Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Family Photo

Yesterday the WSJ ran a parenting article about overscheduling children in their summer activities. In my mind's eye I replayed the dozen or so summers I remember when I was a child--they seemed to run forever--hot, hazy and relaxed with hours of finding shapes in the clouds and bugs in the grass and bubbles in the tarred streets for bare toes.

At first I couldn't imagine my mother managing my summers for me, but looking back I realize she was quietly (she was always quietly doing something) planning my schedule. In Forreston I attended summer recreation program at the community school for games, swimming and sports. From age 11-16 I attended summer camp at Camp Emmaus. In elementary school I had babysitting jobs; in high school I detasseled corn, worked at the drug store, at a feed company and the town library. I had a horse, or my friends did, and we rode them down hot, dusty roads. After age 14 I was dating and going on picnics at the Pines, to the roller rink, to movies out of town and locally. My church CBYF had weekly Sunday evening meetings; my girl friends and I had slumber parties; the town had summer band concerts (still does) where you bought bags of popcorn and hoped to see someone special even if you didn't hear a note; and there were 4-H projects to get ready for the county fair. And the projects Mom would invent to keep us busy! Gardening, canning, cleaning, cooking, sewing, laundry. Oh my! That could cut into a sleepy summer day's reading.

Obviously, this is not a summer photo, but my mother's camera broke around 1945 and we don't have many pictures of my childhood. There was no extra money to get it fixed, she once told me. I thought hanging upside down was just about the most fabulous trick, and it was performed on our back yard slide on Hitt Street in Mt. Morris. The two board and batten barns you see in the background were actually garages, but in those days, many barns from an earlier era had been converted. We had a "real" garage, one side for us and one side for our neighbors, the Crowells. The barn nearest in the photo was behind Mike Balluff's and Dick Zickuhr's homes, and the one further away I think was behind Doug Avey's house or possibly the Aufterbecks. At the left edge I think I can see a chicken coup. There were no horses in town, but a lot of people still had a few chickens for fresh eggs.

There are no leaves on the trees, and I'm wearing a coat, head scarf, and slacks which must mean it was cold. Little girls only wore slacks if it was really cold--the rest of the time we were in dresses. The coat was probably a hand-me down from one of my sisters. I think it was navy blue, double breasted with large white buttons, most likely made by my mother.

So maybe childhood schedules aren't so different. What do you think?


JAM said...

You're the first person I've seen mention bubbles in tar on the streets. I used to LOVE to pop tar bubbles, and when I tell people about it, they look at me with disbelief/pity that I should have had nothing better to do than that. But I loved it.

To me the big difference is that modern kids seem to have sensory overload, TV, cell phones with text messaging, video games, internet, and then on top of all of that, summer activities.

I was born in 62, but I remember laying around and looking for shapes in clouds and building "forts" out of scrap wood and things of that nature. There was very little electronic in my childhood.

Norma said...

We didn't know at the time how special that technology-free era was, did we?

Anonymous said...

The nearest barn was behind Balluffs; the other was behind Hirschfelds. Aveys lived in the next block.