Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Wouldn't Change a Thing

A happy childhood can't be cured.  Mine'll hang around my neck like a rainbow....
Hortense Calisher

I remember my childhood with such fondness.  I had the best parents.  Lived on an awesome street with a cul-de-sac, which was rich with playmates.  Such good memories of my sweet church and the activities and friends I had there. Attended a small, Christian school and it was such a warm and close knit place, too.  I can't think of anything that I'd change about any of it, really.  We didn't live in a big house or drive the fanciest cars.  We didn't have the latest and greatest.   Didn't have many alligators or polo horses on our shirts.  But, when I look back, all I remember is how warm, loved, and secure I felt.  I just remember being happy and carefree. 

Let me tell you some things about my growing up years...... 

My Daddy made a living for us as a structural detailer.  He stooped over a drawing board and drew the steel specifications for the construction of bridges, buildings, and I don't even know what all.  I'd look at his blueprints and none of it made any sense to me.  Beams and bolts and measurements and equations.  All I knew was that he had really fun stuff to play with out in that office like mechanical pencils, an electric eraser, a lot of calculators, a wide assortment of templates, and a stereo......which was always playing classical music, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Mathis, and .....well, you know, stuff like that.   

He was self-employed for most of my childhood and had built himself a small office in our backyard.  So, he was around our house most of the time.  That could be a good and a bad thing.  "Wait until your daddy gets home" didn't exist at our house.  No, we were just sent straight out to that office for our swift and certain punishment. 

He'd come in and eat lunch and then take an hour for napping from 12:00-1:00.  Every day.  Without fail.  We had an intercom system that he'd use to tell us he'd like some coffee or tea or that he needed my mother to deliver a set of plans somewhere for him. 

In his line of work, there was always a deadline.  They always needed his drawings yesterday and so he was under a lot of time pressures and sometimes had to work on the weekends and into the night.  He was busy but he was always around if we needed him or just wanted to go out to his office and visit.  I liked that. 

All three of us, kids, attended private school through the sixth grade.  We all had everything we needed......maybe not wanted, but certainly needed.  We took piano lessons, art lessons, and played ball.  Had cars and trucks.....but not from the showroom floor, of course.  And we all graduated from college not owing one cent to anyone.  All because my Daddy worked so very hard in that little office in our backyard. 

I could never say enough good things about him.....not just as a provider but as a loving Daddy and spiritual example to us.  Daddies are such an important part of the family.  The way that they love us or don't love us, in some cases, can affect us for our whole lives.  Not to diminish their role but today's post is mostly about mothers.  I just couldn't pass up a chance to talk about him for a minute.

My mother. Well, she was/is the heart of our family.  She never worked outside our home.  Well, I take that back.  She worked for a handful of years when my older brother and I were in college at the same time. It was all hands on deck then.  Other than that, she was our stay at home mom.  Let me tell you the things I remember about her from my childhood...... 

I remember how she kept a cake under the cake dome most of the time......buttermilk pound cake usually or marble cake.  She baked the best crisscross peanut butter cookies from the red checked Betty Crocker cookbook and we'd eat until we thought we'd be sick.  We had a homecooked meal every single night of the week.  Eating out was a very rare thing.     

She took us to our lessons and our ball practice.  We each had one thing that we did outside of school and church.  She also drove her turn in the neighborhood carpool rotation to our little private school. 

She liked to do art projects with us using just construction paper, glue, pinking shears, and maybe some glitter.  Nothing fancy, but always fun.

She'd set up a "grocery store" in the backyard using two saw horses, a piece of plywood, some brown lunch bags, a few canned goods, and a calculator.  My friends and I would play checkout ladies and she'd be our tireless customer.

I remember her sitting in the recliner with me all night long when I had stomach viruses......doling out Sprite one tablespoon at a time.  I remember her getting up in the middle of the night and changing my bed during those awful bedwetting years.   

She sewed our Christmas tree ornaments and stuffed them with batting.  She laid our Santa gifts out just so and made the anticipation so exciting. 

I remember her reading stories to us or just telling us stories off the top of her head.  She was a good storyteller and would have us captivated.  She taught us all of our nursery rhymes, too.  She'd say the first few words and let us finish them.   

I remember how she'd never buy anything new for herself.  She had three kids and a husband who she always put before herself. 

