It is the time of year when school has ended for the summer and children are busy with summertime activities. Some will be taking swimming lessons, for some dance lessons will continue and others will be involved in many sports activities. My son was not really looking forward to summer because he loves going to school and seeing and being with other children and friends. I can relate to that as I always felt a little lonely for friends in the summertime as well. As I got older I did spend some time playing with some of my friends. I would attend one friend’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) at her church nearly every summer. That was always fun for me. I also attended my own church’s VBS as well. Summertime is either loved or hated by children and parents alike. I love it!
I am at a unique point in my life where I can look back upon my own childhood summertime as well as my three adult children’s summertime and now my son’s summertime. It is surprising the differences I see. My childhood summer vacation time was spent without air conditioning so playing outside was always the thing to do until the bugs would bite and drive us indoors. My children, however, always have had air conditioning to escape the summer heat. When I was a child we would get together the neighborhood children and go to an empty lot near our home and play softball or baseball for hours. We would ride bicycles to the park across town and swing on the swings and play on the merry-go-round. We would go to the small grocery store and buy penny candy or nickel candy and feel we were rich with our treats. I loved going to the library and checking out books to read on the hot afternoons. My children, on the other hand, mostly read and spent time with my parents and would swim at the village pool and ride their bicycles all over the village where my parents lived. I honestly think my summer vacation time was more fun than theirs. Let me tell you about them.
As I got older I would spend a week with Aunt Mabel and Uncle Vern, a week with Cousin Bessie who lived one mile from my Great-Grandma’s home, a week or two with Grandma and Grandpa Slim, a week with Great-Grandma Bessie, and a week or two with my sister and her family. I was pretty busy during the summertime as I got older. I have wonderful memories from those times. The things that these relatives taught me have been so valuable to who I am today.
At Uncle Vern and Aunt Mabel’s house we started everyday reading one chapter from the Bible before we could eat our breakfast. In my family home we didn’t have such a tradition but I loved this tradition and learned many things at the breakfast table. If I didn’t understand what I read someone was always there to explain it to me. I also learned about caring for chickens and baby colts and even rode an old donkey they had. Well, riding might be a slight exaggeration as the way I remember it I fell off more than I rode that poor critter! Most of all I loved exploring their big old three-story barn and climbing on the bales of hay in front of the barn. When I think of time spent in their home I also think of Dove bath soap in their bathroom, so fragrant, and time spent on their big front porch that was shaded by large trees and always a cool place to spend a hot afternoon. And of course after every noonday meal everyone in the home, guests included, took a nap. Such memories!
At Cousin Bessie’s I learned that you didn’t need a washing machine to wash clothes because she used a wash board, powdered laundry soap, and a tub of hot water. She raised pigs and sheep and chickens and geese as well as her ever-present kittens and old friendly farm dog. She taught me how to live a simple life, how to use an outhouse, why you saved old catalogs and put them in the outhouse, and how to appreciate flowers in a yard. I also watched her cook with a wood stove and helped her make cornbread and the traditional chocolate cake on Saturday afternoon for Sunday dinner and then whatever was left as dessert the rest of the week! She didn’t have television but I didn’t mind as we read the most interesting things and talked about life and memories she had and it all seemed so magical!
Going to Grandpa and Grandma Slim’s house was always a treat, especially when they lived in the old log cabin home. During my childhood it burned to the ground and they lost everything. However they bought a trailer house and continued to live there for many more years before retiring and moving to town. Summers with them were a real treat. I would help Grandma with her garden as well as baking bread and cookies and washing clothes in a ringer washing machine. I also helped her gather eggs and separate the milk from the cream but I could never get the hang of milking a cow. She said she would do it and I could feed the chickens and so forth. They lived in basically a forest area and my most favorite thing to do was to walk into the forest on a hot afternoon because it was cool in the forest and there were always animals to see. I loved nature because my Grandma loved nature and instilled that love into me. Just like at Uncle Vern and Aunt Mabel’s house everyone took a nap after the dishes were done from the noon meal. Grandpa said that the animals needed a rest as well as humans, especially when it was so hot outside and so we rested. And there was another activity that I got to do with my grandparents and that was to learn to fish. They were avid fishermen and they taught me to catch fish, clean fish, cook fish, and eat fish. I got to help dig for worms to use as bait for the fish too! Every kid’s summer dream!
