Some stories that reveal why I know I had a blessed childhood.:
Summers spent in Dayton, Ohio; my Mother’s hometown.
I love the Bell family, what else can I say? We’re having a reunion this summer and you can bet I’m gonna be there! They tell corny jokes, show so much love, are loyal & giving, honor their past, and know that having a beer at a picnic and just talking the whole time, rather than doing lots of activites, is what’s important!
Just one of many highlights for me in Ohio, was making homemade ice cream at Uncle Mike’s house. Using a wonderful old fashioned ice cream maker, we cousins would take turns cranking it till our arms got sore, then there was the wait for the freezing process. But worth it! The vanilla was my favourite..ohhh..so good! Uncle Mike loved the chocolate. He told me recently how he hated when they moved and got rid of it. (Oh no!) But, there will always be the memory, and Mike, if you wanna have the experience again with the grandkids, I’m sure there’s one kickin’ around on eBay somewhere! YAY!
The Pennsylvania Gang.
Grandma Lehr had a swimming pool, and a black raspberry patch, and made crafts out of old soda bottles, styrofoam and pipe cleaners.
Visiting Grandma’s was wonderful in summer..even though the pool always felt like ice water, and you could bet there’d be a bee’s nest under the water slide. I will always remember nights spent there with cousins and my siblings, picking buckets of raspberries with Grandma, making holiday crafts with her, and hearing her & her sisters’ sing in their choral group, “The Sweet Adelines”.
In those days, the land was still farmland, which meant plenty of great sledding fun in winter. And sledding fiascos…it’s so not fun to have to trudge home in the middle of sledding in order to have a million briars picked off of you by your mother and grandmother. (I know you’re still laughing about that one, April and Kathy!)
Christmas and Easter times, the whole family gathered and it was nice to have the same traditions, year after year. And, just so you know, it’s not good to hide a plastic Easter egg in the tailpipe of a car.
Our hometown had a church that played hymns at 7 pm and it rang out from the main street of the little town, over the immediate suburban hills. After dinner I’d catch it, sitting on the small hill in the backyard. Lovely and peaceful.
I was a hammock kinda girl in summer. Lie back, look up through the green maple leaves, always a book by my side and maybe some apples & cheese, and a tall pastel ‘tupperware’ cup of water.
Julie’s dad had a jukebox. She had a simple white dress in the cardboard “dress up” box, many sizes too big, that we’d both scramble to get first, because it would swirl out in a beautiful poofy circle when we’d spin around to the music in our socks. Julie was the one who showed me what “robbers” wore. (Her dad was in the FBI) So, we pulled the pantyhose over our head, and looked at our funny spooky refections in the mirror of the dimly lit bathroom, and laughed.
Her mother was Jewish and her dad Christian, so she taught me about dreidels. I always thought how it was pretty cool that she had 8 days of gifts AND Christmas. Even though the Hanukkah gifts were simple and small, they were fun; and despite what you may think, something that appears to be a “little” gift to an adult, may be something very meaningful and special to a child.
I’d go over to Elin’s house sometimes. In her backyard, we’d pick cherries, and make “tea” by crushing mint leaves in water. She and Julie held an “art sale” one time and taped up their masterpieces on the outside of the garage door. They sold their pieces for a nickle each. So I bought a picture of a boy drinking lemonade through a red & white striped straw. My mother took one look at it and said, “I don’t know why you bought it! You could draw that yourself.” In one way, this was a good form of encouraging my artistic skills, but I also knew why I’d bought that piece: I would’ve never have thought to draw a boy drinking lemonade with a red & white striped staw..and I really liked it!
Jamie and Diane had pale blue ice skater’s costumes with little skirts. And a garage with a smooth floor and metal pole in the center: Can you say “daily rollerskating party”?!
Jamie was my best friend for a long time. I’d run to her house in bare feet every day. We played with dolls, built blanket tents on the clothesline, did daring “penny-drops” off the top of the swingset, and traded friendship pins. And they moved away one day, when I was about 9 or 10, and it feels a bit strange when you still see the house where your friend used to live, any time you go for a walk…and wonder if she still has memories of you.
When Jamie and Diane moved, I met a new Jamie, just about my age. She and her little brother, Tony, moved in, right next door, for a short time while their family was building a house in the area. So Jamie and I had great fun together; tape recording silly “radio shows”, playing with Barbies, building huge snow forts in the waist-high drifts we had that winter. We climbed trees and made “houses” in them, with baby blankets for curtains. She was going to spend the night at my house one night, but got a bit “homesick” even before it was very late. Of course I was very dissappointed, but walked her home, just the same.
I was invited to their new house on a few occassions, after they’d moved. The house was big, new, beautiful, light and ..just fantastic. But we spent most of our time in the field behind the house, where, if you walked down a small trail in the brushy growth, there were some ponies in her neighbour’s yard. I could tell this was her favourite thing about the new place and I was really happy for her. Those ponies were really nice to pet: so gentle and soft.
Behind my friend Alex’s house, there was an enormous willow tree. It was growing on a creek bed at the bottom of a hill, and had been there for ages, as our neighborhood had been a farm since the days of William Penn, up until the late 1960s. The barn is still there.
This willow is one of the most magical memories of childhood that I have. The branches swept across the ground in a wide, uniform circle around the thick trunk. We’d pull back the curtain of branches to reveal a pretty, secret enclosed space that hinted of the possiblities of faeries and bathed us in a pale green light. No better place in this world was created as a fort/playhouse/meeting spot! None.
The creek was also good place in which to wade and float popsicle stick boats.
Alex, however, was not always such a peaceful child. He’s the one who so got angry one time that he bit my (fake) Winnie-the-Pooh’s HARD 1970s PLASTIC nose in half. I am still as shocked by that memory today, as I was when I saw it happening before my own eyes.
I was simply too amazed by it to be very angry about it! But yes, I wasn’t too impressed! Poor ole’ bear.
And, so, that’s part one of my walk down memory lane.. I don’t know yet if I’ll continue it tomorrow, unless you’re dying to hear more right away… Haaa.
But I definitely want to continue it! And I like writing for this blog every day, so I’ll post something, if not that.
Today I will do a little gathering up of documents, sewing, cleaning of the kitchen, and reading! Maybe I will even write one letter.
Take Care everyone! Go make some sweet memories!
For the artists and art lovers:
Here’s an another illustration from 2000.:
I used a technique called “ink resist”, that gives the painting the look a woodblock print, which I love. I changed technique when a lot of my classmates started using it, but mainly because it can be quite unpredictable. Not good for short deadlines!
The process involves painting a good weight watercolour paper with gouache (A chalky sort of watercolour) and leaving any areas which you want to be black, unpainted. Let that dry completely, then paint over EVERYTHING with waterPROOF ink. (Water resistant won’t work) Let that dry completely, then rinse the whole piece under water and scrub (lightly and quickly) to reveal the stained colours and black lines. I found that using a bit of warm water at the very very start, and then very cold water, for only as long as needed, help to keep the paper from getting too saturated and/or torn. Experiment with colours and ways of doing it..to see what works for you. I must say it’s fun!