When my mind is fluctuating from calm to crazy, as is its custom of late, a much sweeter remembrance, my way of refocusing is to go back to my original home in Buchanan, Michigan. My life was not perfect but it had perfect moments I can focus on and gleen from. I had moments of singing or playing the piano on stage in church as a solo or with my choir friends, led by Judy Earnst, who always got the best out of us and I appreciate to this day for doing so. I remember riding bikes with my best friend Shawn Quick (now Shafer) and meeting her for a slushie at the 7-11 on warm days or by McCoy creek or the park across the street from her house on Moccasin Rd. I remember spending the night at her house and going down to the donut shop in the morning and splitting a long john. I remember running the fields with Sheba, our black lab, or working them to pull the rocks or weeds out as need arose. I remember mowing 14 acres of grass on the riding mower. I remember breathing in the night air while laying on my thinking rock and watching the stars. I remember homemade ice cream Daddy made and how amazing it tasted. I remember softball and my succint pleasure in hitting that ball as hard as I could and surprising everyone with how fast I could run. I remember my grandparents, both sets, and how very thankful I am that I got to know them and be related to such wise, amazing people. I remember walking through the woods in the back yard on the trails and enjoying sitting quietly enough to see deer come close by and rabbits hop about and foxes eye me up. I remember the smell of freshly cut hay and how heavy a hay bale is. I remember how beautiful downtown Buchanan was to me and loved riding by the Jordan River, that muddy murky river always on the move, always interesting to see. I remember swimming at Phil and Dale Weldy’s pool with the church or my friends and swinging on their amazing tree swing, how high that would go! I remember my amazing Aunt Rosie and long to see her and love how encouraging she has always been. There are so many beautiful treasures of memories all snugged in my mind. These are my roots I fall back on, my core, my happy place. Here is where I have needed to be of late, so many ugly things happening in the world around us, so many difficult things happening personally. So I go back. I long to take off and visit my family back home. I want to see them so badly, it has been too long, but I must content myself with fond memories of those simpler times and appreciate such a beautiful collection of happy thoughts to sort from. These moments are gifts. And even if life was rough, as mine often was, there are always those options to choose to focus on and draw from to help you remember you really grew up as God’s child. He never leaves you without some blessings. He never leaves you completely alone. He won’t now.
I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s. Yep, I’m that old. But I had a childhood full of memories, life, horrors, successes, failures, adventures. I played with a pack of three wolves several times in the back of one of my dad’s fields he farmed, was accepted by them. We played in the brook and knew how to remove leaches from our skin. We played on playgrounds with real swings that had no less than 20 feet of chain down from the high pole and metal slides that were steep enough and high enough to be fun and monkey bars that required great skill and no fear of heights to be able to maneuver. We rode bikes all day sometimes, sometimes to meet other kids to go to the playground and take them back home. We practiced starting fires without matches and whittling sticks with or pocket knives. We talked to strangers, gave directions, took home, shared food, shared drinks, talked constantly. We had toys but limited numbers and very simple, things like jump ropes and jumping jacks and balls. Rocks were our chalk. A bucket of water and two dixie cups served as hours of entertainment on a hot day. These were my childhood memories. They were amazing. No one died on the “unsafe” playground. No one I knew was ever abducted or accosted by a stranger. It just didn’t happen. Now, our kids have a very real threat of having their childhood lost in the shuffle of high tech and low living and safety over learning and adventure. More talk is of preventing mishaps or evil than of living life. Kids stay inside, entertained by things they barely have to move at all to do. We are more concerned with bruising their psychies than developing their moral character and there is a wealth of knowledge going unlearned by the majority of kids out of fear. And even when parents are not fearful, they are too busy or too tired from working long hours to pay for all the tech (and of course other ammenities). Our society doesn’t talk much anymore. We don’t stop by the neighbor’s and visit and “sit a spell” over coffee anymore. We barely look at each other. So, the what to do about it is unclear. It is a scarier world than it was when I was a kid, no doubt. However, maybe one approach is to take a day and go together on a hike, a picnic through the week, a visit to a friend’s house, a game day, play some tennis, ride bikes, something, anything without tech and with eye contact and word formation. Perhaps one mini adventure at a time accumulates to as meaningful a childhood as we remember as parents? Just my thoughts.
