My oldest daughter Katy is 16 1/2 years old and she thinks she is getting “old.” She started reminiscing the other day about life as a “little girl.” She’s written a little piece called “Being Little.” I’m certain it means more to me than to anyone reading it…but, if you are a parent or grandparent or even a young person reading this…it will take you back to times when you were little or when your children were little. Simplier…less complicated days when life was tranquil and peaceful. It’s a little longer than my normal post…but it’s worth the read if you ‘ve got about 6 or 7 minutes. Enjoy…
I was always told to enjoy those years and now that I’m in these years, I understand why. In those days I longed to be an intelligent young adult with responsibility. I never understood when the adults would bend down, pinch my pale freckled cheeks and whisper with a sad smile, “You enjoy being little now, sweetie.” No, not then. But now that the freckles have faded, a little at least, and adults no longer have to bend down, I understand the meaning behind those words.
There was simply nothing like a spring day when the end of school was so nearby and in my young heart, so far away. I was convinced that learning my multiplication tables would be the hardest thing I’d ever do and if those weren’t hard enough, my new piano song would be. I would hurry up to finish school on such a day and stuff a corn dog down my throat so I could sit by the phone and wait to get a call from my cousins. It wouldn’t be long before the two of them would be huffing up the hill between our houses and I would pull my curly-headed sister out of the house into the warm, honeysuckle air. There were no formalities between the four of us and we would soon come to a conclusion on what my youngest cousin, Leah, and I wanted to do for the afternoon. For some time we almost always decided on a trip to the creek.
We must have been quite a sight, trotting down the hill. Taylor was the second oldest of our motley crew and to my dismay was a little less than a year younger than me, as she rubbed it in those six days we were the same age. She always wore her hair in a straight, smooth pony-tail and never had a worry in that pretty sun-tanned heart-shaped face of hers. She was more than happy to be the peacemaker, which I loathed I wasn’t better at it. My sister, Kandace, was the one who would be skipping with her curly brown mane blowing in the breeze. She always had herself into something and required constant attention during those days. Leah, the wee little girl was too much like me in many ways. The little blond- headed baby of the group always helped me make the decisions and unlike her older sister, preferred to play the cowboy in our games. And then there was me, the only one with the white, freckled skin and feet browner than my face. I would be beside of Taylor skipping along; trying not to worry about something… whatever it was that particular day.
The creek always seemed to smell fresh and the water cool, cold really. The rich green moss lined the creek’s embankment like a velvety carpet for our bare feet. I always had to remind one of the younger girls to watch out for the “three shiny leaves” because that was poison ivy. We were told by our wise fathers to wade no further than our knees, but Taylor was usually the only one who remembered the unwanted advice. We were always thrilled when we found a new place that the water flowed slowly and a fallen tree provided a good seat. It wouldn’t be long; however before we grew tired of our new playing place and would go in search of a better one.
On such a day at the creek, I persuaded Leah that a sled would make an excellent boat in the deeper water. As I remember, both of our mothers had told us that “today we were not to get wet”, but I explained that the sled wouldn’t let a drop of water on her. She was skeptical, but being the 7-year-old that she was, she gave in much to Taylor’s dismay. I dug through our winter sleds on that summer day and found the large black one; Old Ruth as we would later name it. I hurried everyone down the steep path to the still waters before my poor cousin could change her mind. I lowered the plastic sled to float on the dark surface of the cold water. Leah whined, but I sternly told her that it was too late to change her mind. Taylor stood at a distance. I suppose so that when my plan failed she wouldn’t be in trouble. I helped lower Leah onto the sled and she sat there for a moment, but to my horror the hateful Old Ruth begin to bow up and water rushed in over Leah as she screamed bloody murder. She stood up which just made her slip off the sled and catapult under the coldness. All I could hear was a trio of three little girl’s screams as I pulled my soaked cousin out of the water. Needless to say, I was left at the creek alone as everyone ran up the path to tattle-tell on me. As I recall, I never put Leah in a “boat” ever again.