I remember how she came into my room each night and would call the boys in there and then read the Bible to us and have a little devotion and prayer time. 

She was the best at helping us study for tests.  She had a way of helping us remember the answers we were having trouble with.  We'd sit down to our tests with all sorts of acronyms and rhymes that helped us recall the correct answer. 

I remember how she taught me to play fun, little duets with her on the piano.  Sometimes, she'd play the top part and sometimes I would. 

She taught us to sing song after song after song......"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree", "On top of spaghetti all covered with cheese", and "Way down yonder and a great way off, a jaybird died with the whooping cough".

I don't remember her sending us out to play on the swing set.  I remember her swinging with us on the swing set or singing to us while she'd push us.  

I remember bringing friends home after church for the afternoon and how she'd always have something for us to do.....even if it was to just play in the lawn sprinkler and make homemade ice cream.

Our house was clean and Pine-sol was always in the air.  She was a big believer in sunshine and fresh air so our windows were flung open every day the weather allowed it.

On our birthdays, she made our favorite meal with our favorite dessert.  We didn't have a birthday party every year, but some years we did.  They weren't anything fancy.  Sometimes, just a cake and Kool-Aid in the backyard with some neighborhood kids sitting in folding lawn chairs.

I remember her playing our Christmas albums on the stereo during our Christmas break and how she'd set the table with red candles and red napkins. 

When I look back 40 or so years, everything I remember most didn't cost a lot of money or come from a nice store or cause her to be busy doing other things.  Everything I remember most was simply rooted in love and time. 

I don't remember what the invitations to any of my parties looked like or if my mother made themed treat bags for the kids who came.....or even if there ever was a theme.  I don't remember any of the gifts I was given for my birthday as being extraordinary or very expensive.  The snacks she sent for my Christmas class party don't really stand out in my mind as having been super creative or memorable in any way.  I can't remember her hiring a photographer for any of our trip to Olan Mills a year had to suffice.  I don't recall having elaborate Halloween costumes unless you define elaborate as a plastic mask with a rubber band or a homemade black cat costume that my brother and I both wore.  I certainly don't remember there being piles and piles of gifts at Christmas....just a few things that we really wanted or had circled in the Sears catalog.  I don't recall my parents giving us gifts and rewards for every little thing we did.....just a pat on the back and maybe a trip to get ice cream.   

I've been thinking.  When did what our mothers did for us become not enough?

Seems like I look around now at mothers my age and younger and I see a lot of tired, stressed, overstretched women. 

At some point, we decided that so much more was necessary to make a good life for our kids.  We decided that, even though we had awesome childhoods, it just wasn't good enough for our kids.  

Maybe it's because we've got phones in hand at all times checking the status of other families and what they're doing instead of just enjoying our own.  Maybe comparison really is the thief of joy, Teddy Roosevelt.  Maybe we're so busy trying to check all of the boxes, cross all of the Ts and make sure that our kids aren't the only ones who don't have a   fill in the blank_ that we've forgotten how to just enjoy what's in front of our faces.  Maybe we've forgotten how to just keep our eyes on our own paper and be thankful for what we see there.     

It's ok if their birthday party is just a cake and ice cream with no event coordinator, $25 treat bags, calligraphy invitations, and live circus animals.  It's all right if you can't make all of their 25 teachers a crafty, breathtaking Christmas gift with an inspirational handmade tag, which is all so clever and thoughtful that it touches the deepest part of their souls resulting in endless tears of joy and gratitude. 

Mothers are running themselves ragged taking kids to extra curricular activities all week.....certain that it will make them more well-rounded, increase their scholarship chances, broaden their social circles, and possibly cultivate the next child prodigy.  Would they rather be at home on their bike or in the backyard?  Would they rather eat dinner at the kitchen table than in the backseat? 

Who are we doing it all for anyway?  The kids? 

We're worn out.  We're stressed out.  And all the kids will remember is the time and love we gave them.  Not how crafty we were or how many pictures we posted or how many pins we pinned or how many compliments we received on our unmatched ability to perfectly form each and every Frozen character from fondant.  Did we have time to rock, play, laugh, teach them songs, and play in the leaves?   

I wonder if we're losing something in this churning sea of comparison and rising standards.  Are we really giving our kids something better than what we had?  Or are they having to give up some really, really wonderful and important things in exchange for our "higher bar"?

