When I was little, we lived just a few blocks from my dad’s parents and his childhood home, in little ole Van Wert, Ohio.
My grandma would watch me on a regular basis, which meant cartoons, books, toys and of course, sweets (and everything good that grandmas sneak to their grand-kids while mom and dad are out of sight).
I was 6 years old when we moved from Van Wert, but there are a few memories that stick out that I’ll always have…
Goulash. Maybe it’s an Ohio thing. Maybe it was a “my grandma” thing, but I remember eating a lot of goulash (for those of you less fortunate ones who have never eaten goulash, it’s just elbow macaroni, pasta sauce, usually some ground beef and salt and pepper. The ingredients vary by location, I’m sure, but that was the recipe in our family.)
(Plus sour cream. We put sour cream on everything).
Story hour at the library. No, I shouldn’t say that. I didn’t love story hour . The kids were loud and never sat down, so I couldn’t hear the librarian trying to talk above all of those 3-foot-and-under hooligans. I loved story hour because after story hour, we walked to the bakery downtown and my grandma would buy me a buckeye. Never had a buckeye? Oh, honey. It’s a ball of sweetened peanut butter, dipped in chocolate, and made to look like a buckeye. It’s the official symbol of Ohio (both the botanical version and the confectionery one).
When my parents could scrape together enough gas money, we’d load up our pink station wagon and drive south to visit my mom’s side in Nashville, Indiana.
My grandparents lived in a really-truly-like-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder log cabin that my grandpa was slowly building and refinishing. There was a garden in the yard to one side, where my grandma would pick the large tomatoes, still green. She’d slice them, dredge them in eggs and corn meal and make a southern delicacy like no other: the fried green tomato.
I remember that there was a paw-paw tree, and my grandpa would pick the fruit for us. I didn’t like it, but my brother ate my share.
There was also a creek (a “crick”, if you live south of Indianapolis), and we’d spend hours – no days – barefoot in the crick, looking for crawdads and salamanders, and getting wet when we weren’t supposed to.
All of my most meaningful and poignant childhood memories are quite simple. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we never went to Disneyland and our family vacations were anything but lavish…but I didn’t know any better, so it never occurred to me to mourn something that I didn’t have.
I remember reading books and playing in the yard.
I remember practicing softball with my dad and making him chase the ball.
We spent summers barefoot and winters sledding.
These are the kinds of simple memories that I want my children to have.
Oh mamas, it’s so easy to want to entertain our kids. To give them something to do. Something tangible that they will remember forever. When our children have down-time, we want to fill it with activities that they’ll love, hobbies for them to pursue, or battery-powered somethings to stimulate their minds.
More often than not, I find myself wanting them to “have everything that I didn’t have” – but I forget that when I was little, I didn’t know what I didn’t have.
Don’t be afraid of giving your children simple memories.
Don’t be afraid that your kids might not appreciate the boredom of “having nothing to do”.
And don’t forget that, “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all”…