Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When I was a Child

When I was a child, my favorite thing to do on summer days was lay in the grass and watch clouds float by.  Lazy summer clouds they were and I would imagine shapes out of those clouds and just drift.  My mind was as lazy as my body, but that was OK, it was summer, and summer was meant to be slowed and appreciated. 

When did we lose that?  When did I grow up and think if I had a day where I just sat in a hammock and watched the clouds, and it wasn't a vacation day that it was just wrong and I was not, somehow, contributing to society. When did that change? 

When I was a kid,  we had chores in summer, but nothing that took more than an hour on any given day, except for hoeing which could be as long as 3 hours, but was not an everyday or week experience.  We had time for pick up baseball games, and roaming our creek flats, swatting mosquitoes and playing Bloody Murder of an evening, until our parents called us home.  We played in the haymow even though it made us itchy and dirty, swinging from an old rope to a pile of straw on the floor.  We made rafts every summer to float down the creek.  For some reason, for some reason, heretofore not examined, the rafts never floated away once they were actually launched.  Of course, even though we started a raft every summer, we seldom got to the point of actually launching them.  Once my brother and I had learned the art of riding our two wheeled bikes, our country neighborhood was our oyster.  He had his pick of a couple of houses down the road with boys.  I had my next door neighbors, Betty and Marlene, sisters and I fell right smack dab between them in age.  We were seldom apart from then on until high school.  We remained friends but high school was where our future lives took ahold of us.  I seldom see Marlene or Betty any longer.  Jobs and lives took them away from here, though their parents still live close by.  It saddens me, but its not of my doing so as many would say, it is what it is.  The memories are good ones and that feeds my soul at times when life was so much simpler and uncomplicated. 

When I was a child we had a small grocery store a half mile away on what we called, "Nelson Corner".  It was where Nelson Road and Hemlock Road crossed and beside the store, there was a Methodist church across the road and our township hall, with a large stone monument on the front to the fallen servicemen of WWII  from the area, its one note of distinction.  Betty and Marlene's Uncle Reinhold's name was there, a source of pride and curiostiy for us.  But it was cool to have your name forever embedded in stone in front of a prominent building. 
The store, was a country store run by two of the sweetest people ever put on this earth.  Mr and Mrs Wilsey were gems and even then we knew how lucky we kids were for them to own the store.  The store had wood floors and floor to ceiling shelves on the side walls.  The center shelves were were an adults head high.  A cold water Coke machine was to your right when you walked in.  Having a soda pop for us was a treat and I can still remember how even on the hottest summer days, the bottles would be icy cold and so refreshing.  Next to the Coke machine was a freezer compartment that held ice cream and frozen treats.  Popsicles were a nickel and creamsicles and drumsticks were a dime.  Along that wall from the freezer to the back of the store where the counter was  were the candy shelves.  Penny candy and nickel candy bars, more candy than I ever saw even in the bigger grocery stores.  It was always my delight.  The counter in the back of the store was a large oak counter, sturdy through decades of use.  A large old cash register sat on the counter.  On the other end was the cold meats cooler, mostly luncheon meats, sliced to order and a cooler with milk and refrigerated dairy products.  The middle aisles were stacked with canned goods and non perishable foods.  Packaged cookies, Hostess cupcakes and twinkies, boxes of dry cereals, and bags of flour and sugar.  The other side wall held the "gift" area.  Virtually anything a person could need in the name of a small gift for child or adult could be found there.  Paper and pens, ceramic pieces and all manner of small toys.  Once when I was a teenager I helped Mrs Wilsey do New Year's inventory, in which everything had to be counted, every item in the store.  There were things on the top shelves of the gift area that had layers of dust, denoting they had gone years with no one knowing they were there.  It was a revelation to me, and one of my first aspirations as a child was to grow up and own a store just like Mr and Mrs. Wilsey.  The fact, that they lived just a doorway away, behind the store proper made it even more fun.  If no one was at the counter when we came in, you just yelled as the radio was generally going and they were in the kitchen in back.   Big fans on the ceiling circulated air in the summer months.  I remember the store most in the summer.  Seldom did a day go by that we did not find an errand to run for our mom's by bike down to the Store.  Even without an errand we often would congregate on the front porch beside the gas pumps, our bicycles flung down every which way and just talk.  We viewed our world from our children's perspective on that country store's front porch.  If I only had that place to go back to. 
Aside from endless summers, my favorite time at the store was Halloween.  We went trick or treating by car caravan as it was too far between neighbors to walk or ride bike at that time of year.  We usually went with the Gustaras, one year my mom driving, the next Marlene and Betty's .  We had grandparents houses to stop at and the neighborhood at large, but a definite stop was always at Wilsey's store.  On Halloween we were allowed to take one of every penny candy in the store.  It was a magnifiscent haul for kids who's treats consisted of alot of apples, popcorn balls and homemade cookies, all too often broken by the afore mentioned apples plopped on them.  To get real candy was rare for us, and we thought we had died and gone to heaven.  Oh for the feeling of unmitigated delight at a surprise so rare and so dependable today.  I guess part of it went with the innocence of being a child, but how I wish I could get that country store and those wonderful people, long gone, back for just an hour...
When I was a child, we had baby calves and kittens in the haymow.  The calves would have to be bucket fed and would lick you with big rough tongues.  Kittens would do the same except that their tongues were much smaller and tickled.  The Gustaras had baby chicks for a time and we cuddled and held them, loving their peeps and their soft down.  We played "Barbie dolls" under a weeping willow in their back yard, or in the grainery bins at my house.  We became adept at making doll furniture out of all kinds of things and it became furniture mostly through our imaginations. 
When I was a child, holidays were special.  Each one significant and a disruption to our daily lives that meant stupendous things were about to happen.  Halloween was planned for weeks, at least our costumes were.  Scrounged up and borrowed outfits, nothing store bought.  Thanksgiving was a celebration of family and lots of food and cousins all getting together.  Easter was baskets hidden away and finding them and never wanting to be the last one to find yours.  I saw my first fireworks on a Fourth of July when I was 11 from the back of a pick up truck loaded up with kids watching in a hay field behind the VFW, and no fireworks I have seen since have been more wondrous and magical.  Christmas was the ultimate holiday, as everyone was kind to everyone, children wanted to be good for Santa Claus to come, and there was JOY in the season.  My birthday came a week before Christmas so I always considered that a very special gift.  Whatever troubles there were in the world, and I know now, there were many, they seemed to be put aside for the Christmas season. 
When I was a child Memorial Day came on the 30th of May.  George Washington's birthday was February 22nd and Abraham Lincoln's was February 12th.  Their birthday's were saluted.  Valentines Day was celebrated with valentines bought at the drugstore and given to every child in the classroom.  When I was a child Labor Day was a day of picnics before school started up again the next day.  And when I was a child, the county fair was the end to our summer and the kick off to fall    When I was a child every season was a reason to have fun and make do with whatever the weather threw at us.
When I was a child life was simpler, at least that is what I like to believe.  We have so much more stimulation now and ways to educate even babies, but we do not take the time to just lay in the grass and stare up at the clouds and wonder.....

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