What can a child do for play when he or she lives far into the countryside?
Learn how to ride a tricycle.
Make friends with the grandparents- and the dog. "Come here, Poochy, Poochy. Let's go inside."
Make friends with all living chickens.
"They will never take your head, I swear, not as long as you keep this string on your leg."
Make friends with aunts who own hula hoops.
"Is that doll walking?"
Make friends with your own dolls. "Shh, don't tell the others, but you are my favorite."
Finally, when all else fails.
Significance of Entertainment: When I was a child, I certainly used my imagination seemingly more so than the children of today. I can't remember a time when I had to be entertained. I entertained myself. I've never liked the phrase "I'm bored" and didn't let my children get away with saying they were bored. If they couldn't find something to do (I would tell them) I would find something FOR them to do. Even today, I don't get bored. I think it's because I can always find something to challenge or entertain my brain.
We are, after all, in charge of our own contentment.
How about you? What did you entertain yourself with as child?
I know I'm blessed to have known and to have grown up with both my parents, in the same home. Here are a few things I want to say about my dad.
Photo: James Dean Dad and me. (Some babies are just too cute for words.)
Growing up with him, as my dad, was often exciting. He has been called the Indiana Jones of MO. He was always exploring Missouri landscape or caves. He often rescued Indian artifacts from the farmer's plows and preserved them with care as if they were his own family treasures. I saw him nurse all kinds of wild critters back to health when they had been injured. If they were afraid of him, they weren't so much at the end. Because of his ease with wildlife, I can hold a snake or a frog and not feel threatened.
I saw blocks of wood and sticks intricately carved into statues and walking sticks or canes. I saw blank canvas turned into familiar scenes or new places.
And he's always liked storytelling through writing.
He loves history. He’s been in civil war reenactments. He’s been in community skits. He’s written for our local newspapers and other Missouri publications. He also had an acting part where he rode a horse (may have been his own) in an independently made movie.
A Memory: In the mid 1970’s a snow storm hit our area knocking out power and piling snow on the roadways. And I mean piling. We were stuck and without electricity for at least a week. I was into reading classics then too and after reading the first few chapters of Jane Eyre had finally become interested. I was invested and now wanted desperately to read my book and tried to do so by whatever light we had: candles, kerosene lamps and flashlights. My dad decided, however, I needed to take a break, that I might be straining my eyes. He read one of his futuristic stories to us. Although I don’t remember the details of the story, I do remember it was about earth and how disease (I think) had wiped out most of the world's population. There was, of course, more to it than that, but what I remember most was the mood and how I related our circumstance (feeling isolated) to the character's circumstance in the story.
Interests: My dad and I have interests that are shared. We both like writing, drawing, and singing. We love creatures of all kinds (our whole family does). Oh and we both like buzzards.
Lessons learned: One of the best lessons I learned from my dad was something (and still in my mind) he told us growing up. He said, we needed to be fair to all people and not discriminate against anyone because of race or social status.
Best Gifts: My dad has been a trustworthy presence to me in my darkest hours. But, the best gift that he has given me is his love and commitment to my mom and their marriage. If you are wondering, this is the best gift you can give your children, too. Although my parent’s relationship like everyone’s has not been trouble free, they both have been committed to each other, never giving up.
There was not a nicer man than Ernie B., a storekeeper in my rural town. His store was located diagonally across a highway from my childhood home. His store sang with activity during my childhood years. During warmer weather, I loved playing in my yard and watching.
Sometimes my brother would join me and we would sit on the slope of our yard watching people coming and going at the mercantile. More days than not, our friend Ernie would toss Bazooka™ bubblegum across the busy highway and into our yard encouraging us to catch it.
We did our best, my brother and me, but I don't remember ever catching our prizes in the air. We would greedily pick up the gum from the ground, remove the wrapper and comic, pop the sugary treat in our mouths chewing with vigor while reviewing the comic. Ernie could have walked the bubblegum over at anytime, but he knew we enjoyed the challenge. Ernie was a very good man.