My Great-Grandma Bessie shared her home with her youngest daughter and son-in-law and when they went on vacation I got to go and spend that time with Great-Grandma Bessie! Oh how I remember those precious days. The doctor had told her not to eat beans but they were her favorite food so as soon as her daughter left the yard Great-Grandma got out her big pot and we began cooking a big pot of ham and beans. We ate them for a week! It was great fun. Great-Grandma loved to read and she introduced me to so many books that were so interesting. I have some of her books in my library and I treasure them. She also taught me how to embroidery as she loved to embroidery and always had a project she was working on. I think the largest and most beautiful project I ever saw her do was a full size quilt where each square was an embroidered state bird and flower. It was really beautiful. Mostly, though, she embroidered pillow cases and tea towels and aprons. She would give them as Christmas gifts to her large extended family. At Christmas time she would have more than a hundred gifts under her tree ready to give to every member of her constantly growing family. She also is the one that taught me the most about growing a garden and why flowers in the garden were important. They not only attracted bees to help pollinate the plants but they also kept some bugs away and they provided beautiful bouquets of flowers for the dining room table. She is also the one who got me started collecting stationary as she loved having a stationary collection. Such fun times!
And last but never least I would spend a couple of weeks to a month with my sister and her family. My sister was ten years older than me and so she was married while I was still a child. I was to go and help her with her boys and be a help to her in cleaning the house and in cooking. She loved to play the card game rummy and so I learned from her to play rummy. I also learned to make coffee strong enough for my brother-in-law to enjoy as he loved really strong coffee as a drink. My sister taught me how to make iced tea and she taught me to read quietly as she always had a large collection of Harlequin Romance novels around. She was an avid reader as well. Most of all, though, I loved playing with my nephews and had a front row seat to their childhood. Sometimes we would go see a movie which was always a treat to me and I got to know some of my sister’s friends which was also fun.
My childhood summers were filled with family and friends, reading, cooking, learning, and at each home I experienced something different from the other. There are several things I also experienced the same from each home. First of all each person at the various homes taught me things about God as they all loved God and they all believed that Jesus Christ was God’s Son. I went to church with them and to Sunday School. I learned that they walked out their faith daily and this taught me how to walk out my faith daily. Each home also had a love of music and music was an important part of staying with them. Everyone played an instrument and most of the homes had a piano. I learned to play music with my relatives and this gave me an insight to many skills that I would use later in life. I also learned the value of family and how to love everyone in the family, warts, spikes, and all! I learned that we are all different personalities but we all are family and care about each other and show love to one another. I learned so much during my summer vacations.
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6, (New American Standard Bible).
The Bible teaches us to train our children in the things of God and in the important things in life. I was trained with the best training because I learned the value of faith in Jesus Christ, love for one another, compassion for all, work hard and stay away from trouble, use your mind for good, and the value of a person’s family. I didn’t take dance lessons or swimming lessons and I didn’t play organized summer sports games. I didn’t have every minute of my summertime planned to keep me entertained and out of Mom and Dad’s hair. I am so thankful for that! I am so thankful that I had a fun childhood and learned about fishing and birds and chickens and donkeys and barns and baby colts and gardens and books and poems and Dove soap! I am thankful for those memories and experiences because they shaped my faith and helped me to grow up knowing what really is important in life. It isn’t how much money you have or what car you drive or what neighborhood you live in. It is how you earned your money and how you spend your money and who you share your life with and what you fill your mind with and what you do for others. I am hoping to be given the chance to pass on the fun I had during the summer to my son and to my granddaughter. It is a different time now but the core values of what is really important have not changed and never will change when you believe in the things of God. It’s time for us to pass it on to the next generations, wouldn’t you agree?