What Did You Love as a Child? by Bob Lowry
I had a very pleasant and supportive childhood. At one point before she died I told my mom that I had no bad memories of growing up. I know that made her feel very good about her performance as a parent. I know for an absolute fact that my satisfying retirement is due, in large part, to that upbringing.
I realize that not everyone can make such a statement. In fact, the longer I live and the more people I meet, I realize how very blessed I was. Particularly in my past volunteer work with prisoners I heard horror stories of childhood abuse and neglect that pretty much guaranteed a flawed adult.
Even without serious parental failures, I understand a happy childhood isn’t always the case. Even so, I hope what I am writing about today brings back some pleasant memories of things you loved to do when you were so much younger than today.
When I was a young child I’d love to:
|Mom & me saluting the flag
at the farm
Go on car trips and vacations with the family. Most summers found us piling into the back of our station wagon for the 7 hour drive from our home near Philadelphia to my grandparent’s “farm” north of Pittsburgh. A 32 acre wonderland for kids, there was no running water or electricity in the large, two story house. The bathroom was down the path to the outhouse.
Coffee was boiled over a grill in a large speckled pot. Days were spent exploring the woods and fields. Near the end of our two week stay my brothers and I, along with my uncle, would try to walk the 5 miles to the nearest town, Mars, for ice cream cones. The other adults would meet us with the car for the trip back to the farm. To me, those memories defined summer until I started my own family.
Go on picnics and hikes. Weekends in the summer always meant a drive to a local lake or park for some hiking and a blanket-on-the-ground-ants-in-your-food picnic. Eating outside was a time when mom, dad, and the three boys would be together to laugh, complain, share, and run around.
Ride my bike. Every kid in my neighborhood had a bike that became his or her freedom machine. Mine was decorated every 4th of July for the town parade. I put baseball cards in the spokes to create a motor sound.
I had fringe on the handle bars, baskets on the back, and a bell that announced my arrival. Getting my first 26″ bike was a recognition of my maturity.
Build a business. I was an entrepreneur from a very early age. My first money-losing scheme was to publish a neighborhood newspaper. I would write a few stories that mom would then type, using carbon paper, to make copies for me to distribute to neighbors. The only subscriber was my grandmother. She paid 10 cents for a mailed copy.
A few years later I got the idea that I could make money buying postage stamps from other countries, repackaging them, and selling them to stamp collectors. I had a desk filled with small plastic envelopes, a catalog of foreign stamps for sale, and a marker pen for writing the price on each bag. I don’t think I actually sold anything, but for a time I was in the exciting world of commerce.
Like most boys of that era, I had a paper route after school (remember afternoon newspapers?). Unfortunately, my route covered a neighborhood that was down a steep hill and started over a mile from my house. That wasn’t really a problem except in winter time.
Cambridge, Ohio gets a lot of snow. Many a day I would be pushing my bike around my route or back up the hill because the snow was too deep to ride. It was dark and very cold. Today, parents wouldn’t let a 12 year old attempt such a job alone. The world has become a much more dangerous place.
I finally decided to become the “boss” by hiring others to deliver my papers for me when the weather was bad. There were serious flaws with that plan. By the time I paid the boy to deliver my papers I lost money that day. My “employee” was less concerned with doing a good job so I usually got a few complaints about customers being skipped or papers thrown on the roof after my fill-in was finished.
Play the clarinet. After a few years of struggling with the piano I switched to the clarinet at 10 years old and later joined the school band. I guess I played well enough; I was selected for two years in a row to play second chair clarinet in the All New England Band. But, I never thought of myself as a musician. The clarinet was more a hobby and a way to be with people I enjoyed.
After high school my music “career” ended until recently when I started playing the guitar. I have found the basics of reading music and playing survived a 52 year layoff. I missed making music for my own enjoyment.
Childhood in the 1950’s and early 1960’s in suburban America was a great time to be a kid. All the problems of the world were kept at bay. Howdy Doody and his friends made everything OK.
Of course, a childhood like that was in many respects artificial. We never experienced, or were even aware of, racial inequities and discrimination or poverty. Most everyone I saw was white and prosperous. A few years later when I left for college my eyes would be opened to what the real world was like.
But, for awhile, childhood kept all that at bay. Today I am certainly more aware and troubled by what the real world is like. Even so, the positive memories and habits formed way back then live on in me today. And, for that I am grateful.
How about you? What are your strongest memories of your childhood? What helped you become the person you are today?
By Bob Lowry