I am realizing that it is easy to remember the sad things about growing up, but that I really need to celebrate the positive things and be grateful to my parents for the beneficial actions they took to express their love for me. I also think my kid would enjoy having this as a legacy of stories to pass on to their children. I feel disappointed and sad because my parents did not tell me stories about their childhoods, and I would have liked to have connected with them in that way. I know they each had pretty challenging times in their younger years, and I have a feeling they did not want to burden me with those memories. This was the way of that generation, I think.
I am going to be sharing privately with my children some of my difficult times in order to help them understand better why I have acted in ways that have contributed to them feeling hurt. I want to ask for forgiveness as well as do my best to make amends.
So here are some stories that come to mind.
My parents loved to go camping. That is one my best memories growing up. They told me how I was in a play pen in a campground at Yosimite Nat’l Park, and a raccoon came into the play pen and stole my bottle. I used to laugh at that story, but sometimes I wonder if I had a lot of grace, because raccoons can bite, I think. But that is just another example of how I was protected from so many hurts.
When I was about eight, we were at a campground near our home in Muncie, Indiana. There were so many campgrounds just an hour or two away, and I recall going camping more often than not on week ends. My dad was a Navy recruiter–and that is why we were away from the ocean. My sisters and I got up early and walked around the campground singing at the top of our lungs the song, “The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah.” I feel sorry for all the people we probably woke up! It may have been the same weekend when a car ran over our volley ball and it was lop sided. But we still had fun playing with it!
Once I got to go with my father on a long day hike with the boy scout troop he was helping with. I felt so happy both to be with my dad, and to have that big challenge of a long hike.
Getting up early was a thrill for me. Whenever we went on a month long vacation–something we did just about every year, I think–we got an early start in order to pack the most into every trip. My parents didn’t like to spend a lot of time in the places like KOA campgrounds or the rare motel we stayed in because they always wanted to be where the action was. World fairs, national parks, places where there were national monuments–those were the kinds of places they liked to visit. And in between the special places we would visit special friends relatives, which we seemed to have all over the country. So we often would get up early to travel to the next destination. I loved that.
I also recall getting up early and going fishing with my dad when we lived in National City. can’t recall what age I was, but I remember clearly how he would wake me up at about 5AM. I can still smell the warm, sweet aroma of hot chocolate which he would put in a thermos. Driving to Lake Otay was great–I imagine we had some good conversations. We would always catch some small fish and bring them home to eat for dinner. I think even then I was concerned about the fish feeling pain, but I am pretty sure my dad reassured me that they didn’t have feelings. Even when I became a vegetarian at age 17, I persuaded myself that fish couldn’t feel and thus it was okay for me to eat them–I since have learned differently and an aspiring vegan.
We would get up super early to go to the beach and go grunion hunting. Grunions are little fish that come up on the beach to mate at very high tides. I just read about why the grunions do this, and now I feel sad because they were mating. We thought it was okay to scoop them up into buckets to take home and eat. I know I didn’t know any better, but I still feel disappointed that I participated in that activity. But my parents didn’t think about such things either–and I totally understand. I loved the feeling of being outside at night, and the adventure of piling into the car with my family at an unheard of time in the morning.
Another time we would get up early was when we were camping. I almost always from a very young age slept outside under the stars on a cot. I felt claustrophobic in the tent or the car. And I loved gazing up at the stars, warm and snuggly in my sleeping bag. I feel grateful that my parents perceived that I was safe enough to do that by myself. I imagine that things were safer back then, although wild animals haven’t changed a lot! I would wake up in the morning to the smell of bacon. There were often pancakes and eggs to go along with the fragrant meat. My dad loved to cook when we were camping–especially breakfast. He was always the first one up. He made what he called a camp kitchen which was a wooden box with cubby holes and a hinged door that when opened, served as a counter. He was all set up to cook!
We also got up as early as possible every Christmas. My parents rarely would come down as early as us kids–my older sister, younger sister and younger brother. So we had to wait an agonizingly long time for them to come. It wasn’t that long, really. They had been staying up late as was their custom. They wrapped most of the presents late Christmas eve after we had gone to the Christmas eve service at the Methodist Church, and after we opened the traditional Christmas eve gift of pajamas. So I can’t blame them for wanting to sleep in!
One reason I never looked forward to getting up early was to go to school. I disliked school for as long as I could remember. I wonder if that is why I was so committed to home schooling. Even though I was a great student, and the teachers almost always loved me–I did not like the long hours, the structure, and boring subjects like math, history, geography, and foreign languages.
Well, those are my stories for now. I felt happy to relive them, and to reflect on how I have changed, and how these experiences shaped me.