Maybe it is people moving and finding photos, or the fact that I myself am regressing, and Linda and I talk about the mentality of ‘that age’, the childhood age. But I’m doing a couple of ‘Which ones were you?” blogs with pictures. Don’t worry, I will tell all first, so any stories have plenty of company. I also find it wonderful and fascinating because we often as adults don’t talk about our favorite plushie, yet these are the times when emotions were very strong, when time moved very oddly; vacation was LONG time away, school days were long, playing time was short and fast: Childhood.
Linda also has a post today on a Girl’s Gotta Fly if you want to go over there to take a look. Thanks to all the individuals who have reached out in the last several weeks as this has been an especially brutal month for me in both healthwise and emotionally. I am thankful for every single card and letter, and every kindness during this period where now I have several hate mail, or emails a day. This has been a difficult month for a lot of people. I also want to thank those who helped with their commitment and contribution to the Postcard Project which isn’t really my project but the project of many people, who all assist me in a dream, which at times becomes harder to believe in.
On to the pictures, and the stories! I will be mixing pre-school and the first school years here; the time when ‘best friends’ sometimes changed every week, but sometimes lasted for a couple years. The time when you played alone or with others, or were the one organizing the games and bossing people around. The time you had practice and sports, sometimes your choice and sometimes not as you got from piano lessons to karate.
So, I’m going to start with me (which will be spread over several pictures, as I assume it will be with you), which is here. I was both a bit of a loner, but I also had a rather vivid imagination. I didn’t have imaginary friends, I had imaginary worlds! As you can see, here the adventure is over….for now. The poor dog (and my poor dog) has about reached his limit at being….er…the crucial dog to get messages through? And the galactic war will have to wait for another day. We had a dog and a large back yard so whether it was gong on a expedition (putting up a tent….only to find slugs in my shoes when I came out – ahhhhhhh!), or creating my own fish pond, with a wading pool and then going fishing (they were bathtub wind up fish), there was always something going on.
Here is what I was not, even though we had a lot of trees: a tree climber. There seem to be the tree climbers and the non-tree climbers and those who liked to climb trees either have a) a story about a broken limb or b) a favorite branch they liked to hang out on, it was a second home to them. Or sometimes they have both. Though we had several trees, including two very large cherry trees, I was NOT a tree climber, in fact, I had issues with the top rungs of a ladder. But I always liked the idea of being like the squirrels and climbing trees and going from branch to branch. I did TRY, it is just I found out that for example tree branches have SAP. And it gets on your hands, and your clothes and is sticky and dirty! Oddly tree climbers never found this the obstacle I did.
Okay here we have, um, well me, I guess. Plushie, check, tea party, check, flower, check! Although I tended to bring MORE plushies than this (my first bear was green, and lost at the age of 2, on the ferry, I cried a LOT – like hours). When it was winter, you could make a tent out of your bed with the sheets and have a tea party indoors. My favorite plushie was a pink bunny, it was dark pink with a light pink belly and I would put the pen in its paws (I could write quite young, at 3 or so), and write simple love notes. I love you Daddy from Rabbit. That was the bunny’s name: Rabbit. No, not Peter or Flopsy, or Cottontail: Rabbit. I know that there are those who probably looked for BUGS while outdoors instead of flowers and four leaf clovers. Like I will say, everyone is different, and that’s a good thing. I once hit a butterfly with a rake and then cried and got a small box and had a funeral. I think after that my parents did a lot of yard work by themselves as they could envision this quite large graveyard of every moth, butterfly and other animal killed in our backyard.
Okay, here they are, the girls who took music lessons (I wish I had a picture for the girls who took ballet lessons and tap but you can throw yourselves in here too!). A lot of girls got ballet or music lessons from VERY early ages like 2 or 3. Now I hear of girls getting karate or judo lessons from the same age. But the tradition was music (piano!) and ballet. I did not get those, probably because we lived in a rural area and didn’t have a Y or a rec center that I can remember, which is why I had to learn how to swim at 11-12. But there were a lot of them, and I am always curious how many, after taking piano from 3-14 can play piano now? I mean, I learned French for a total of a week and I can still sing Frère Jacques but I think everyone can. So that hardly counts. I can’t imagine picking a saxophone for a child, but perhaps the girl wanted it, we become enamoured with unusual things for unusual reasons. Either way, um, that would have been some ‘interesting’ practice sessions in that house. I have seen 1/8 size double basses for children, it is just I can’t imagine a 5 or 6 year old going, “Mummy, Daddy, I HAVE to play the double bass…..” Which is probably why there are a lot of people who can play piano and not that many the contrabassoon and double bass.
