It’s winter here where I live, but I’m a summer-to-fall soul. As much as I appreciate the beauty and quiet of the freshly fallen white blanket that covers the earth where we live, I ache for warmer days and more light. Every once and a while I find myself pining for my childhood. The scent of hay, pungent sweet clover, the sound of bees—they bring the memories racing back, knocking me over with their almost tangible presence.
As a child I spent my summers outside, from just after breakfast until long past when the fireflies began their evening dance. I only took breaks to eat, coming home to the sound of our meal bell or to light at one of the many neighbors’ picnic tables in our rural community. There were summers where the majority of nights were spent in tents—at our house or one of my girlfriends’.
I was soothed (and still am) by the certain way the meadow grass sounded as the gentle warm humid summer breeze caused it to sway. I spent a lot of time time laying in the meadow, invisible, dreaming and imagining, watching the clouds above me morph into fantastical images, only to dissipate and become something else. I eagerly scanned the heavens for the next set of fluffiness, excited to see how they would tantalize and mesmerize my youthful perspective while I was enveloped by the symphonic orchestration of scent and sound going on around me. There was nowhere else I would rather be and that it is where I still travel in my mind to center, balance, and soothe. Be.
On the days I hung with my rowdy all-boy brothers, I waded into the creek, skipping stones and finding those slimy stinkers (crawdads) with my fingers, suffering a number of good pinches over the years. I wasn’t about to be upstaged by my brothers, so I joined in—catching garter snakes (one had umpteen babies after we brought her home), fish, crickets, and tadpoles (some of which made it into froghood). My mom welcomed it all. Took it in stride.
My brothers and I created forts, safe and contained fires, and carnivals. We made planks to jump our bikes and skinned our knees and elbows in the process—all without the protection of helmets or pads. I climbed trees, often sitting high above for hours watching over my small world and learning a lot about gravity and balance. I also rode bareback, fearless, with only twine from a hay bale to steer my great steed. I came to understand about the quick reflexes of rider and horse and why it was necessary to keep a roving eye on my surroundings when galloping though the trees. Every day was an adventure. I couldn’t risk enough. I was free!
As a parent I wish I could find the confidence to give my kids the same gifts my mom gave me and my brothers—peace and quiet from the “noise,” more permission to take risks, and the ability to experience nature, to be free from fear. I try, but feel I come up short.
The fear developed within me, arriving as a parasite on the wings of parenthood. When H was born I felt the full weight of parenthood—to protect fiercely, a love so profound I felt I would suffocate in it, a responsibility to raise a child with a strong moral compass, a commitment to taste a childhood similar to mine. I felt the same with J, A and G as well.
My kids enjoy being outside, however they don’t stray too far without me. I’ve shared my fear and I know they’ve lost true childhood experiences, those independent of their parents, because I do so. They hike, camp, ride bikes, but they do so with me or another adult, and that’s sad. I will say this though; A is like her mama. She loves nature and regularly catches frogs, toads and snakes and brings them home. And I smile inside and feel better, but I still wonder… Where in their memories will my kiddos travel when they are adults and feel the need to center themselves? Will their childhood experiences have been enough to ground them?