Visiting the country store was a treat. The store was small, but it housed the community’s Post Office and supplied grocery needs. Not only could you find people from the community getting their mail, but also visiting on the porch and in the store. For children, we loved to gaze upon the goodies and dream. When finances allowed, our folks would buy us a pop (as we called it) and sometimes a candy bar. I always chose RC (Royal Crown) Cola™ and a Butterfinger™ candy bar.
As I got older, I was thrilled and honored to be chosen to cross the highway to get our mail. It was an important responsibility and I was told by my mom to hold the mail tightly and never ever drop it or lose it. I remember clearly the day I did…drop something on the highway and walked on. But, without those experiences how can we really truly learn? After that, I hung on to the mail like my life depended on it.
The highway next to our home was dangerous for children. We were cautioned not to cross it without the help of our parents because of the traffic. But there was also another hazard to the road – the hot bubbly tar surface. Children, in my neck of the woods, loved going barefoot in the summer, I did too. (My feet still cry when winter arrives and I must shove them inside closed shoes.) You have to know me- to know -who I am and how I operate. If it is there, then I want to conquer. And I saw nothing wrong with running across the hot tarred bubbly highway with bare feet. After I crossed the highway, my feet tingled from the heated sappy substance that had adhered to the soles of my feet. I would pause on the well worn bench outside the store, and peel the sticky tar from my feet. If I didn’t I would have tracked it in the store (I was taught better than that) and also if I didn't remove the tar would have to endure the constant tackiness of my feet. My feet grew tough from those summer days.
Ernie has long since passed. His beloved store is now leaning -decaying -covered in vegetation. I think of him and his store occasionally with fond memories.
I am glad to have had the experience of bubblegum, country stores, tarred highways and rural roots.
Photo: Ernie's store - present day
The rural significance to me was a sense of community gathering places where a child could experience the people she knew and loved and who loved her in return. I lived a childhood of security. My mindset changed when I had children. I schooled them in the threat of strangers, what to look for and who not to trust.
I didn't feel threatened by anyone in my community as a child, until I was twelve, but that's another story for another time.
Does this story remind you of an experience you had as a child?
(This was a reworked post from my Journaling Woman blog.)
I had a talk with a friend the other day. She was telling me about her afterschool program. Then we talked about life in a small community and how great and not so great it is. Here are some of my Pros and Cons of living in a small community.
Cons of living a small community:
Everyone knows your story.
Sometimes people who know your story will add to it.
New residents feel like an outsider.
Residents are suspicious of new people and new ways.
You need extra time to drive anywhere on the winding roads.
Drivers are not in a hurry.
Farm equipment is often your road mate.
Everyone waves -all the time.
No anonymity in public places.
Fewer job opportunities.
Fewer extracurricular opportunities.
No public transportation.
Pros of living in a small community:
You are treated like a rock star in spite of your mistakes.
Everyone knows your business which helps- when you need help.
Shirts come off backs when there is a need.
Money leaves pockets when there is a need.
Residents believe they DO accept outsiders.
Faith is contagious and meaningful.
Church socials have the best food in the world.
Since everyone knows your story, there’s no explaining to do.
The slower pace provides more time to experience life.
When it’s time to cry, you aren’t alone.
Need a ride? Ask a neighbor.
The rural significance of experiencing the good and bad of living in a rural community is that the cons of are mostly annoyances, whereby, the pros are often soulful, useful and endearing.
Photo: My mother, brother and cousin Bobby.
Children are watched over by the community and never realize it until they are grown. Needs are met without asking. Property is guarded when you're not available.
When tragedy strikes a community person or the world, the rural community is one of the first to be on the scene. The rural or small community's importance to a person's life is far reaching.
Question: Right where you are (city or rural, large or small), what is your take on your community?