I have very few memories of my childhood, most of which was spent as an “army brat” moving from place to place. As I have been thinking about those years lately, I realize that there is a theme in some of my happier days.
While I don’t know for sure, it seems like most of those pleasant memories may have occurred during the four years I lived in Germany. We were transferred to Pirmasens, Germany when I was in third grade and we moved back to the U.S. after I graduated from sixth grade.
Some of my childhood memories:
• Making forts. When I was really young my brothers and I made forts inside our house, often under tables. Later we made forts in the woods near the apartment building where we lived.
• Playing outside. There were times when I would leave the house in the morning and only come home for meals and at bedtime. I would play with my friends in their houses and outdoors. In those days, children were given a level of freedom that would be unheard of in today’s world.
• During fourth grade, I remember making a large system of small trenches in the school playground. I then filled the beginning trench with water and watched as the water flowed throughout the network.
• I loved butterflies.
• In fourth grade, I also remember crawling under the schoolyard fence and going into the woods to collect snails. When I crawled back under the fence, to return to the schoolyard, I saw my teacher, Mrs. Pollen, and my mother, who also taught at the school, watching me. Uh, oh.
• My grandfather was a dock master. When we visited my grandparents during my younger years, I would catch fish using a drop line off of the side of the dock.
• I remember hunting for crawfish. That could have been in North Carolina before we moved to Germany or it could have been in Georgia, the place we were stationed after Germany.
As I think of these events, I realize how important outdoor activities and nature were to me when I was young. While it did not continue to be a life theme, there were exceptions.
I had loved my experiences of camping with the Girl Scouts and when I traveled across the country with my church youth group in 1965. After Al and I married in 1971 we took trips to Mt. Baker and to National Parks such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, the Redwoods and the Grand Tetons. At least one of those trips we took after Sreejit was born. In some places we camped, in others we stayed in cabins.
When Al and I bought our house in 1973, I loved gardening and canning.
In the 80’s I took my children and one of their friends to places like Zion National Park.
In the early 90’s, I had a strong desire to have a tree house in the magnolia tree in my back yard. I had planned to have a simple structure built, but the carpenter I hired couldn’t do simple. He constructed a beautiful seven by seven foot structure that even had a skylight!
I slept in the tree house from April to October for five years. That era ended the night two large raccoons blocked my path to the tree house. It wasn’t the first time, but it was one time too many. I started sleeping in the house again. At first the cells of my body screamed with grief. Being contained within the walls felt like moving from freedom to prison.
In the 90’s there was a period of three or four years in row where I explored Bryce Canyon on my own.
For the most part though, my outdoor activities had petered out over the years. I was too busy with work, raising children, and life in general. As I reflect on how I am living now, I can see that the spark has reignited. Gardening is again a priority for me. I have become fascinated by nature, whether it be flowers or creatures such as ants and slugs. A considerable amount of my time is spent in writing and editing the PNW GreenFriends newsletter. A part of me that has been long dormant is waking up.
I grieve that children nowadays don’t have the freedom that my generation had as children. Children are not allowed to roam freely for most of the day. Because of all the violence that surrounds us, parents naturally feel a need to keep their children close and well supervised.
But that is not the only difference. Today, children, teens and even adults are so focused on technology that there may be no time or interest in immersing themselves in outdoor play and nature. Texting, videogames and social media all too often fill their days.
Several years ago, I was at a church when the pastor gave a sermon to the young children. He talked about how in the “old days” children spent their days playing outside on this green stuff. He continued talking about grass as if it was something the children had never seen. He then encouraged them to go outside every day and do activities on that green stuff, activities that would cause them to sweat, something else he thought they were unfamiliar with. While it was a funny sermon, it seemed like an important one to me, then and now. If, as a culture, we keep going the direction we are going, where will we end up?
It is my hope and prayer that all of us will either reconnect with, or experience for the first time, the joy that comes when we immerse ourselves in the natural world, and by doing so may we discover that all beings on this earth are interconnected and can learn to live in harmony with one another.
Written for DungeonPrompts: What did you forget?