© E. Alana James, Ed.D.
When I think about my childhood home I think about snow.
Sometimes lovely amounts of it, over a metre of it, never perhaps higher than my head, but the snowmen could be, the snow forts could be. Crouched behind a wall of packed snow, ready aim and fire! Our pyramid shaped pile of potential missiles at hand waiting for the next unsuspecting kid (you got in trouble if you hit an adult). This is how I remember growing up in Colorado.
Snapshots fly past my consciousness: all decked out in a snowsuit, mittens with yarn pinned to my coat so I would not lose them. Trudging in red rubber boots the two blocks to school, all the world white. A few trees would have cracked under the weight, the parents in THAT house hadn't come out in the middle of the night with a broom to knock off the heavy wet powdery flakes.
The school house was yellow brick, except for the "old building" (built in the 1930's) that was red and had the exotic addition of a fire escape down the outside of one wall. The playground was large enough to have one section for hopscotch, and tether ball, with a set of metal rungs set high off the ground that we would swing from one to another like Tarzan. The rest of the grounds were dirt and used by us for physical education where we played kick ball, baseball, and other games I no longer remember.
As quickly though as I think of school, I think of the "school store." A small frame building across the alley, and ostensibly where they sold paper, pencils and supplies – but REALLY they sold candy. Hard pastel disks like buttons strung on an elastic band, these were candy necklaces and bracelets that we could wear to school and sneak a munch throughout the day when the teacher wasn't looking. Straws filled with sour/sweet powders that came in cherry, strawberry, etc. They left the tell tail sign of a bright red tongue and mouth. Maybe there were Snickers Bars, or maybe, as memories do they are tangled up in my brain they really came in at a later time. Whichever, they remain a favorite today.
I had one really good friend, Louise and she had two other friends - who sort of included me (since we all lived close). Together we traversed the times from six years to the time we were teens when we drifted apart. It was good to have a few people that were constant as we maneuvered our way through growing up. We learned that life could change quickly as when Louise's mom had a baby. Her household completely readjusted from a focus on teenagers to infants.
Occasionally we faced real danger (some bigger in reality than we knew at the time). Jenny had a man expose himself to her as she walked home from school. One girl had a brother who sold pot. The most danger I was in was sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. Thank heavens I got caught as the boy I was going out to see was much older than I was and it could have been trouble.
Inside my childhood home was mostly consistent rules and ways of going about life. Breakfast at 6am and we all had to be dressed and ready. Dinner at half six in the evening was much the same. By the end of the 1950's we had a black and white TV with a picture that sometimes rolled or split into lines. By the time I was old enough to remember, half of our dinners were on TV trays watching an entertaining show. "Car 54 Where Are You?" stands out in my mind as one of the funnier ones, but "Leave It To Beaver," and the "Lucille Ball Show" were the classics even in their own time. There were the westerns too, as these were the John Wayne days and many girls my age secretly wanted to marry Hoss, Adam or Little Joe Cartwright.
If I was good and got ready for school a little early, Mom would read to me from the OZ books, Dorothy and the Wizard in twenty or more places romping with highly unlikely characters such as Pumpkin Head, Ozma and the Gnome King. Setting another life long habit I fell in love with fantasy characters and learned to appreciate the real life lessons that come easily through non real settings.
At the end of the day it was the seasons though the defined the backdrop of all the memories and winter more than any. The biting cold on my face as I walked. The shivers and screams as snow fell off a tree, or was stuffed by some unruly male classmate, down the back of my shirt. Little tiny skis made out of plastic that hooked with a bungee cord set up around my boots and my attempts to take them down the hill at the front of the house without running into the street. The relief of coming into the warm house after having gotten cold while playing. Topping these all though is the joy of the last melt, the buds of the crocus underneath and the heralding of spring.