Going home is about becoming confident and self-reliant adults and how it takes a village to help you find yourself. The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” rings true. While our families hold the lead role in the village of our lives, the ‘villagers’ that surround us every day such as friends, neighbors, and teachers also play a significant role in shaping our characters.
The Neighborhood Gang
Three streets and over a dozen kids constituted my neighborhood.
The lesson: The importance of play
Each new day was an adventure in our neighborhood! In my generation, there were no video games or cell phones, music was heard exclusively through the radio or a record player, and cartoons were only broadcast on television during Saturday mornings and at 3:00 p.m. for an hour on school days. My friends and I had all the entertainment we needed in our backyards.
We had oodles of fun spending our time playing in the creek behind my house, catching crawdads, covering ourselves with red clay from the creek bank, playing war with the horse apples, catching lightning bugs in a mayonnaise jar, climbing cedar trees that were covered in sap, and riding bikes.
My beautiful pink bicycle had a banana seat, a sissy bar, and streamers that flowed from the handlebars as I zoomed around. We rode ‘double’ while hanging onto the sissy bars, stood on our seats and pretended we were in the circus or took turns sitting on each other’s handlebars while someone else did all the work. We would ride ‘all the way’ to Third Street to pick blackberries or have races down the steep hill. My bike gave me the freedom and confidence to explore, and I felt brave. The only rule that I adhered to was being home before the gas lamp came on in our yard.
Sometimes we were fortunate and found enough soda pop bottles to return and make sufficient money to go to the Bob Burns Theatre on Main Street. It was usually a double feature and the same movies played for months at a time.
Mr. and Mrs. Hunter
A retired couple who lived kitty-corner from me and were kind to everyone.
The lesson: Take pride in your home; love your neighbors
The Hunter’s home and the yard was small and pretty as a postcard. They also had an extra asphalt driveway in front of their home with a three-foot guard rail which made the perfect meeting place for us kids. We would park our bikes next to the rail, throw one leg over, and spin around until we were dizzy or got too tall and scraped our heads on the blacktop.
Mr. Hunter’s workshop was tiny but everything had a place and if you borrowed something, he expected you to put it back exactly where you found it. Tins cans lined the shelves and neatly held his small items like nails and screws. He taught me how to maintain my bicycle and one of my favorite items in his shop was a little pump oil can – my bicycle chain was always well greased! My fondest memory of Mr. Hunter, however, is his love of gardening; when I was seven, he helped me plant four o’clock flower seeds beside our carport. To this day, I enjoy gardening as much as breathing.
Mrs. Hunter managed her kitchen the same way that Mr. Hunter managed his shop: everything had a place and it was spotless. There was even a special spot for her ‘Tupperware’, better known as Cool Whip containers, and the tin foil that she washed and reused.
Loved God, her family, music, and me.
The lesson: Serve God, your family, and your neighbors; music speaks to the soul.
Music often wafted through the air because our neighbor, Miss Sue, was the pianist for her church. I spent a lot of time in my yard, and I enjoyed listening to her and her friends sing praises while I played. Miss Sue shaped my life for the better when she created the ‘Good News Club’ and invited all the kids to join. On a weekly basis, she made treats and told us stories and sang songs about Jesus. I knew the stories she shared were true and I can still hear her clear voice testifying, “There is a God and He sent his only begotten Son to die for us,” and singing the song, ‘Good News, Good News’. No doubt, she loved all of the kids in our neighborhood and was willing to share her faith and talents.
He was cute, smart, and had a crush on me.
The lesson: Everything works out.
I was ten when the boy next door went away for the summer and wrote me a letter declaring his love; the only problem was that he sent it to his mother who then passed it on to my mother, and they both read it. I liked him but nearly died from embarrassment!
He came home at the end of summer and I did my best to pretend nothing had ever happened. He, being a brave soul, however, mentioned the letter one day in front of the neighborhood gang. I glared at him while everyone waited for my response when suddenly, he completely lost his mind and kissed me! Well, when he saw the look on my face, he quickly gathered his wits and ran. Luckily, he ran faster than I or I would have hurt that ten-year-old boy! I was too humiliated to show my face in the neighborhood for the next week and was relieved when someone broke their arm which diverted attention away from the incident.
Today, that cute boy next door and I are genuine friends. I expect we have a special bond and am glad I did not scar my childhood by catching and hurting him that ridiculous day!
I am forever grateful for the villagers in my life that taught me to love playing, home, neighbors, God, family, music, and ultimately, myself. It took a village to raise this child.
Please join us on our Going Home Facebook page. Thank you! Angie Roberts Harris