Following on the heels of being thankful for my parents (and definitely intertwined) comes this post's thankful.
I Am Thankful For A Wonderful Childhood
Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time with a huge box of old family photos that my mom loaned me so that I could scan them into the computer and put them on disks so each of my siblings (and my mom and dad) would have them. I'm really glad that I'm doing this, not just because some of the pictures are aging and otherwise might be eventually lost, but also as it's providing me with a very enjoyable trip down memory lane.
I just finished scanning in 1983, which was the year my younger sister Kathy graduated from high school. That summer, she I and moved out of the family home into a small one bedroom apartment near San Diego State University where we both were attending college. I was nineteen, she was eighteen, and while there were definitely trying times ahead of both of us, I can see now that we'd flown from a very loving and supportive coop. Later that year, our mom and dad and two younger brothers moved to the LA-area; leaving Kathy and I to truly fend for ourselves. Thankfully, we had a firm foundation.
The memories these pictures I am working with evoke are 99% happy memories. Those that are not, such as seeing a snapshot of my Uncle Bill, knowing that he was tragically killed shortly after the picture was taken when he was 18 years old; or one of my Grandpa looking sad, confused and bereft in a nursing home where he lived out his last years suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, are ones that every person has in some form or another. Other memories that may not have been so happy while they were going on, like the time I got into a lot of trouble for doing something potentially (but unknowingly) illegal when I was in fourth or fifth grade or the (thankfully) brief stint when we lived in Lexington, KY; I now view as vital to the development of my personal character. And, in hindsight, Kentucky wasn't ALL that bad since we were closer to my Father and step mom and other extended family during those nine months, plus my sixth grade year spent in the Lexington school system is when I really learned how to learn.
When I think back on my childhood; from infancy (where I obviously must infer from the look on my face in those early pictures that I was happy) to when I left home in August of 1983 (technically an adult but still a teenager at 19), I find "good stuff"! Such as, grandparents, cousins, family gatherings, tradition, birthday parties, Christmas presents, road trips, new adventures, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, effective school teachers and interesting classes, scouts, sports, swimming pools, cherished pets, family fun, a bit of a jet-setting lifestyle, best friends forever, dating, boyfriends, accomplishment, high school graduation; well, you get the picture!
Perhaps I was lucky that I lived during an age where kids were expected to go to school, do their homework when they got home from school, but were then turned out to have whatever fun with whatever friend that they could squeeze in those few hours before the dinner bell rang. Summer evenings were the best; we'd stay out until dark playing in the safe environment of our cul de sac; football, Frisbee, softball, roller skating, skate boarding, or even a board game spread out on someone's driveway. And then there were long afternoons floating around in our swimming pool, getting a tan, eating watermelon, gossiping with my sister and my friends. Later, we took bus rides (that took seemingly forever) down to one of San Diego's many lovely beaches. Of course, how great was is that I grew up in San Diego? Pretty darn terrific.
Yet, as much as I loved California, I also relished the times I'd fly "back East" to visit with my Father and step mom as there was an equal amount of excitement and adventure to be had in those months as well. We'd go on road trips to visit my grandparents on their farm in upstate NY; sometimes we'd take other trips to other destinations as well; including a memorable journey to an amusement park in TN. Sticking around wherever they lived wasn't any bad shakes either as there was always something cool to do in Lafayette, Boston or Cleveland. When I was sixteen, I experienced one of the singular most memorable summers of my life with a trip to England with Father and Margot and then my BFF coming to spend the rest of the summer with us in the Boston area (ah...but this is likely to end up on the Top Ten Events Of My Life So Far List!)
Before it appears that why WOULDN'T I have loved this childhood because everything was all fun and games, I should and will stress that I had my share of discipline, requirements, restrictions, rules, chores, obligations, responsibilities, onerous tasks, hard work, lots of studying, the usual teen aged drama, pimples, unrequited crushes on unattainable boys, missing my Father, missing my mother, missing my friends, not getting what I wanted, getting yelled at, etc., etc. BUT this is all part of childhood, is it not?
In the end, what those niggling issues did is simply enhance the sweetness of the rest of it. And, things didn't have to be extravagant to be wonderful. The quieter times spent with family celebrating a birthday; or making a elaborate French dinner together, dressing up in our roles of waiter or maid; or playing unending games of Euchre or Gin; or sneaking in to see an R-Rated movie with my sister and our friends; or my senior prom. The list goes on longer than the pictures would if I were to line them up end to end.
If I seem to be gushing a bit, I am. But, I won't apologize for being thankful for such a blessing, or the fact I was able to share it with so many people; parents, siblings, friends and loved ones, who were, and who remain, dear to me.