I realize I’m behind the eight-ball on this prompt, about four days late, in fact, but this one spoke to me. My week has been the week from hell, so I apologize for my tardiness, Sometimes life gets in the way, plain and simple.
I don’t remember the name of our street, but I remember the small, white, square-shaped house with the back porch that sat high off the ground. Mom was always yelling for us not to run out the back door for fear one of us would break our necks. As I recall, one us (don’t remember which one) did eventually run right off that damned porch but luckily – no broken bones.
My childhood was a simpler time; a time when children couldn’t wait to get outside. On Saturdays when were young, my sisters and I shoveled down breakfast (usually oatmeal and toast), threw on clothes, and ran from our bedroom hitting the sweet spot of the screen door at full force. Mama started yelling the minute she heard our feet hit the hardwoods running down the hall.
“Don’t slam the screen door!”
We tried to slow down, but the resounding loud slap of wood against wood always followed. Come Spring and summer we were in bare feet most of the time, running full speed ahead for swing sets or the boys down the street. Together we’d ride our bikes, without helmets or shoes, through the adjoining streets of our neighborhood.
It never crossed our minds to sit in front of a television all day, not when all the adventures of outdoors awaited us. On more than one occasion and most Saturdays, Mama latched the screen door behind us. Hours later, sweaty, and dirty we gathered on the steps of the front porch only to find the door locked.
Pressing our faces against the screen we started yelling, “Mama! Let us in; we want something to drink!” I’m not sure what she was doing, but she always kept us waiting.
“Ya’ll stay outside and play. I’ll call you when lunch is ready.”
“But mama, we’re thirsty!”
She’d point to the side of the house. “There’s a garden hose outside, use it if you think you’re going to thirst to death before lunch,” she’d say, before walking away. I think mama might’ve been paying us back for slamming the screen door, but then again, a water fight was always fun on those hot, summer days.
To be fair, in the early to mid-1950’s, playing outside was a natural and easy choice. Televisions were black and white with only three local channels, and mama never allowed us free access to the TV. After homework, we were limited to cartoons in the afternoon, and once they ended, Mama shooed us out to play.
On the street I grew up, neighbors talked to neighbors, mothers shared supervision, looking out for each other’s kids. We rode our bikes on daylong explorations and walked to school or the community pool without fear. Families sat down together every night for dinner and spent Sundays at Grandma’s. Parents and teachers were the authority, demanding respect and children understood manners.
All of the parents were on the same page, speaking the same language and if Mama received a phone call from another mama down the street about something I had done, she didn’t take my side. Talking back or being rude to any adult was never tolerated. Mama knew how to swing a belt, and she did; spanking was still in vogue on my small town street.
We played hard as children, riding bikes, playing hide and seek, swimming, and catching fireflies till dark. We helped Daddy wash cars and Mama in the kitchen. We washed and dried the dinner dishes and made our beds every morning.
We didn’t have a lot of material things in that little white house, but we got to be kids and as I look back at on those very early days of my childhood – It was a simpler time, a safer time, and it was good.
What about you? Did you grow up in a simpler time?