The Blessings of a Rich Childhood

Last weekend, I went home to WV to visit family. My primary goal was to see my 96-year-old grandmother who has recently been moved to a nursing home. She’s not happy about it, but as she observed to me, “Nothing stays the same and I don’t guess we’d want it to.”

I also got to see my parents and my younger brother who is about to add a new member to his family. More about that next week.

The visit got me thinking about what a wonderful childhood I experienced. Oh, there were hard things, but it was mostly good. Mostly wonderful. Mostly the kind of stuff that can crop up in my writing without making anyone wish I hadn’t written about that!

Neighbors: Although I grew up in a very rural part of WV, we had international neighbors. Dusan was from Yugoslavia and Masha from Russia. We would hear them out in the pasture calling their cattle in one of the seven languages they spoke. Childless, they showered my brothers and I with affection and introduced us to imported chocolate.

Church: we attended a church our family had been going to since it was built. We were related to most everyone who came–and on a good Sunday there were twenty of us. I treasure growing up in a world where I mixed with adults of all ages. There were no children’s programs. No nursery. It was just family coming together to praise God.

Farming: growing up on a farm was hard work . . . and I sometimes miss it. We weren’t overscheduled with lessons and clubs. We didn’t text or play video games or watch cable TV. We picked up rocks when dad plowed the garden. We slopped the hogs and gathered eggs. We put up hay every summer. We helped process our food from potatoes to ground venison. We went barefoot, caught lightning bugs, swam in Laurel Fork and built hay forts. How could I not want to write about all that?

Q4U: What is one of your fondest childhood memories?

12 thoughts on “The Blessings of a Rich Childhood

  1. When I was a young lad in the mid-to-late 1940s (and yes, I can remember back that far), on Sundays after church we would go down to Indianapolis to the home of my great aunt and uncle. Uncle Ernest was an engineer (read “steam engine driver”) for one of the major railroads of the day. Aunt Dessie was a tremendous cook and on Sundays she would cover her huge kitchen table with what amounted to a thresher’s dinner including at least three kinds of meat (usually chicken, ham, and roast beef), and all the vegetables you could imagine. In the summertime, the dinner always included fresh locally grown Indiana sweet corn-on-the-cob and hot rhubarb pie from her own garden. Her creamed corn, biscuits, green beans, fresh baked bread were to die for. Chicken that she had killed, plucked, and fried in her big iron skillet was always looked forward to. (I can still close my eyes and re-experience the wonderful aromas that enveloped me when we entered the front door of their home.) After we finished dinner and savored it for about an hour, Uncle Ernest would take me over to the roundhouse in the rail yard and let me play on the steam engines that were sitting there in various states of repair. I always went home tired (but not hungry) and sooty from her wonderfully tasty dinners and his great old steam engines. As I sit here today writing about these memories, I feel a smile on my face caused by remembering, re-living, and re-smelling a wonderful part of my childhood. Thanks for the opportunity to put it in writing.

    Steve West

    • Steve- This is fantastic! I love Aunt Dessie and Uncle Ernest already! This is one of the things I love about writing–it let’s us share treasures like these. Thanks for putting this memory in writing.

  2. I remember catching fireflies and playing a form of tag-hide-and-seek as dusk fell on summer evenings, often in our neighbor’s yard because it was more open than ours–but we roamed all over the block. I’ve been told that the fireflies here in Brazil are toxic, so you can’t catch them safely. What a shame! I also remember my great-grandfather’s garden–a formal, walled garden with little poems and sayings mounted on sticks among the flowers. He also had a rose garden and an orchard, all within the city of Baltimore. But we weren’t allowed to pick the apples from the trees, only from the ground! My great-grandmother was a thrifty, rich woman… But we (my three siblings and I) loved their house, which was huge, had dark panelling and tile floors, and mysterious corners upstairs and down, in addition to that lovely flower garden.

  3. Sarah, have you ever read Suzi’s story called “The Forest”? She won the Barbour County Young Writer’s competition in high school with it. I might be able to dredge up a copy from somewhere. In it she shares her memories of the elaborate pretend games she and Debbie played all over the farm. How they climbed the big oak tree at the bottom of the hill and pretended it was a pirate ship. At the end she talks about coming back from college and taking a walk back there and suddenly realizing that the “Forest” is just a woods and their “River” was a creek she could step over. I am so glad you guys are writing down your memories while they are still fresh….. keep it up!
    Aunt Pat

  4. My fondest memories are of the time spent at my Granny Wolfe’s “farm” in Eleanor WV. A couple of years ago I went back there to find that her wonderful 2 story farm house had been hemmed in on all 4 sides and the tiny town with wide open spaces had become hundreds of too close houses! I loved catching June bugs and tying a string on the leg and flying them all around the yard. I got in big trouble with Granny for flying one in and out through her fresh washed sheets drying in the sunshine. They had an enormous garden, both vegetables and flowers and she cooked constantly. We slept in big beds with feather mattresses after sitting on the front porch counting the infrequent cars that went by and listening to ghost stories. As we got older, the visits slowed down to Sunday dinners and holiday gatherings, but she always made us feel special by bringing out the best china and even putting a small glass of homemade tomato juice, each in a cut glass coaster, at every place. At Christmas Pawpaw would put doors on wooden “horses” down the living room and into the dining room to make room for all the relatives. As for the memories “at home” where I grew up… it was an appartment complex with 400 units (made for good trick or treating!) There was an abundance of kids of every age to play hide and seek and catch lightning bugs. I have a lot of negative memories, but this was a good opportunity to dwell on the good ones.

  5. And Sarah, I’m glad you have good memories of “farming.” I too miss putting up hay (in square bales fighting to get it done before the storm came.) I miss churning butter, cranking ice cream, having “picnics” in the front yard, decorating birthday cakes, church Christmas programs at that one room church, checking on the new calfs, shelling corn in the fall, gathering berries and making jelly, stirring apple butter and riding sleds down the hill sending up snow spray with a big ol dog chasing us. I don’t miss butchering hogs, rendering lard (although I loved cooking with it), being iced in, or being too far from the store when I discovered I was out of something I needed. Most of all I miss being cuddled up on the couch with my 3 angels reading books and hearing them ask for “just one more.”

    • Oh–don’t get me started again! One of my challenges with my writing is keeping the nostaligia to a reasonable level. Although looking at the response to this post, seems like folks enjoy nostalgia!

  6. Sarah, this was absolutely lovely! I enjoyed this post very much, as well as the comments. I enjoyed reading everyone’s memories of the “good, old days.”

    Blessings and Happy Writing!

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