Helping Cooking: not me! But it is a great picture. Linda talks about making little pies from the left over dough her mother rolled. And while I rolled dough at my grandmothers and made sugar cookies the idea of making a tiny apple pie as a child sort of blows me away. But she was on a farm and her mother cooked in an open kitchen so I guess that is what she saw, she still sort of pulls recipies out of her memory from something her mother made when she was 12. I tried making some food but of course went WAY over the top and wanted to make cherries Jubilee (I think it was the setting them on fire that appealed to me!) or soup from scratch. So by the time it was done and people were like, “This is edible” I decided I would live on take-out and instant food if this was the time to appreciation ratio. As an adult I came to enjoy cutting up veg and making sauces and mexican food in particular. But as a child, no. I am sure we have some young little kitchen hands who probably made dinner for their siblings but that wasn’t me (that’s why I had IMAGINARY tea parties – cause I couldn’t make tea.).
Here we have the childhood pet. Since pets teach responsibility, all kids seem to get them. Some people, some kids seems to bond early with animals and it stays with them their whole life. Since our dog ran around in our yard (and around, and around, and around…it was a little hyper), I didn’t have to walk it. I did walk my grandfather’s cat, which was the coolest cat I have ever known: tail cut off, taken as a favor to a witch and she walked with me all over the woods. But other people like to walk dogs, it becomes a sort of life routine. I would have a cat if I could, since I can’t walk a dog and a cat is better when you are a stay indoors person (notice how I avoided ‘shut in’). But I don’t have any great childhood memories, sorry.
Linda says this was her, the shy girl on the playground. Often it was me too. That may surprise people but I am essentially shy; it is just when I am not, I am bossy. Err… Anyway, the shy girl waits to be invited. Sadly this rarely happens so she doesn’t have a LOT of friends. Her smile says she WANTS to be a friend, but will you play with her? Shy girls also tend to be the kind who have tea parties by themselves with their stuffies on the lawn.
Speaking of Stuffies, and other objects, what did you HAVE to bring to school? Here is a girl who has to have her stuffie. I have no problem with that since I don’t think Linda and I have traveled anywhere without at least one bear – our stuffed bears have seen Asian, Japan, Venice, Munich, Berlin, Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Amsterdam…… But when I was a child, there wasn’t really anything I needed except to be left to do my work. In fact, I was not a ‘recess’ or ‘you can go play in the back’ type of person. The boys were loud. They hogged the toys. And I would rather sit at my desk and do the work on the board for the other grades (we were in a small rural school so in first grade I just kept going around the chalk boards instead of taking recess – later, I played chess with the assistant principal – yup, that kid.). But I know several people who have had to sneak their favorite toy/shoes/GI Joe figure or whatever to school. We all carry our strength in different things.
Speaking of school and strength, we learned early there were two types of humans: Those the gym teacher approved of…..and the rest of us. I was in, ‘the rest of us’. This was sort of me, only I usually landed on my back or spine as we did front flips off the trampoline, I never could quite make it around. Same problem with cartwheels, I was a spoke off or something. So no, I was not naturally sporty, rather the opposite in fact. Only in adult hood when I found sports like running (the more you hurt, the better you do – this I could do!), or other sports where I could train myself did I do well. The OTHER type of girl was this, the sporty girl. Actually, I really like this picture because I call it the sporty femme girl. She is sporty and you can see has that natural athletics but she has her PINK runners, and her PINK thermos and her PINK lunch box. Which is all fine, I am just pointing out that she is probably a bit frilly or has a lot of Barbie at home to play with when she isn’t being sporty. And later in life she will complain that practicing passing the baton chips her nail polish. That is unlike THIS girl: also known as ‘the Tomboy.’ Now this girl often, oddly was also good at tree climbing. Imagine that! And to be quite honest either was very popular or was the type of person who was friends with shy girls. I don’t know why, it is just a pairing I often see. Plus it makes it easy to play house, no one has to fight over who is going to be mom and who is going to be dad; or who is going to be the doctor on the plushies and who will be the nurse to wrap them up. Tomboys are often either good at sports or just don’t care. Or WANT to do sports like ice hockey that they aren’t supposed to (Go and do your Ringette!), they want softball, they want stickball, they want tackle football if they can get it! So fess up, who had the Tomboy phase (hey, sometimes it lasts for a short time – I know a good friend, who was the BEST Tom Boy and would do anything until she came back one summer all frilled up and that was that. When you suggested climbing through bushes playing hide and seek, she pretended not to hear. It was all hair and nails and dresses.)
