“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood”..Agatha Christie
I grew up with two parents and four siblings…one younger, three older. I used to take for granted that I had a happy, idyllic childhood. As you are entrenched in your self-centered youth and adolescence you assume that others have it just as good (or bad if that’s the case)…and that your upbringing is nothing special. It is only when I’ve looked back as an adult and reflect on my childhood….and examined other children’s realities…that I am truly grateful for the gift my parents and siblings have given me.
Is it nature or nurture? Well, that’s a completely different post that I’ll get to at some point, but let me share a few things that made my childhood so much fun.
My parents loved road trips (either that or it was just cheaper with all those kids!) and we embarked on one almost every summer to someplace new. When we were really young and lived in New Jersey, we drove to Vermont and “The Tyler Place“ on Lake Champlain. After moving to Calfornia, one of our car trips was out to Monument Valley where my dad was filming a movie…another year was to see Apollo 11 launch from Cape Canaveral (okay, we flew across the country, but then meandered the south from Florida to Houston in a wood-sided station wagon.) I know my older siblings have many more memories than I or my younger sister, but these stick out for me….as does the “trains, planes & automobile” trip up to Vancouver that we took as a family, which was epic! I know that nowadays (wow, I sound old) there are video games, movie screens, etc.. to distract kids while on long road trips, but it was fun singing “boom, boom ain’t it great to be crazy…,” “100 bottles of beer on the wall,” or just playing “20 questions” to pass the time. Oh, sure there was plenty of “don’t touch me!!” between my siblings and me, but we knew there was a fun destination at the end waiting for us and this was just part of the journey to getting there. “Stuckey’s” was one of my personal favorite stops along the way! When my own children were young we made the 5-6 hour trek every year up to Mammoth to ski. I love the memory of playing “I spy” and “geography” games with them, as well as singing our share of Raffi songs (dang, now I can’t get that Baby Beluga song out of my head!) It wasn’t too painful, was it, kids?
Another fun memory was my parent’s nutty parties with their somewhat eccentric friends. My Dad was in the entertainment industry and my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in high school, which I realized later in life was not always the norm. Being in “the industry,” as they call it, made for some really wacky parties. I think my favorite was when they, and their friends, decided to have a “prom.” At one of their parties they put names in a hat (I’m assuming they put the wive’s names in a hat) and the men then picked someone from said hat. That would be their prom date. It would have still been fun, and easy, if my parents and all the other adults just drove themselves to the party house…but, no..this was PROM! Mr. Smith* came to the door in a tux, corsage in hand. My Mom left with him in what looked like a borrowed/rented bridesmaid dress. My dad, and Mrs. Jones* were the chaperones, so they were dressed as a priest and nun, respectively. They all arrived at the William’s* home, where I’m sure a night of laughs and frivolity ensued. There was a full band and a photographer to take the prom pictures. Oh to get my hands on those pics!! Too funny!
There are some simple things that made my childhood idyllic, such as… the love that I felt when I walked in the door and our home enveloped me…the security of knowing my parents would be there and my siblings had my back (..and still do!)…selling oranges on the corner with my little sis’ (we had 13 orange trees…& we were entrepreneurial!)…re-building the “fort” in the backyard every summer and insisting we wouldn’t let it fall apart this time…riding our bikes until it was dark, not a care in the world…the camaraderie of team sports…our annual Christmas tree cutting parties (yes, even in Southern California we went, with a bunch of other families, to a tree farm, picked out the “perfect” tree and sawed it down)….dancing around & singing to the soundtrack album from “Sound of Music” or Christmas Carols (I actually don’t remember this much, but my mom swore we did…and I definitely danced and sang around the house with my kids, so something sunk in!)
Let me re-iterate that I have four siblings and they may (probably would) dispute at least some of the “idyllic” childhood that I’m conveying, but I guess that’s where the “nature vs. nurture” concept comes in and the perception it entails. Stay tuned for that post!
*names have been changed to protect the innocent
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!