fields required overalls, not shorts.)

My kids will float in the lazy river. Eat out every meal. Get a wrist band and ride every ride. Twice. And they'll grumble on the way down because it will take SO LONG to get there, as they play with their DSi XL's and feel sorry for themselves because they'll lose Wi-Fi when we pull out of the driveway.

How sad is that?


Lynn said...

Lisa, I love the way you write, you put a lot of detail into it,which I think is great. YOu should be a writer.
I guess we don't realize how much our parents loved us by the way they brought us up, the only way they knew how. I think it's great that you can let your parents know how much you appreciated it while they are alive.
Kids today are given so much because of parents feeling deprived (which they really weren't)that they want to give their kids what they didn't have.
My kids maybe were deprived compared to their kids.
I really enjoy reading your blog.

Lee said...

I don't know that there is anything that substitutes for the experience of being raised on a farm--the values it teaches. The church teaches us to teach our kids how to work but sometimes I think we think it is just easier to go ahead and do it ourselves rather than teaching our kids how to do it and putting up with mistakes, gripes, etc. I remember Rose's friends were amazed when she had to earn the money to go to Busch Gardens the first time and that was in 7th grade. She didn't make it to Disney til this year on Grad Nite! I am hoping to get her a job with my brother next summer--he cleans oil tankers, crime scenes--a lot of heavy-duty physical work in Haz-Mat suits--should make nursing look like a snap!

The Crazy Coxes said...

I love it!
I have heard my husband say the same types of things all summer!
I can't wait until our kids grow up and I would love to hear their perspective!

Jean said...

I remember those days! Our 3 day beach vacations. Getting up every weekend in the winter to go haul wood and in the summer to pick green beans. Every time I think of the song "You are my sunshine" i always end it with "when you pick beans"!

Cathy said...

What a nice blog. I'm a new follower from blog frog. I look forward to reading future posts and getting to know you better!

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad that I found your blog. LOVE this post about childhood days. I didn't have to do gardening as much as you but I vividly remember my fingertips hurting from snapping bean after bean. But, looking back I wouldn't trade it. We're living on a farm now, it's a new experience for me and the boys!! :) Enjoying your blog, I'll be back often!


Jennifer said...

I'm so glad that I found your blog. LOVE this post about childhood days. I didn't have to do gardening as much as you but I vividly remember my fingertips hurting from snapping bean after bean. But, looking back I wouldn't trade it. We're living on a farm now, it's a new experience for me and the boys!! :) Enjoying your blog, I'll be back often!


Kimberly said...

Very nice post. I have a lot of fond memories spending the summers on my grandparents farm! Those are some of the best memories! I really enjoy your blog...saw you on Blog Frog! Following you now! ~Kimberly


Myrtle's Turtles said...

Hi Lisa,
It sounds like our childhoods were similar in some ways. We always ate homemade bread and rarely ate out of a box or can. I love the memories we had of going to pick up our fresh chickens and picking lots of fruits and veggies in the summer. I try to carry some of that over to my children now. It can be hard because life is so busy! I found you through blog frog. I am your newest follower!