Here we have our Tomboy and more frilly girl pairing (Gee I wonder whose idea it was to go up on the roof like that?). Actually, since I lived in an urban environment, I didn’t climb trees but I did go over rooftops a lot, and my hideout was in a nook of a rooftop. But let’s see, blouse (white) and dress versus waders and t-shirt. Actually it could be the girl in the dress, since often Tomboys were shamelessly used to get access to thing we WANTED to do, or places we wanted to go (or sneak into) but didn’t have the courage to try ourselves. At least that is how it was for me. It is always easier with two….and more fun!
Now this is something where Linda and Cheryl get all misty eyed and I get all ‘Wha?” It is not the flowers, it is the clothes. She is in clothes her mother made. This is the experience of Linda and Cheryl and I think a lot of young children. I do know that I had something made of drapes at one point. But in a rural area, going to school in mom’s made clothes is pretty standard, unless you had hand-me down’s. Which depending how poor you were, could have been your brothers. UG. Well, I suppose better than Winston Churchill who wore pinafores until 6 or 7 I think, that has to sort of haunt you, press wise when you a prominent war leader! It looks like her bag was made from the same material as her coat. The sad news is that when it comes to sewing some moms got it and some don’t – so you can look back at your early pictures with a wince or well, it is almost always with a wince isn’t it, except when you are going, “That’s me? When was I blonde?”
Now, any young sketchers and artists out there? I admit I drew what I THOUGHT was great art. But suddenly I realized in grade two, when given the assignment to draw a bicycle, that I was NOT an artist. As I knew exactly what a bicycle looked like and yet I couldn’t make it come out on the page. This not only frustrated me to tears but convinced me that art and I were to part ways forever! However, I know there are many people who are very good artists because some of the readers have sent me their art, and it is good! So I am curious at what age people made their first art book. Or drew their first comic?
Now this, the reader, is ME. I mean, I was the child who was put to sleep with my father reading the Iliad and the works of Hercules and I read Sherlock Holmes as a child (and Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, Half Magic, The Thinking Brain and a few other classics including the entire works of the writer of the Black Stallion). My parents used to force me to get one non-fiction book for each fiction one. Well that was when ‘choose your own adventures’ where coming out, and so I had to get a great big old biography for THAT? Then as I started getting out 20-35 books at a time, it was TWO non-fiction books to each fiction one. I tried reading under the covers but my bed squeaked too much or my breathing was off, all I know is my parents could tell when I was NOT asleep. So I improvised, much like ancient Egyptians. My parents watched TV, and they would close the door but leave a few inches open, and then I could, by leaning out from the end of the bed, use the sliver of light, to read, by moving the book back and forth. The nights they left a decent 6 inch sliver of light were GOOD nights (I wanted a book where the text glowed in the dark!). My parents would lock me out of the house to try and get some sun on me…..and I would go with books in hand, and lie down on the grass and read. I can’t remember how many car trips I heard this, “Aren’t you ever going to put that book down and look around! Here were are at (insert great natural wonder like Yellowstone) and all you do is have a head down in a book!” Yup, that was me, the one who fantasized as a child about being locked overnight in the library and how great that would be. I was the one who set up a “library” at home and tried to convince sibling/parents to ‘borrow’ books so I could stamp them and then give them a library card. I was the geek in book geek.
Okay, here we go, another double. First we have the ‘best friends’ and these are the people who DID have best friends for several years. They had sleep-overs, they had birthdays together, they went to parks together, they were inseparable. And then whether it was going to different schools later or just different interest, she had to take piano lessons and you started doing science projects, or whatever, somehow it just drifted apart. The memories are all still good memories but no one really knows why some best friends just drift (of course, for some there is the ‘memorable moment’). Okay, now here is the rest of us, who had perhaps imaginary friends, or to make it more respectable, plushie friends and a strong imagination. We were always on adventures because we learned (from books like Encyclopedia Brown) that if you keep your eyes open you can see anything from a bank robbery in progress to playing Harriet the Spy. It was cool if you had a friend and could place a letter in a ‘secret drop’ and then pass letters back and forth that way until it became suddenly not as cool anymore (oddly I still think it is cool, why did I stop?).