When people ask, I say I grew up on a crop farm in Buchanan, Michigan. That is true but not the entire story. Truth be told, up until I was 10 years old, we lived in a trailer park on Red Bud Trail Road North in the back row. People didn’t call them “mobile home” parks at that time and truly it would have been too fancy for the place. We were at the farm a lot helping with things on weekends but largely, we were there. There were wonderful neighbors and questionable ones, some were the best of the best and some were pretty scary. In the middle of the park was my true hangout, a huge (seemed like at the time) playground with the tall swings, taller monkey bars (the square steel bar ones), a really high metal slide that mostly gave you butt bruises at the bottom, it was so steep. And free of charge, for no additional money, came plenty of rough and ready children (and I am using the term loosely). And of course, plenty of time for me to practice my boxing skills Daddy taught me because my mom used a huge triangle to ring us when to come home for food and of course rough and ready children think this is a great way thing to tease a child about (once). 🙂 We (my only living sibling, a sister) had bikes, but I was at the playground alone because she never wanted to play. So I would pedal back after I heard the annoying bell and after making sure my pride was intact from the bullies and eat contentedly. Rainy days were hard because my bedroom was small and gloomy because of dark fake wood paneling and one small window. I was every superhero I knew of at some point in that trailer. It was my imagination that saved me from the fate of so many there, some abusive, some abused, most poor, some held down by their own belief that the insults hurled upon them through life were true, but fairly some extraordinary and the most generous souls alive. When Grandpa Batterson died and I was 10 and my Daddy cried for the first time ever, I think, Grandma bought a modular home on the hill of their property and our family moved into the old farmhouse. And that began the best, most hard working childhood I could imagine. From darkness to light the contrast was. From cats only to cats and dogs and guinea pig and fish and hermit crabs because there was plenty of room. All that to say this. When we have lived in a dark place for a long time, the dark looks like it is as light as day, we get used to fighting to get by, we protect ourselves by escaping into our minds, we are always on guard with brief moments of splendor, like when we went to church. But just because your eyes have adjusted to the dark does not make it light. When we move to the light, when God graces us with light, the darkness is revealed and light can start to dispel that darkness in time. We don’t have to be bound to the darkness. I say I am from the farm not from the trailer park. I don’t own that bleak time. I own the light. It is my choice, my decision to change my point of view and focus on what saves and not what crushes. Everyone has that choice in life. Everyone can choose the light.
There are some precious memories we store up of childhood adventures and things and places that we will never get back but becomes a part of who we are nonetheless. At the time of childhood, these things are not given much thought usually and are passed over very casually in a hurry to get to the next thing or go to the next place, usually scheduled. Some such things are tiny, like certain toys you played with at your house or a good friend’s or relative’s house. Some are places, like a favorite park or creek you played in or at. Some are experiences, like stealing a roll of life savers and your dad taking you back in to the store for you to confess to the store manager. Some things slip by, but it is the little things that lay together to be the foundation of your soul, your security and basis for many of your views of life. Thinking about many of these little things has caused me to think about living more purposefully with my kids so I linger on those details and give them what they need to string together a strong base. I sometimes wrestle with this with my oldest because his father and I divorced when he was 4, so I wonder if I broke his foundation. But where there are little breaks and tears and maybe huge fissures in the foundation, I know from personal experience that God can step in and not heal but fill in all those fissures and fractures with Himself for a more glorious purpose. And where the Lord is, there is beauty. And where we live on purpose for the Lord, there is hope for our children to love Him as much as we do or more. So, the little things are not an end of themselves but a tool to help create diversity and from that diversity, God paints His kingdom mural. When we do the best to give our children meaningful childhoods, God is redecorating the world for its and His greater purposes.