Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking Down and Staring at Trees--Memories from Childhood

Sometimes when I look down and actually pay attention to what I'm seeing (it's rare because I'm usually yelling at my kids and don't know what's going on around me) I will be struck with major deja vu or nostalgia. When I see an old gray asphalt street it feels so familiar. It's like seeing an old friend. Sometimes this happens with sidewalks, too. I looked down a lot as a kid, I guess.

Design people always talk about adding texture and pattern to a room. I hardly notice texture or pattern now. But I can remember the texture of all the carpet in the house where I grew up. There was quite a variety, as sculpted carpet was the style. We even had a carpet rake. I can also recall really specific textures of trees which I not only played in a lot but just sat and stared at. I could see the tops of our trees from school. My house was surrounded on three sides by orchards: pear and cherry. We never played in the pear orchards because we were scared of the Indians who lived and worked there. (Whaaa?) I never once ate a pear. My mom didn't buy pears and I don't think I ever ate a pear that wasn't canned until after college. I did eat a lot of cherries. For Christmas I would go out and chop a big branch off a pine tree on the edge of the orchard, stick it in a milk carton in my room, and decorate it. I would hate it if kids did that to my property now. It would make me mad.

Between the two cherry orchards was a place we called the "junk yard." Thinking back on it, I have no idea what it really was or where it came from. There were abandoned wooden shacks and many other oddly-shaped outbuildings. It seemed like the remains of a farm. And yet, one of the buildings was stuffed full to the roof with Styrofoam. Another building was full of yards and yards of thick rubber stuff that would maybe be used around windows or screen doors. It could be used as rope. There were also piles of metal pipes and hinges which were good for pretend guns. And there was a toilet. One of the buildings was an outhouse. I used it in emergencies. There were metal buckets full of rusty nails. Isn't that weird? There were also grapevines and beehives.

Now all the orchards are gone and in their place, McMansions. I live in a McMansion so I can't complain. In fact, my McMansion encroaches on the woods where my husband played as a kid. We cursed all the houses going up on this street just as I cursed all the houses going up around my old house. Then we bought one--better us than somebody else, we reasoned. My kids get to play in my husband's old woods, laden with the detritus of hobos as they are. My kids have hammocks and forts out there. I'm glad the memory of wood grain will be imprinted on them. They haul junk out there and make it look awful. It reminds me of the "swing" I fashioned from a board and a red suitcase strap. I hung it from a tree in our front yard so I could swing out over the ditch. Eventually it grew into the tree itself.

I know I'm a lot older than some of the new bloggers out there, but it's not like I grew up in the time of Huck Finn. And yet I did swim in ditches, eat fruit off of trees, and tried to ride horses bareback that I found in fields. Wouldn't you be mad at a kid like me trespassing all over the place? I never got in trouble for any of that stuff. I had huts EVERYWHERE and almost all of them were in other people's yards.

Here are some more textures I remember:

lilac bush limbs
cement edges of ditches where the dams went in
graying potato bugs
peeling paint
stains on the floor of my room from Heidi's perfume kit
all of my sheets--I can remember all the sheets I ever slept in as a kid
red ant piles
Jenna's couch
cracks in cement
the "rings" at school
the inside of the doghouse

Well, I could go on. But this isn't a novel where I recall every texture I can think of from my childhood. Even though that would be fascinating.

Here are my sheets:

red, white and blue stripes
green roses
yellow and white flowers and branches
some flannel ones


  1. I don't remember a perfume kit. This is why I rely on your memory of our childhood and why I would, if I were brave enough, but I am not, have you write my memoirs. I am most definitely not brave enough for that.

  2. I know I'm fascinated. I loved the junk yard. Remember that yellow powdery stuff that we thought was gold? I also remember the indians and the outhouse. Vividly. Where you remember textures I remember tastes and smells. I remember the smell of the grapes and trees when we played out there in the fall. I remember the taste of the crabapples and your mom's no bake cookies (my mom never made those!)
    I remember eating fruit rollups out of your 72 hour kit... I could go on. Columbia lane was a great place to grow up.

  3. This makes me want to blog about a time in the "woods" behind our house I found a brown paper bag full of slips, bras and underwear. It was so bizzare-yet true!

  4. I buried a Batman toy (Michael Keaton) in my backyard, couldn't find it for years and found it accidentally the day we moved.

  5. Heidi, you got a perfume-making kit for Christmas. It wasn't very fun. I might write your memoirs whether you like it or not.

    We'd probably have to collaborate though because I can't remember high school or college.

  6. Jenna, I remember smells too. The smell of your house is something I have tried my whole life to identify and recreate. I remember your mom's house when it was white, too. I also remember Hickory Lane and. . . 377-1306!

  7. Spider-Fan, why did you bury Batman in the first place? Was it to prove once and for all that he is not a true super hero with organic powers?

  8. Kelly, One wonders what circumstances might require a paper bag of slips. . .

  9. My name is Sue and I hate mid-century modern. I think it was just a really ugly time for houses. When we first moved here and I realized there were lots of people who loved those houses I was a little horrified. I still AM a little horrified. I see pictures of mid-century modern interiors and it makes me die a little inside.

    And I love my stucco and stacked rock (and TIMBERS - WHEEEE) McMansion built on the remnants of someone else's farm.

    (I slay unicorns in my spare time. I'm JUST THAT EVIL.)

  10. The carpet rake! I totally had one of those and if I saw one in the store today i would probably buy one.

  11. I think the way you remember textures is how I remember smells. I love your detail! Your memory is amazing!

  12. Oooh I like the premise of this post. I too remember random things from childhood but mostly it isn't tactile but oral. I remember what the wooden baby blocks taste like, what sucking on a (clean) rag tastes like, etc. You are right that kids notice things so much more than adults. When I was little I can remember gagging, literally gagging over any dinner wherein my mom combined tomato sauce, hamburger meat and corn--which happened alot because of our Mormoness. I watch my kids gag over the foods I prepare now and I just have to remember that children have way too many taste buds for their own good. Or my good.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...