Yesteryear Summers or “What Color is the Dog?”

“Time does fly, when you are having fun!”  I  have spent the best part of the week, with Jenny and her family.  I came home on Thursday and stopped by Mamas’ house , that afternoon.  Delores and Dana were there.  They had stopped by on their way home, from the beach.  Since then, I have been working in flowers.  What lovely things to do, I think. 
One night, at Jennys’, Lyla and I watched the fireflies flashing.  The night was silent, except for both of us, for we announced each sighting with enthusiasm.  The next morning, I walked with Brynn, on her tricycle, to a mimosa tree, that is covered in fragrant, feathery blossoms.  Such things as mimosa trees and fireflies (we used to call them “lightening bugs”)  proclaim summer now, as it did so, many, many moons ago, for me.  I walk many a mile down my memory lane. I do not want to forget, so I stroll often.  . .and when I find some precious remnant that has survived -I take heart!
I was blessed to hear first hand the stories of my people.  It makes a difference to know who I came from.  I want my children and grand children to know too., and so I tell the stories.
We did not come from “saints” nor from what the world deems as “high society”,  I suppose to any one else, my elders were quite an ordinary lot with their plows and goats and gardens.  I know different.
In the first decade of my life, I was mostly around Mamas’ family . . all of them.  I had my great grandmother called “Mama Hodges”  and great aunts and uncles, third and fourth cousins (who seemed like brothers and sisters) besides the next generation of aunts, uncles and cousins. 
The women were tireless “housekeepers” and tended to the children, hung clothes on lines, watered the animals, sewed clothes, tended the garden – and did all of this as food simmered in the kitchen.  Not a one of those things was an easy task. 
The men spent their lives in fields  and barns, unless it rained -then they were confined to a shelter to fix  whatever was ailing the tractors or an old truck.  I knew early on, that picking strawberries or snapping beans were the sort of chores, I preferred.   Oh,  but  those summers  of yesteryear are etched deeply in my heart. 
My cousins and  I did a fair share of chores, but we also had a fair share of liberty, too.   . .most especially with the adults so busy.  We were mostly quite self sufficient as it was a tragedy to “be babied” in those days. We roamed the countryside and pretended impossible things.  We were always on the lookout for kittens and  four leaf clovers.  . .and clouds in the shape of anything. We had contests -races and high jumping, broad jumping etc.  We had a small herd of barely tame ponies.  In the early summer, there were always new foals.  The goats did their part and usually had twins.  After a while, the littlest goats and  ponies ran around the farm with us.  What a sight that must have been!  . . A flock of children and goats and ponies traipsing about in golden sunlight.   
Thankfully, none of us had to adhere to any real schedule. We did not take tennis lessons or swim lessons.  We organized our own ball games and made our own “clubs”.  Siblings would argue sometime, but the cousins did not quarrel with one another.  We all got stung by bees frequently.  We all got cut with rusty things at some point.  Once,  my first cousin Chris got stabbed with a pitch fork!  Somehow, we lived to grow up and tell about it. 
There wasn’t a thing on TV weekdays, for children.  We did not “talk on the phone either.  We lived outside.  Only rain kept us in.  There wasn’t a toy box in the house, either.  There was a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and a Sears & Roebuck  catalog or two.  Delores and I made paper dolls from the old ones, sometimes. . .but we all loved the encyclopedias best.  A rainy day was the best chance of a cake too.
By July, we sat in the grass and ate watermelon or cantaloupe.  Sometimes on Sundays, we had homemade ice cream. Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene came with “little Gena” .  They lived about 25 miles away, and  for us that seemed so far away, in those days. I can still see my little cousin running to keep up with her country cousins , golden curls bouncing from beneath a little white hat-I was sure she was a doll. 
In the evenings of late summer, the adults sat around and talked til dark.  Someone was always shelling peas or beans. We didn’t change the clocks in those days-but the days were just as long anyway.  By the time we went in, we had found the first star,  and made our wishes .  The Bob White had called out  and bats were darting about.
The dirt of the day was scrubbed off with a vengeance .  We said our prayers and went to bed. 
It is no wonder, that I never wanted to go back to school.  I found it dull and artificial. I had wonderful class mates  and kind teachers, but my heart belonged to the back roads and my  own people.  I knew how to read and do the math, already.  I had learned these things connected to life on the farm which was so natural.  I actually mourned and would cry at the “drop of a hat”, at school.  I did well though I had to sit in the “Lonesome Chair” on occasion, for yelling out answers to silly questions.  “What color is the dog?”  I could not comprehend that the class didn’t know and I did not see the need to waste my life waiting for someone to guess  about it.  So I would try to put an end to the misery.  No one else was talking, so it did not seem impolite to answer.
Had it not been for the library, I am sure that I would have perished from the boredom.  It took me three months to convince the stern librarian, “Miss Susie” that I could read the “third grade” books, for it was  considered “trespassing” for me to go in that section of the library.   
The school bus took the longest way home, but when I finally saw our house and the farm, and the door opened, I “hit the ground running”! 
I have countless memories of those summers,  and I think a lot,  about what it felt like to be a child in those days.  Weather was of utmost importance and dictated our actions, so even children learned to recognize signs.  Light was our clock and even now, I know the hour according to the where the sun is.  The only need to rush, back then, was when a storm was coming and clothes were on the line or the ponies got out.   (That was always exciting.)  How peaceful life is without schedules, I want to shout to the world.   
I learned so many valuable lessons-a collection of “precious remnants”, that still make a difference and ring true.
Work and play are both equally vital  -so we ought to grow tomatoes and  flowers.  Immersion in nature, is really like going to church for you will be humbled and grateful, all at once.  Loyalty to family is valuable beyond measure, whether they are “saints or sinners”.   . .You can learn a lot from both sorts.  Do not become so tame and civilized, that even your thoughts can’t wildly ramble.  Stay curious .  Curiosity is the spark we must fan, to keep learning and rest assured, even life long learners never know everything.   . . and for goodness sakes . . LOVE like your life depends on it, for in some ways, it really does . . . and it does “cover a multitude of sins”, after all.

