Once upon a time, in the woodsy northern territory of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a young girl freely roamed the countryside in the summer months when school was not in session. She had many Uncles and Aunts who lived in the area along with a multitude of cousins. She had a brother, a sister, a set of parents and two sets of grandparents. Love was in abundance and she felt it. Her life was simple and each day took care of itself. She is me and I remember it all so well!
Summers were a time when my Mother would let me sleep in as long as I wanted and I always slept in late. My bedroom walls were wallpapered in a very soft moss colored textured pattern and as the sun would shine in the window on that side of the house, the room glowed a soft green and I often felt as if I were waking up outdoors. As I slowly woke up from a deep sleep, I would stretch out in my bed and lay there watching the dust motes dance on the shaft of sunlight pouring in through my bedroom window. I could hear the birds singing in the trees and the flys buzzing around the windows. I could hear a dogs occasional bark off in the distance. Someone was already mowing their yard and I enjoyed hearing the motor as it went back and forth cutting the grass. These were some of the sounds of summer, and I also enjoyed the quiet within the house. Mom was always very quiet on those long ago mornings. One could hear her in the kitchen with the sounds of dishes and cutlery being moved about. She was our short order cook who would make breakfast for us as we arose for the day. It was a peaceful existence and she created this for us.
My world was my own to explore because there were no set expectations for how I should spend my day. In those days, kids were allowed to be kids and we spent our childhood summers in a lazy, unscheduled, unfettered fashion where each day just unfolded before our eyes.
I seriously doubt if any of the kids in that time and place even knew for certain what day of the week it was during the summer months because one day was pretty much the same as the next. The only exception to our unscheduled time came about on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.
Most of our Saturday evenings were spent after dinner in preparation for Church and Sunday School the following day. Our Mother orchestrated the preparation by making sure we had our baths and shampoos before bed. She also made sure that her daughters hair was rolled up in curlers. Our Sunday Church clothes were laid out for the following morning. Shoes were cleaned or polished and a couple of nickels were tied up inside of our hankies for the Sunday School offering. The next day, after we attended Sunday School, we would go upstairs to the main church and sit next to our parents and/or grandparents for the church service.
In my minds eye, I can still see and sense my long ago family sitting beside me in our modern day church pews. I can almost hear them singing along with me to the same old hymns that were sung long ago in that little white church on the hill. For us rural folks, Church was also a social event tied up with learning our scripture lessons and listening to the Pastor share his insights on how God would want us to live. We saw many extended family members and friends at our church and everyone knew everyone! I remember how proud I was of my Mother as I watched her exchange pleasantries with friends and neighbors after the service. She had a sweet soul and a kind heart and people were naturally drawn to her. She was a beautiful woman who took pride in her appearance. In my young girls view, she radiated a glow around her, all the way from her smiling face to her animated way of talking and laughing.
Because my Mother was a self described perfectionist, she preferred to do all household chores by herself just so they would be done to her own specifications. We didn’t have chores as children and we did not receive an allowance. Because we lived in such a rural area, there was no need for kids to have spending money, other than the occasional nickel or dime our parents gave us to buy candy if we were somewhere near where they sold it.
Our family lived down the road from a small lake where I would swim daily, weather permitting. I was often teased about my love of the water and was jokingly warned that I might possibly develop gills on the side of my head just like the fish that inhabited the lake. I knew they were kidding, but the image stuck in my head.
I did not lack for anything, nor did I have anything in excess. When I walked to the lake for a swim, I walked down the road wearing my bathing suit under a pair of summer shorts with my towel thrown over my shoulder, so different from my city cousins who would come to the north country to visit. These cousins had beach bags filled with their swim suits, towels, sun tan lotion, beach balls and/or inflatable tubes which they would inflate upon arrival at the lake. Huff! Puff! I would watch them slather Coppertone Sun tan lotion on their bodies and when I inquired what that was, they began to explain that it was to help them get a sun tan. Half way through the explanation they looked at my rich deep tan and said “Never mind…you don’t need it”.
No wonder I miss this young girl, this long ago version of myself where I was so tenderly cared for! Growing up has its advantages and in my case, I have certainly been blessed. I have a wonderful husband who cares for me as well as my Mother once did and I happily return the favor to him. I have nice children, grandchildren, good friends, and a lovely place to live.
Yet, despite this very nice adult life, I often reflect on her …that young girl from so long ago. She, who lived amongst a very large clan of people in a community that existed in much simpler times. It was a place where we all knew we “belonged”. Many generations were born and raised there and some remain there even today. In modern times, the newer generations often move far away, following the path of their careers. Each move promises nicer cars, bigger houses, and more vacations, which are all nice in their own right. But at the end of the day, nothing material really satiates our spirit. What each of us really want, really yearn for, and really need is love and acceptance and a feeling of belonging.
Sitting here now, as I think about those days, I feel a sense of longing and melancholy, which seems odd because I have been gifted with such a rewarding life. I am content in my journey, having been blessed with a husband who has been both my sail and anchor in life’s waters. His sail is always there, giving us a lift and speed and direction. His anchor is always ready to stabilize us during life’s storms. Together, we have wonderful children and grandchildren. So, why then, the yearning?
I do not really know why this yearning comes over me. Somedays, I miss that much younger version of myself! Yet, I know and understand that she belongs back there in the recesses of my memories. It is nice to go in and collect her every once in a while to laugh with her a bit as she and I enjoy a shared memory. Memories are wonderful, but as I move forward in life, I need to remind myself that it is in the present where I will be living and making more memories. I think all of our good times are stored in our memory vault for those less than perfect future days where we feel sad or lonely or lost. They are there for us to pull out, relive and remind ourselves how rich and rewarding our journey has been. No ones life is perfect, but life is often filled with perfect moments. These moments are little gifts for us to revisit, enjoy for the moment, and then put back again. It is not good to live in the past, but a visit now and again is perfectly o.k. and is often satiating to our spirit.
“Where did she go?” you ask….Well, she is right here. She has always been here. She and I are each a part of all the ages I have ever been which makes up the fabric of my life. . The good Lord knew that a reunion between my present and past self would be balm to my spirit on those days where I feel a yearning to go “home” and I think that is why he gifted us with memory.
Where is home, our one true home? Home is wherever I am at any particular time, and wherever I hang my hat. It is a collective of all the places I have ever lived and left behind as I continued my life’s journey. I do know where my real home is and my journey will eventually lead me there, deep within the heart and spirit of God!
I enjoyed those childlike memories today….memories of a childhood well lived while I was being well loved. No wonder I like to go there for a visit. For now, though, this visit has filled my cup and it is time to step back into the present, which as we all know is the “GIFT”. I think I will also enjoy unwrapping this gift as it unfolds! From the looks of it, it holds much promise for what will be revealed.