This last girl is sort of painful to me because she is so often misunderstood. The gift giver. You see how happy she is, because she has probably worked a long time and hopes to see the anticipation or the joy of getting a gift on the person’s face. But you also notice that she is alone. There are people who are natural givers, that is just the way it seems to work out. Even today, when at work they need someone to bake cookies for a sale, well, while there might be 30 people in the office, there will always be the same six with a few joining them. The problem is that the gift giver WANTS friends, but their actions and thinking is very hard for people to understand. When I was a child I made a list, “Things people forget when they grow up!” And the first item was, “Children always love gifts.” When my father would occasionally bring a gift home from work, I can tell you hearing his footsteps up the driveway meant I was at the door. Was today gift day? And with each other, some children, many children like giving each other gifts. They don’t have to be fancy, they don’t have to be expensive, but often it is something precious to the person, or something they think the other person will like. Or like when they went to the Zoo and there was a place to buy wax pressings of animals, they would go up later and say, “I got you a monkey ‘cause you said once you liked monkeys!” The problem is that as children age, or change friends, they stop giving gifts or this person who comes up and gives gifts embarrasses them. Can’t she tell I want a gift from a BOY! Or, “Can’t she tell we were friends LAST month, when is she going to figure it out!” And as time goes on, people just become sort of more cynical, the idea of a person who likes or enjoys giving, is strange, is weird, there must be something wrong with them. If they are lucky, they find someone who they can give presents to for the rest of their life. Then at least ONE person understands.
Okay, I can’t finish without siblings. So first we have the younger sibling. This is pretty much a common scene. We have the older sibling (who is idolized by the younger sibling) granting some time to be with the younger sibling. However, you notice the younger sibling is playing a game (walk on the line!) and probably going on and on about people the older sibling has never heard about since it has been like 3 weeks since they listened and all the names have changed since thea (That was point 2: what is important to a child is just as important to them as what is ‘important’ when adults tell you ‘That’s cute’ or ‘that’s nice, but we have to talk about IMPORTANT things. But it IS important if Jenny took my favorite pencil and no buying another pencil won’t make it the same pencil and how do I get the pencil BACK?) Older sibling here has brought book and is either lost or busy reading. Now here we have two sisters, and Linda as a younger sister assures me that this younger sister is a troublemaker. She is the person whose favorite line is “That’s not fair” – how come she get to…….." Which is why she gets to go with older sister. Also makes older sister hate her, and get back at her during next ‘babysitting’ (“I’m too old to need a babysitter!”). It is the nature of siblings to want the attention of the older sibling, but also have a weird hate relationship too. So, will the younger sibling ‘stay close’ because older sibling tells her to, or will younger sibling say, “I don’t have to do what you say, you aren’t mom and dad!” and run off? Or is younger sibling here to find out about older siblings’ friends who she then wants as HER friends. Either way, when I was 18, I finally figured out I did not need to win EVERY award plus one that my sibling had; I could (gasp) simply choose to do what I LIKED.
And here we finish with The Princess a.k.a. the Blackmailer, a.k.a. The Girl who HAD to be in charge. Often it was the siblings, and some younger brother is off getting her a drink due to some leverage she has over him. But sometimes they were single kids or just kids at school, but I have seen that smirk of, “Oh yes, bow to me!” WAY too many times. I know kids went through that phase, and I know they are out there, they can’t ALL have ended up as prison guards! So what was the deal? Why the need to prove that you were the person who decided what game we played? Which oddly was you as Queen, and the rest of us as peasants all having to bow as you passed by. Please, if this was you, I have always been curious, why?
So, where are you in these pictures (or if you are a guy, translate into ‘guy’ and please share your stories too!)? And what is your story? What did you HAVE to bring to school? Where you a tomboy, good at sports or like the rest of us, scum in the eyes of the gym teacher? Did you have four years of tap dance? Did gymnastics until 15? Was a Tomboy until you noticed BOYS and that they kind of liked the girls who didn’t have scratches all over them from sliding home! Were you the bookworm (did kids as school call you 'worm' too?!)? What is the story these pictures jog, and please share it with us!
2 days ago