 

 

26 thoughts on “Yesteryear Summers or “What Color is the Dog?”

  1. Beautiful such great memories I always love the way you remember everything so clearly. I spent so much time rushing to get to the next stage of my life it has flown by so quickly I barely took the time to enjoy it. Peggy

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      1. Michelle, Thank you for asking about our Marine he is good he will be out February 2022 and is looking to go to college, Peggy

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  2. Beautiful such great memories I always love the way you remember everything so clearly. I spent so much time rushing to get to the next stage of my life it has flown by so quickly I barely took the time to enjoy it. Peggy

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  3. It he last couple of lines are terrific, about LOVE. I loved the entire story and having finished it, feel a bit melancholy for how LIFE was. I didn’t grow up around animals but did have a big family and was the youngest. Will it be the same ever again?

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    1. goodness! I too miss those simple and abundant childhood days. I strive to give my grandchildren all I can-and as much of the past I can. I can say that being a teacher, the last ten years were nothing like my first ten. I am sorry to see children worldly and lacking the skills . What beauty they are robbed of! Well, I am 62 now-and sound sooo old! haha! Best always-Michele

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      1. I agree, again. We haven’t seen our twin 4 yr old grandchildren since Covid. They’re out of state but I have written/illustrated 4 stories for them as a way of keeping in touch. I hope you can find them to read, yourself. I always enjoy it when a teacher reads them. Take care and be positive. 75 here, By the way. 😎

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      2. Oh, they’re just short stories on my WordPress page, here. Try ‘srbottch.com’. I believe (4 of them) they’re all mixed in with the last 5 postings. There’s another about the flag which is unrelated. Let me know.

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  4. Loved reading your trip down memory lane, Michele. Our country childhoods were similar in the scope of freedom to run about, discovering all there was in the world. I did like the challenges of school learning. Problems to solve and the triumph of getting it right, the wonders of science and art/music, too.

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  5. Oh Michelle, I was laughing when I read ” What´s the color of the dog??” ;´))
    What a lovely sentimentalist you are, on the other side, you are a mother and naturally, a very precise practical one.
    I remember talking to my daughter and sharing how I grew up, my childhood is so different from how she is growing now.
    We don´t have the luxuries that children nowadays enjoyed.
    She was even shocked that at the age of 7, i enrolled myself in gradeschool and prepare my own uniform.
    It feels great that somehow, I feel relatable to this one.
    A happy new week to you. Sending you much love from De.

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  6. I know that children have many advantages these days, but sometimes I can’t help but feel that the childhoods of our past were better, and also did a better job preparing children for living in the real world. Thanks for sharing this post, it brought back some good memories for me too!

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  7. Once again, Michele, your words touched my heart so deeply: “Immersion in nature, is really like going to church for you will be humbled and grateful, all at once.” That sounds like something Ralph Waldo Emerson could have said!!! What a treasure chest of memories you have. I, too, remember playing outside until it was too dark to see – so many games we made up played with the whole neighborhood. Blessings and summer hugs to you! Virginia

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  8. What rich memories!
    We rob children of childhood when we drag them though organised activities. The modern world values all the wrong things and teaching has been reduced to soulless tick boxes. I am so relieved to be retired and to know that people like yourself have time to devote your energy to love in all its wonderful old fashioned manifestations!

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    1. Teachers that were in it a while, will certainly relate. I sadly, have to agree with you. We have thrown the baby out with the bath water. What precious things we have forfeited in the rush to get more stuff. Makes me cry to think about it. thank you dear dear Cathy. x Michele

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  9. The time of “The Jetsons” is near. In their world there are flying cars, robot housemaids, a machine that instantly produces any food item you request.
    In their world there are no trees, or birds, or vast plains of waving grasses, or cool glades.
    It seems there was a time when “The Future” held such bright promise.
    It feels as though that time has past.
    I am grateful to have lived in my own time. I always felt I was born a little too late.
    As if I would rather have pursued a much simpler life, on the frontier or on the farm.
    Excepting space flight, we saw the last of the greatest achievements of the greatest generation.
    Wiping out smallpox and polio. The invention of radio, television, telephone, radar and wireless communication. Loosing “the surly bonds of Earth”, taking flight, leaving our planet, landing on the moon. There are too many to list.
    What are the dreams of this generation? How can a generation define itself without dreams?

    Still that most-desired dream eludes us: Freedom, liberty, equality and acceptance for every child of every age.
    Dr. King’s admonition remains a dream, his dream, “that my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

    One can only hope that this new generation will learn how to understand, how to truly see, that we are all in this together. Or at the least, they may come together over a Netflix series or united grievances about the state of healthcare.

    A cure for cancer and a trip to Mars remain on the docket.
    Then what?

    All my best,

    Scott

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  10. Such wonderful memories you have shared here! 🙂 I enjoyed reading of these bygone days that still have so much to teach us about life. Love is the most important thing…thank you for your reflections and for tying them together so beautifully. Your words are a bouquet of wisdom…petals of remembrance to write upon our hearts.

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