Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Letter 4

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,


Michelle said...

Ah, memories...we never camped, but I remember playing outside at night for hours, and entertaining ourselves. Those memories are good.

Thanks for sharing. I do so enjoy your stories.

Meggie said...

What a wonderful idea for you to take the time to write out your memories for your children.

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s, so I identify with your story so much. My family camped also. Often we took a neighbor kid or two along because, as they always said, "our family never does anything fun like you all do." Our favorite places to camp were Buffalo River State Park (renamed Buffalo Point National River) and Blanchard Springs, over near Mtn. View where the water was so cold I can't believe we actually swam in it. But then again, you could see all the way to the bottom of the creek we swam in, that's how clear the water was. And I can't remember our parents watching us that closely either. We played and swam till the sun went down and were forced to come back.

Lindi said...

Yes, thanks, Marlene, for sharing. This brings back loads of memories. I really was a different time, wasn't it? One that I am so glad I was a part of. We would disappear in the mornings and come home before the street lights came on. Of course, we didn't have the population intruding on the bush areas back then, nor were there as many roads. Certainly no dual lane roads around our town!
I sound like the "olds" reminiscing about when they were young! lol But I do appreciate what they meant, more now.

Amelia said...

Yes, those were some wonderful cares or worries in our minds as children...we did not have any money - but yet it did not seem to matter...we had fun -like your family...camping with the barest of essentials.

Keep writing those letters and letting your readers remember those care free times of our youth.

tamarabushwhite said...

Thanks again Momma, I love these letters!

I didn't know about the "mosquito bar"! Not surprised though, cause my Mamaw & Papaw could make ANYTHING! :-) I remember when we were at their house when we were young, Mamaw would always give us the COOLEST stuff to play with - shells, fabric, needles & thread, buttons, etc. & if we wanted to play outside - we could pick vegetables with Papaw in the garden, or work on getting fishing gear ready, or on a motor of some sort... (no yukey store bought toys at their house)! LY

BarbCarol said...

That "mosquito bar" was the most wonderful room! At bedtime, you and I cuddled up on the quilt on the floor and giggled and whispered with our foreheads pressed together for what seemed like hours. But I'm sure it was only minutes after the active day of climbing on and over big tree roots, lying on logs out over the river to watch gars and big turtles, playing in the water, playing in the mud, playing hide and seek, tag, and anything else 6-year-olds could think of. How I miss it!

BarbCarol said...


My mother always tells me how your Papaw took me outside at age 2 days (after dressing me in my best pink dress and bonnet) to introduce me to the cows, horses and mules and show me all the tools of farming. The next 7 years of my life revolved around his energy and enthusiasm for life. I loved your grandparents dearly and thought I would die when we moved to CA and I realized I wouldn't see them again.

Linda - Behind My Red Door said...

I promised myself I would shut down at 8 until I saw you posted letter 4. This was hit home with me as I grew up camping. Mostly we had a simple simeple tent trailer but with 6 people, the kids slept in a tent, a real primitive one. We camped with other families at times, and we too went off half the day while the adults hung out. Baths were in the lake or river too. What fun those days were. A simpler time!!

Journeying said...

What wonderful memories. I think it's really wonderful that you are writing these things down in your own words for your children and grandchildren to have.
Camping didn't really enter the picture till I was a bit older, but all the kids in the neighborhood played together while our parents visited and we had ice cream crankings and watermelon bustings and played Red Rover and Kick the Can till all hours and nobody worried about all the things we worry about now.
Thanks for sharing!

Journeying said...

What wonderful memories. I think it's really wonderful that you are writing these things down in your own words for your children and grandchildren to have.
Camping didn't really enter the picture till I was a bit older, but all the kids in the neighborhood played together while our parents visited and we had ice cream crankings and watermelon bustings and played Red Rover and Kick the Can till all hours and nobody worried about all the things we worry about now.
Thanks for sharing!

Sandy said...

We never camped, but I remember summer picnics at the park.
Yes, it was a time when we also were on our own and our parents knew we would return "when the street lights came on". Wonderful memories...thanks again for sharing!

Val said...

Oh your memories really brought back memories for me. My Mom & Dad camped too. We always had spaghetti casserole on Friday nights and Steaks on Saturday nights with homemade yeast rolls. My parents played cards at night too. We had a ball as kids, but when the teenager years came we didn't appreciate it like we should have. Thanks for bringing back good memories for me.

Unknown said...

Good post, Marlene! Thanks for taking me back to my childhood. I almost forgot how sweet it was camping with friends and family.

Jacquie said...

Loved this letter, too! When you mentioned the Coleman lantern... it took me back to our camping days. I remember watching my dad start it... and the sound it made.

I loved our camping trips.

molly said...

It was the same for us in Ireland. During the summer holidays from school we went out to play after breakfast and only popped home for lunch, then off out again, to the fort we'd built at the bottom of a friend's garden, or to play cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians....Our parents had a general idea of what we were doing, and who we were doing it with, and where we were doing it, but for the most part we were left alone. No parents micromanaging every moment of our days! We had fun, with very little, and our imaginations blossomed!

Calamity Jane's Cottage, Bonnie said...

Hi Marlene, I swear we could of camped together growing up. I could borrow your letter and my kids wouldn't know you wrote it, because our lives were so much a like. To this day I have to sleep with a fan blowing in my face...
Love your letter,

Marie Rayner said...

What wonderful memories Marlene. I am sure you family will love to get these special letters from you. I have never really been camping. Well, I did go once for one night and I hated every minute of it. I guess I am not a camper. :-)

Phyllis said...

Hi Marlene,

I'm glad you wrote another piece of history.

We didn't camp but us kids got to sleep outside a lot in the summer. We'd either sleep on the porch or sometimes just on a blanket in a pup tent my brother had. The ground was hard but we loved the smell of grass and canvas. We'd be covered with mosquito bites.

I had a similar experience of stepping into a drop off in the Ohio River and still am very much a land lover. And I loved playing in the woods. I shudder to think of how deep in we would go by ourselves!

Please keep these stories coming!


Angie said...

Entries like this are worth their weight in gold. And you know Marlene, it wasn't all that long ago, was it? Tempus fugit, as tey say!

love, Angie, xx

Marlene said...

Hi Marlene, I came over from Paulines Country Tales and then to Angie and then to you. I loved all your memories. What good memories we have at our age. Will these kids have good ones? Marlene
(Yeh, I am Marlene too)

Jan said...

Marlene thankyou for sharing your memories with us ,good and even the not so good things that shaped us and made us what we are today Jan xx

Tracy P. said...

Very sweet, Marlene! We never camped as a family, but we did go to a cabin at a lake. Couldn't get me out of the water for anything--except an occasional leech! Fun times!

Mary L. Briggs said...

What wonderful memories! I loved to tent camp when I was a kid.

You are so right about the attice fans making you cold at night! My dad had ours going every summer night when I was a kid. I was glad to get air conditioning~it was warmer!

Memaw's memories said...

We didn't camp when I was a kid, but I made up for it with my two older children. I love it, just don't get to do it any more.

And you are right, we played on our own, and no one was afraid anything would happen to us.

We had very few toys also. But we managed to have fun anyway.

Grammy Staffy said...

I never camped out as a child. My mom couldn't afford camping equipment... but we did get a motor home when our children were young and we enjoyed going all over the place camping. We also have done quite a bit of tent camping. We love it all but I must admit I do prefer the motor home with a potty over the tent with an out house.

I hope that you have a wonderful week. I am sending you love. Lura