For those of you who don't read my blog regularly: This is my memory letter #4. I'm writing these so that my children and grandchildren will have a record of some of the things I remember about my childhood, and to remind those of you who lived during that time of some of the things we did. Let me know if these bring back memories for you!
Dear Family and Friends,
We’ve had the strangest weather in Arkansas this spring. It got warm, really warm, and then cold, really cold. Warm, cold, warm, cold, back and forth several times. And rain – we’ve had lots and lots of rain, with hail and high winds that sent us to the patio doors to watch the trees sway and bend. One night when tornados hit in neighboring counties it sent my husband (I wasn’t home) to sit in the bathtub for a while, something he’s never ever done! But all is well. We always worry about trees coming down but so far only a few branches have hit the ground. And every day we get closer and closer to warm weather so this week Jerry will be cleaning up the boat and putting it in the water. I can hardly wait to go for a ride!
I’m living in my camper right now in Fort Smith where my son and his family live so that I can keep their newest baby, Andrew, while his parents work. I will stay until school is out and his mother is home for the summer. By the time school starts again he’ll be 8 months old and I’ll feel better about him going to day care. Staying in the camper has reminded me of our camping days when we were children. Oh how fun that was!
Since money was nearly nonexistent at our house camping was done in the most basic of ways. We went from Pine Bluff south to near Rison on the Saline River. My mother sewed up a “mosquito bar” which was where we slept and ate. She used some kind of netting to make a portable room that had a roof and 4 sides. On one side was a long zipper that made our doorway. Daddy had long poles that he somehow hooked it to with one in the middle to hold up the roof. We put a table of some kind in there with all our food, used an ice chest for the cold stuff, and slept on pallets on the bare dirt or on a tarp laid on the dirt. What cooking we did was on an open fire outside the mosquito bar but mostly I remember sandwiches. We had Coleman lanterns to hang from the trees for light at night. I remember long lazy days playing in the river – that was the only bath we got! Once I stepped in a hole in the river bed and nearly drowned. L My older brother, Freddie, hauled me out, thank goodness. But that little episode made me afraid of water over my head for the rest of my life! I’ve taken swimming lessons as an adult at least six times now. The last time I had lessons I jumped in the deep end, swam across the pool, treaded water for one minute and swam back. And it didn’t matter one bit because I’m still scared of the water.
It was on one of those camping trips that I got my first kiss. I was about 12 years old I guess and the boy involved in that little landmark is still a good friend. He and his wife have been friends of ours since college days and we still see them as often as possible.
In those days, whether or not we were camping, there was no air conditioning anywhere we went. At home we had a great big water cooler in the window. You wet down the outside and turned it on. It was just a giant fan that blew air over water so it felt cool when the temperature was in the nineties or hundreds. At night we turned on the attic fan and actually got cold even on the hottest summer days. When we were camping the days were long and hot but we could always go jump in the river to cool off. We played hard in the mornings, laid around in the afternoons, and played hard again after supper. Sleep came easily because by the time bedtime rolled around we were exhausted! I don’t remember our parents trying to keep up with us at all. We swam in an unsupervised river, and we played in the woods, and we might not see our parents for hours. They didn’t worry and neither did we. It was a different time and a different way of life than now.
We camped with other families who also had children. Our parents fished together in the daytime and played cards at night. And the children just played. If we fought we also settled it among ourselves. We didn’t go whining to the adults because they would have just told us to hush up and act nice. I remember the packing up to go and how excited we got because usually we were going for several days and it was a great vacation. And I remember the packing up to come home. There was dirt on everything, including us, the food was gone, we were brown as berries and we didn’t want to leave.
Now when I see parents taking their kids on vacation, whether it’s camping or to Disney World, I see the children being entertained every minute. That’s too bad. Imagination only develops if it’s exercised, and not if everything is shown to us or given to us. If we had a cigar box and some string they became a treasure chest tied up and buried and then dug up again, or a doll bed, or we glued sticks and rocks on it to decorate it and used it for a jewelry box. We could entertain ourselves with very little and we had to because there were very few store bought toys.
It’s getting late and I must go. I’ll write again soon.
Peace and Blessings,