Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Childhood Memories

Written by Kenju

The house we lived in when I was ages 9 to 12 had a chicken coop on the property; a holdover from the days when it was okay to keep chickens in that area, before it was taken into the city limits. My dad used it as a tool and garden shed, and my mom convinced him that he could share some of the space with me, to use as a playhouse. We scrounged up some carpet remnants and mom made curtains for the windows, and added a small table and chairs. I spent hour upon hour in there, either alone or with friends, having tea parties and playing house. In truth, it was a ramshackle building and sadly in need of repairs, but to me it was a castle. The only downside was that the remaining faint aroma of chickens drew black snakes all too often. The snakes were disappointed to find only dolls and tea party dishes!

I spent most of my time on a bike, when I wasn't in the playhouse or in the woods. I became a daredevil; riding down the hill in front of our house, standing up and not holding the handle-bars. I got away with it most of the time, but I fell once, skidding my knees on concrete and coming to rest with the kickstand penetrating my calf. My knees took almost 5 months to heal, because every time they got a good scab on them, I knocked it off again. I still remember one time when I approached the teacher's desk at school, hit the corner of it with one knee and screeched with pain and the knowledge that I had broken it open once again. If you look closely, you can still make out the scars.

In the summer, my friends and I were addicted to telling ghost stories. Most of us had been to some form of summer camp, where such stories are legendary, and we brought them home to share with each other. I remember sitting in Julie's big walk-in closet, lights out, and being scared to death by the story. Inevitably, at the point where the fear was the greatest, someone would reach out and grab me. I screamed bloody murder on more than one occasion and her mother would come running to see if we had been spirited away. When we weren't telling stories, we played paper dolls. I had boxes and boxes of them, and so did my friends. Little girls nowadays don't know what they are missing! I bought some nostalgic ones for my granddaughters, but they were not too impressed. I guess they pale by comparison to video games.

Our picnics were not too frequent, but when we had one, we did it in style. Sometimes mom would pack a lunch as we would just get in the car and drive, stopping whenever we got hungry. It might be a roadside park or a cemetery or a church yard but the location didn't matter as much as being in the open air and having a great picnic. Sometimes we went to Coal River; I don't know why it was called that. Perhaps a WV'ian will see this and be able to tell me why that is the name. There was a section that had been dammed up and it made a wide swimming area. They had formed a beach with sand brought in for that purpose.

There was no place to buy foods or drinks at that time, you had to bring your own. So mom would pack a picnic the likes of which few have seen (except maybe Jen and Angie): fried chicken, ham, potato salad, devilled eggs, biscuits or cornbread, and desserts to make everyone else jealous, plus the inevitable watermelon. Cokes (the old-fashioned kind in 6 oz glass bottles) were flowing like water. I have a few photos from those days; I will post them when I learn how. When I was about 16, a group of girls and I went to the river with a huge inner tube from an airplane tire. It held all 6-7 of us, and we floated lazily downstream. We got so engrossed in our conversation, that we were about 2 miles down river before we realized it. We had to walk back, carrying the inner tube.

My first "date" took place while I was living in this house. I was all of 10 or 11, when a neighbor boy invited me to go to the movies on Saturday. My mom said I could go, but that I shouldn't let him pay for my ticket or my snacks. She sent me off with money for it; his mom drove us there and my mom was picking us up afterward. When his mom let us out of the car, I made a mad dash to the ticket counter and bought my own. I don't think he was happy about it, but then he realized he would have more money for snacks - so he happily let it go. I hope he learned to be first in line after that!