I lived my first decade of life in a small town. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, growing up in a small town was a blessing. The first thing I remember about our life was that I was free to roam. Everyone knew me, my parents, and where I lived. If I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, then I could be sure that my parents would find out about it. The only real restrictions I had were to be home before dark. If I wasn’t riding my bike hither and thither or at a friend’s house, I could be found at the library or at my dad’s beauty shop. He styled hair for men and women and offered tanning and hair electrolysis. On many occasions I was his model. While my friends had long hair and beribboned barrets, I sported the more adult hair trends. (Looking back, I wonder why my mom allowed him to give me hair like Sheena Easton’s, but she did.) Dad kept a fridge filled with Coca-Cola in the bottles for his customers. Visits from the Coke man were a big deal.
The second thing that comes to mind when I think about my small-town childhood is friends. I had a hard time making friends with girls, but I had a few very close girl friends. Their parents and my parents were best friends; our families did almost everything together. Mom played Bridge every weekend with the moms. The men watched sports, grilled, or just sat around and talked. The adult games changed (I remember Scruples and Trivial Pursuit became popular), but it was always the same for us kids: lots of unsupervised fun. We watched movies like Romancing the Stone and The Goonies. The Cosby Show, Solid Gold and Star Search were our favorite shows on t.v. We lip-synched and danced to our favorite Whitney Houston songs. And, of course, I performed my favorite Olivia Newton-John hits (if you’re a regular reader, then you know how I loved ONJ). We played “Restaurant.” I hated it when most of the kids wanted to play Barbies, but I could deal with it as long as I got one of the dolls with pop-able joints. Friday and Saturday nights were for staying up late to watch Night Tracks.
Another group of friends was our neighbors. Pete and Margaret were the best neighbors a little girl could ask for. They kept a loving eye on me and my little brother. Margaret’s teeth clicked when she talked, she always wore her apron, and she introduced me to peanut butter cookies, the kind with fork imprints on the top. The Bryants lived across the street. Mr. and Mrs. Bryant gave me a cup of candy canes for Christmas. We all spent a lot of time on our front porches. The houses all had wide front porches for swings and rocking chairs. I remember many summer nights spent on our porch swing with my head in my mom’s lap, listening to her sing old songs. Songs that reminded me “to thank the Lord for making me, me,” and about a harvest moon, and what wise men say. My little brother played with Hot Wheels and Transformers. Dad would rock and hull peas or shuck corn from his gardens. When the weather was nice we slept with the windows open. Our door was rarely locked.
The third aspect of small-town living I remember is that it was expected of us to attend church regularly. Jesus wasn’t part of our home, but we attended the big Baptist church that was only about a block or two from our house. When the weather was nice, we walked to church. Mrs. Lavender was my first Sunday School teacher and the only one I can remember. I loved her. I loved the sound my shoes made when we walked down the hallway. I loved the elderly woman with the beehive hair-do who gave me Big Red gum every Sunday morning before “big church.” I loved the rhythm of worship; it was the same every Sunday. A swelling chord from the organ signaled my favorite part: singing the Doxology. I have a vivid memory of fighting my tears when I realized Dad couldn’t sing — he kept his voice low and kind of mumbly, but far, far from the right key. I remember the first time I saw a baptism — I had no idea what it was. I guess there weren’t very many baptisms for me to see since everyone in town had already gotten wet at least once.
I don’t recall much about my childhood, but I love what I do remember. Thanks for taking a stroll down memory lane with me.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?