I wrote this after a visit by phone with a friend from out of town. Her comments inspired me to address the Covid-19 restrictions and how I felt. I had been feeling sorry for myself – a little bit – and getting stir crazy, so I took a trip back to my childhood and here’s what I found.
To Marie and Monica ― you know who you are…
When I asked your mom how you were doing during the quarantine, she said she was fine, but you were bored. I have always been puzzled when kids say that, so I decided to try to remember what it was like when I was your age. Turns out my memory is pretty good, and my experiences were even better.
Let me give you a little background. Until I was six, we lived in a small town. I would play with my brother, the kids across the street, and the kids across the alley. There were six of us who lived within a block of each other. I remember that we had fun, but I don’t remember much about what we did. However, many of those kids are my friends to this day, and some of them even on Facebook, which didn’t exist when I was five.
Then we moved out to the farm. We didn’t have a telephone, and the television stations (there were three of them whenever the weather was just right, and the antenna was pointed in the right direction) were all in black and white. Of course, there were no video games and the internet as we know it today didn’t exist. Besides, we didn’t have a computer. Being kids, we didn’t even know what a computer was, except for an occasional tv show where there was a big room with lots of spinning tapes and blinking lights, and ticker tape spewing out with strange numbers and letters and ominous beeps and boops.
Television was a family affair in the evening after supper, mostly during the winter. Dad loved his westerns, so we saw a lot of those. We watched the Mickey Mouse Club and Disneyland, and a few other shows. The tv lay dormant during the day. If we were snowbound, which happened often in the winter, the power usually went out at the same time. Sometimes it would be off for several days. We had a wood stove for cooking and another for heating, and plenty of candles, so it was more of an adventure than an inconvenience. At least it was for us kids.
We didn’t go into town very often, unless it was to go to school or church. During the summer, we stayed home a lot. One of the highlights of our summer was a visit every two weeks to the library. I loved walking in the door and up the stairs in the old building down the hill from the grocery store. The library had a smell all its own, and I could have spent days instead of the hour or so before mom said it was time to go. I checked out a big stack of books every time, and in the two weeks until we had to take them back, I devoured them. They took me to Neverland, through the looking glass and into Wonderland, to the slopes of the Alps with Heidi, and many more places in the wide world I could only imagine.
Books were not my only entertainment. My brother and I had a series of characters we invented. Sometimes we were spies or detectives, and we would sneak around in between the outbuildings, the granary, the barn, and the chicken coop as we tried to locate the bad guys. Armed with cap pistols, we always caught them and brought them to justice. Another set of characters involved my brother as a business tycoon with a card table desk outside. I was his secretary and we had one customer, whom we named Bill Snodgrass.
As more siblings appeared, they helped us make up more games. They loved it when I played a lively tune on the piano while they ran around like wild creatures and sang at the top of their lungs. They called the song “Honkin” and I got requests for it often. I think Mom got tired of it long before we grew out of it. Another game we played was “Go and Hide Seek.” The only difference in our game was that the hiders were not allowed to sneak back to base before they were found. If we wanted to pick on a sibling, we pretended we couldn’t find them, and waited to see how long it took them to catch on and give up.
We played card games and board games, too. We played checkers and chess, canasta and cribbage, and Monopoly and Parcheesi, to name a few. We played store as well, probably inspired by the grocery stores run by our grandparents and our aunt and uncle. And my brother and I spent hours playing in the dirt, making roads for our toy cars and landscaping the terrain.
Mom always had a garden, and we did our share of weeding. We also had a huge strawberry patch, and we could always find one of my younger sisters in the middle of it, with sticky hands and red juice running down her chin. I got to watch, and later help, Mom can vegetables and fruit, make pickles and jam, and I even helped gut and pluck chickens. One of my least favorite jobs was collecting eggs; the hens were way overprotective of their nests and they had sharp beaks.
We always had milk cows. I watched Dad milk them, and my brother and I ran the separator, a device that used centrifugal force and ran on kid power. It took both of us to get the crank started to run the machine. Some of the cream would be made into butter (another cranking job I did at least some of the time) and the rest Mom sold to the dairy in town. Dad poured the skim milk into a special bucket with a nipple attached near the bottom and fed it to the baby calves.
To sum it all up, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get bored. Yes, I had friends in town I wanted to visit, and once in a while I got to go to a slumber party, or spend the night, or go to Camp Fire camp for a week. For the most part, I entertained myself or enlisted the help of my siblings. But I never got bored.