I wish we could dial it back to the days of running through lawn sprinklers, Old Maid cards in bike spokes, Tupperware popsicles, being whistled to dinner at dusk, and cut off jean shorts and dirty, bare feet.  

What was wrong with that? 

When did we decide that there was something wrong with that?

It was good enough for us.

I don't know about you but I look back and I can't think of one thing I'd change.

I wonder if our kids will say that. 

Y'all have a great day, ya hear?




  1. You nailed it with this one! Hang it on every school flag pole for all Moms (and Dads) out there to read.

  2. Your childhood is similar to mine, minus dad working at home and my mom worked off and on. I always think of cable and technology not helping the situation and being scared letting your children out and about unsupervised, scarier times. Loved going to the library as a family too. Kathleen in Az

    1. You're right, Kathleen. It is a different time for sure. Miss the good ol' days.

  3. You just opened the floodgates to my childhood memories. are so on point about everything. One year when my son was probably 5 or 6 we had a football birthday party. His birthday is in early February and we lived in Kentucky so we never planned outside parties. This particular birthday turned into a gorgeous sunny 70 degree day and I did a full on last minute improvise and moved the party to our back porch and in a pinch I wanted one more fun game for the kids to play, we played drop the clothespin in the jar. We played that game over and over and over even when there were no prizes to be given away for the winner. They were fascinated and talked about the party for years and years. My son still remembers it being one of his favorite parties and he's 24 now so I think that says a lot right there. Kids yesterday, today and tomorrow want/need the same thing from their parents; unconditional love and undivided attention. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to see what I can do about bringing the Sears catalog back into publication!!! :-)

    1. Hahahahaha, Michelle! Wasn't that the best day ever.....the day the Sears Christmas catalog came in the mail? Hours and hours of entertainment! I love the story about the clothespin game. That's awesome! Thanks for reading!

  4. Oh Joni! this is one of your best!!! The party stuff is something I feel so strongly about ! Every one has gone crazy trying to outdo each other and all the kids want, is to have fun!!!! Keep them coming!

    1. Thanks, sweet Debra. I appreciate you reading!

  5. Joni, my dear beloved haystack. You took me back to my childhood and teen years because mine were yours and yours were mine. I went back into time to Mr. Doug answering the phone with his DJ voice. "Hey Mr. Doug I would say" everyday I am sure around 3:35, chicken flavored snack crackers and a lemon lime check drink from Winn Dixie perched on my bed with the drink against my leg just so. Mama has a pic of me just like this on the phone with you. "Hey Kelly" he would say.....if memory serves me correctly, and you know I have one like an elephant, it was if you did not pick up the phone I would say "Mr. Doug you want me to call her right back so she will answer? If you don't mind Kelly he would say.....and I would and you would usually answer. With us being the nocturnal beings that we are we had a lot of late night me blubbering over some boy phone calls too. As I read this, it took me back your house, Sally waddling around somewhere your Mama always always doing something either in the kitchen ironing or what not. I remember your room the feeling. Hermit Joe Day. That ended my toasty thoughts.

    And then I remembered, as always my beloved Daddy saying....."Anytime I walked by your room and could hear you laughing I knew it was Joni" blessed we were and how blessed we are to share in these memories. I love you.

    1. Thanks, Kelly. Good to remember old times and our sweet daddies. :)

  6. This is everything! My father worked at a steel mill in that crazy hot environment for 47 years. He worked swing shifts and sometimes we wouldn't see him for a few days, but he was the cook in the family and we always had a homecooked meal on the back burner waiting to be heated up. Sometimes he would come home after working a full night, get my brother ready, and take him to school. He would then take me out to breakfast at the local diner and play with me until my afternoon session at school. Only then would he go home and sleep. My mother also worked doing intake at the local hospital. She used to wake me up at 5 in the morning before she left for work to braid my long hair into a french braid, and I would promptly go back to sleep. She took us to soccer practice and dance class. She made the best popcorn on the stove, and getting a small bowl was the best treat. She also never bought herself anything new and still doesn't. One of the greatest pleasures in my life as an adult is to take her clothes shopping and buy her some new outfits. We didn't have a lot, but we also had what we needed and most importantly, we were LOVED. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of love and sacrifice.

    1. I love hearing about your sweet family, Pepita! What a blessing to have parents like ours, huh? Thanks for sharing your memories with me. Sounds very similar to mine in a lot of ways.