It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
Happy New Year to everyone! David and I enjoyed a very quiet, yet festive evening together on New Year’s Eve. We’d had a hectic week, so after a nice meal, we sat on the couch, covered with a blanket, looked at our Christmas tree, and instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we shared our goals and visions for 2010. I discovered this works much better for me than resolutions. Mine included goals of writing another book, while David’s included a trip to Ireland. His paternal side of the family (the Furlongs) are from Ireland. His father always wanted to go to Ireland and Switzerland, yet he never did. David and I have been to Switzerland, but neither of us has been to Ireland or the rest of the British Isles, though we have always wanted to.
I have been feeling under the weather lately. I have a horrible cold that just keeps hanging in there. Today I finally felt well enough to finish interlacing the woolen rug I started last winter for my bedroom. I needed help carrying it upstairs, so David and I each carried one end up the stairs and into the bedroom. David remarked that a child could use it as a hammock. That triggered a childhood memory that had long been forgotten. When I was little, my siblings and I used to do exactly that –– we would take a blanket or rug and two or more people would hold onto the corners, while a child lay down in the middle. Then we would swing the rug or blanket back and forth. We used to sing a song with it, but I don’t remember what it was.
As I thought about this memory, other memories were triggered of how we used to have what I call “homemade fun.” Sometimes, if Mem was in the mood, she would allow us to take everything out of one of the bottom cupboards and then one of us would crawl in there and someone would close the door. I was always amazed at how dark it was when the door closed. This wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds –– we could push open the door whenever we wanted, if the small space and pitch darkness got to be too much.
Another indoor game we used to play was the hand-stacking game. This is actually one of the only playful things Datt ever did with us. He would put one of his weathered hands on the table after supper and wait for one or two of us to put our hands on top of his. Then he would put his other hand on top, and then our hands would go on top of that, and so on. He would take his hand out of the bottom of the stack and put it on top, then wait for us to take our hands out in turn and stack them on top. He would go faster and faster, until we’d get all mixed up and then we played as if our hands were a threshing machine.
One other playful thing Datt did was when there was a glass bottle with some kind of drink in it –– which was on a rare occasion for us –– Mem and Datt rarely bought soda (or what we called pop), Datt would say, “Oh, you want more, well I will have to squeeze the bottle.” He would turn the glass bottle upside down, pretend he was squeezing really hard, and when a few drops came out, he would give us his big toothless grin (Datt was toothless the whole time I knew him). If it hadn’t been for the few drops that came out, I wouldn’t have believed him at all. As it was, I wondered if he was really that strong.
We played many outdoor games as well. In winter, we went sledding, we played “Fox and Geese” in the snow, and we made forts or snowmen. In the warmer months we played “Mother May I?”“Prisoner’s Base,” “Kick the Can,” “Bag Tag,” “Freeze Tag,” “Hide and Seek,” and “Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” In the fall we used to rake together freshly fallen leaves into a big pile, and then bury one another in the pile. Sometimes our pile was big enough to bury three or four children at once. We also used to try to catch the falling leaves, which were as elusive as butterflies.
Though I did some of these things with my sons when they were growing up, I often felt I had to compete with the television, once we allowed one in the house. At he time there were still not as many kinds of technology available to occupy a child’s time as there are now. I think this is one of the reasons that so many people look to the Amish as being an example of a simpler lifestyle. In the ways I have just described, it is much less of a rat race than our headlong pursuit of the latest technologies in mainstream America. And here I am, posting to my blog, as opposed to what I would be doing, had I chosen to stay in the Amish community. Sunday nights were pretty predictable –– most families will pop corn and eat pies or cookies baked the day before instead of supper. And instead of sewing or mending, as on other nights, women will normally read or write letters on their evening of rest. Though I am no longer part of the community, I feel that having grown up there, I am choosier about which technologies I embrace. Who knows –– if television had been allowed in my childhood, it may well have displaced the memories of homemade fun.