Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful for my Childhood

When my parents were young, age 26, they moved from Massachusetts to Maine with their 4 children, to move into their new home in the country, leaving most of the family and both of their jobs behind them. They were so young.  But people were older then.
My dad was fresh out of the Coast Guard and a welder, and my mom was a registered nurse at Mass General, and their work schedules meant they were almost never home at the same time.  They wanted something different for their new family.  They wanted a new fresh branch for the family tree.  It was a bold move, and I'm so glad they did it.  I wasn't glad at the time.  I had no emotions about it.  I'm not sure I even knew we were moving.  We just did it.  And when we got there, we found we had a huge house out in the country.
My dad got a job at the Hyde Windlass in Brunswick, and my mom stayed home, starting the Bonnie Brae Nursing Home in our house.  When Dad was home on weekends, he was the cook for the nursing home.  I think he eventually quit his job to help at the nursing home full time.
It was an interesting life living in a nursing home.  We sometimes helped out by sitting with patients on the front porch and bringing them apples from one of our apple trees.  We mostly talked to patients or stayed out of the way, though I do remember one time that my brother stood on the back pegs of a wheelchair and tipped a patient over.  And I do remember the time I forgot to lock the bathroom door and a patient came in while I was taking a bath in our old claw foot tub.  You'd think we'd have had more than one bathroom for a family of 6 and nursing home patients.  Mostly they used bedpans and big wooden commodes though, and had sponge baths, so the bathroom traffic wasn't that bad.  There was also a double outhouse in our attached barn.  No one used that though.  Years earlier, it must have been a luxury, though, to have an outhouse almost in your house!  No outdoor treks in the winter!  My brothers got locked in there almost as soon as we moved in.  Not sure how.  But there were lots of things my brothers did that I couldn't understand.
This was the house with Walter Reed's Gulf Station at the end of our driveway.  The place where my brothers decided to buy cigarettes and say they were for my parents.  Their mistake was in buying the wrong brand.  Walter called my parents and said, "So you've changed to Marlboro?"  So though I didn't understand the whys or hows, I still learned lots of things from my brothers.
This home was where we played sports as a family every Sunday.  Sometimes it was basketball at our hoop on the barn on the dirt and grass.  If the basketball landed on the big wooden platform in the weeds, we were not to go get it.  That was the cesspool, an old fashioned sewer system of sorts, and they didn't want us to somehow fall in.  Sometimes we played football in the big flat part of our yard below the hill and apple trees and before the hay field.  I broke a bone in my foot stepping in a hole left when we pulled up the grape vine arbor.  No one believed me at the time, and I just finished the game.  It hurt for years off and on, and then when I was in college, they had to x-ray my foot for another injury, and they told me I'd broken my foot once - which I knew.  Baseball was our summer sport.  We used some combination of the two apple trees and the elm tree as our bases.  They were in a straight line, so it made for a triangular playing field instead of a diamond.  Our bat was usually a stick, a vacuum cleaner wand, or some other straight but not regulation bat item.  The ball, likewise, was a rolled up sock, paper, or other material wrapped in electric tape or just rolled up tightly (no duct tape then).  Our home base was the grape vine arbor mentioned before, and later when that was taken down it was something else we just put on the ground. Our Manx tiger cat, George, used to like to follow us around while we played football or baseball.  He would wander back and forth trying to keep up with the game, talking all the while.
Some Sundays I just wanted to finish reading a good book, like Honey Bunch, Just a Little Girl, or Heidi, but it didn't matter, we were all herded outside for the big game.
Looking back, I'm glad my parents made us play the family games.  I'm glad they had the boldness to pick up and move us. 

I found this last night.   It's by Anne Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, which I have now added to my must read list.


  1. A beautiful little baby on the video.

    Your life sounds a lot like mine, only I didn't live in a nursing home. You were very lucky to grow up in the country. A good life.

  2. I lived with 2 grandparents in our home, and somewhat older parents, plus I was an only child, so I used to say I grew up in "Austin's Home for the Aged." But you really did live in a nursing home! Yet, with the way your family interacted together so much, it doesn't sound so elderly-centric. What lovely memories of a special life. This gives insight into the source of so much real life and emotion I always read in your writing. And I, too, love One Thousand Gifts. This post is oh so beautiful in so many ways! Thank you!

    1. I enjoyed our nursing home days. I'll write about our "after nursing home" days soon. We had so many good memories of our time in that house.

  3. That sounds like a lot of fun and kind of like being on my grandparents' farm as a kid, though we didn't have anything like the big games. For us, it was mostly about tromping in the woods.

    1. We did plenty of woods tromping, too - and tree climbing, and hay fort building and rock climbing. Do kids do that now?

  4. You know, I don't actually know. Mine don't but maybe it's a lack of the proper environment.


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