Despite each of our strangeness, we always asked our parents for one more hour to play. And we played everywhere. The woods were our favorite place of all. Intermingled with the evergreen trees and tall oaks, we would drape old sheets from branches and create houses. We would act out stories of the old west. We had many a series and it would take us days and even months to get through as story. We traipsed around in old dresses that we had rummaged through in the musty basements of our houses. But we took it seriously. Each story was played out in the deep forest as though it were a movie being taped. Leah was usually frustrated that she had to play such girly games and would only be satisfied if she could be the cowboy or Indian and kill one of us. And then one day she invented a game called “Mistress” where I had to be an evil old woman who treated her as a slave. She got to go behind my back and play tricks on her mean master, which was me of course. Even Taylor and Kandace enjoyed that series and said that I was good at being a bossy, mean mistress. I was mad at them for about a day, for saying that.
I think we all got addicted to popsicles those hot summers. Some days we would even sneak inside and take turns sticking our sweaty, beat red faces in the freezer.
Before long school started back up and we each had to spend the majority of our days in our homes. The air would lose its warmth and as the briskness of fall set in, we would be hard-pressed to give up our outside escapades despite the chill. The creek was no longer refreshing, but simply cold, so we stayed near our playhouses and were satisfied mixing dirt and flour together to create our pretend meals. We crushed acorns and ground leaves for herbs. The outside faucet was our best friend as we toted water to and from our activities at the edge of the yard. Usually we would argue on whose turn it was to get the water, but often it ended with sweet Taylor picking up the bucket and getting it herself.
Later in the fall, the whole family headed to the beach. It became a tradition somewhere along the way for the four of us girls to put on a show in the den of the house for the six adults. Each year I packed half of my suitcase full of costumes, rather than swimsuits. I spent the beginning of the week planning our show. I was the director, being the show lady I was and spent the whole week begging Leah to be apart of my masterpiece. This particular year, out of the kindness of her heart, she agreed to be in my show. I had chosen to base my masterpiece from The Sound of Music. We each acted out one of the children in the movie and sang several of the songs. I had never been so thrilled in my life when the six adults gave a thunderous applause, which I believed was heartfelt. Later, Kandace whispered in my ear, “We will never do that again.” But for me, it didn’t matter. I had performed my show.
The first snow was a cause for celebration… even if it was only half an inch. We pulled our sleds out, not to drown Leah in the creek this time, but to use them to sled. After wrapping up in warm clothes we braced ourselves for the chill of the white world outside. We would head back inside after climbing the sledding hill more times than we could count and with our thighs burning, our socks in a wad at the toe of our boots and with chapped cheeks. As soon as we entered the enveloping warmth, we began to figure out how we could get everyone on the hill, including our two grandparents, to eat supper together. After much difficult planning, Kandace usually came to our daddy with the question, since he couldn’t seem resist his cute youngest daughter. Before long he was calling my Aunt and grandparents and meanwhile we were in the pantry persuading my mother that we did indeed have the ingredients to make chili. As the night fell, we trudged up the snow laden hill to the home of my MaMaw and PaPaw. We sat around the dinning room table eating crackers and chili as happy as larks. With full stomachs we marched down the hall to MaMaw and Papaw’s king size bed and watched a movie or played a board game. We would relax in the comfort and warmth of our family’s presence. How sweet it was.
I do miss those days. Things have changed. Even though each of us are still young… we’re not little children anymore. Conversations between our crew are no longer about who will bring the sheets for our tents. It’s been years since we mixed flour and water or searched for a new place to play at the creek. We no longer play Mistress or dress in play clothes. I would not trade anything for those days, because I now realize those were the ones that brought me to where I am, to where we are. I never would have imagined those days would have disappeared so quickly. At the time it seemed that they would always be there. The creek hasn’t changed, the playhouse still sits where it always has, but life moves on and we move with it. To bigger things, greater plans that the Lord has for us. There was a time for freckles, popsicles, and sleds for boats. There is also a time to remember those memories as we walk on in our lives. We still climb on PaPaw and MaMaw’s bed sometimes, although we hardly fit anymore, and some winter days we’ll even beg to eat together on a snowy night. For that, I am so thankful. In the whirlwind of this new chapter of my life, sometimes I’ll stop and walk outside to the playhouse and I can almost see four little girls playing Mistress and simply enjoying being little.
Dedicated to Taylor, Kandace and Leah: Our motley crew.
I love you guys.
Great story huh! So…they motley crew decided to go back down to the creek and “relive” some of their adventures earlier this week.
What great memories! Isn’t it true that when we look back at our childhood things just looked better. I know that may not be the case for everyone. I don’t know your circumstances. But, even in hard times…we can look back and see how blessed we are!