I was an unusual child. Unlike other kids my age, I loved school. While I didn’t enjoy waking up early to go, once I got there I almost always enjoyed my day. I was shy (I still am!), but despite the fact I was quiet and didn’t have an over abundance of friends, I still loved being at school (I even stretched my four year college degree into a six year experience!). While I enjoyed school, I still loved summer break and looked forward to it every May.
As a child, my parents both worked so I spend a good deal of my summer with babysitters. When I was very young–kindergarten through fourth grade–I spent my summers with a family who lived across the street from us. It was my best friend Ronnie’s house, Ronnie was one of the only kids who lived on my street so we spent a huge amount of time together. His mother had two boys–Ronnie and his older brother B.J.–and his mom loved me. She treated me like the daughter she never had and to her I could do no wrong. We were all relatively poor in that neighborhood. We lived in tiny two-bedroom houses which, looking back, seemed big to me. Now I realize how tiny our home was, now that I live in a home of my own–by myself–that is substantially larger. Money was just not something we had, so Ronnie and I–and sometimes B.J.–had to make our own fun. Born in the mid-eighties, I was one of the last generations who were born before the age of technology. We did have video games, but neither Ronnie’s nor my parents would allow us to sit and play them all day. We spend the majority of our time outdoors, tearing up the pavement riding our bikes up and down Blossom Street. We also spent countless hours playing games in our backyards. Mostly my backyard, because we had a large shrub that leaned over, creating the perfect tunnel, which we used at our house. Ronnie was one of the few boys I knew who was willing to play house. Though, it wasn’t really a girly game. And there was no one else to play with on the street so it’s all we knew.
I have memories of doing so many fun things there. Jumping on my trampoline–being an only child, I was the envy of the neighborhood with my full-size trampoline–and playing on the swingsets in our backyards. I even remember vividly playing some dangerous games, like shooting roman candles and bottle rockets as we held them. My mother–and his–would have killed us if she knew we did that.
Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, my family still went on a few really great vacations. The first vacation I really remember was our trip to San Antonio, Texas. It was my first trip on an airplane. I remember I had a stuffed “Littlefoot” doll from The Land Before Time. I clutched him the entire time, and he had to go through the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint. My parents let me sit by the window, and I sat glued to it, staring at the landscape below with wonder. I remember seeing the Alamo, riding in a boat on the river, and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city. We also went to Sea World, the highlight of the trip.
Other great vacations we took included a trip to St. Louis, where we saw the Budweiser Clydesdales and spent a day at Six Flags. Other memorable vacations from my childhood include a trip to Orlando, Florida for Disney World; a trip to Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine; and a trip to New York City.
We eventually moved away from the tiny house in the city to live in a quieter, safer neighborhood in the suburbs. My parents were making more money and had been toying with the idea of moving for a while. They made up their minds firmly one evening when a gang had a party in the area and a rival gang showed up and started a fight. Shots were fired–numerous shots–and the police actually found several of them hiding in our backyard. Our house was for sale very soon afterwards.
Our house sold long before the new home my parents were building was ready, so we had to find a rental property until the house was completed. I remember looking at several apartments downtown, right in the middle of the city, in a historic district. The apartments were very unique and different from our house, but ultimately the house directly across the street from the one we lived in came up for rent. So we packed or stuff and walked it across the street to the house where we would spend the next several months.
That house was absolutely horrible. It was disgusting from the family who lived there before. I had never lived anywhere but our tiny house. The rental house was much larger. It had a living room, a den, a dining room, and three bedrooms and two bathrooms! I had a nice bedroom, but I never slept in it. I was terrified in that room and didn’t sleep one night in it. I would always end up begging my parents to let me sleep in their room, so my dad ended up moving my bed into the formal living room. I slept better there, because it was right next to my parents bedroom. They would keep their door open so I could even see them from my own bed.
It was a miserable time. I was right next door to Ronnie, which was ok, but I hated everything about that house. It could have been great. It was so much bigger, it had a large enclosed front porch, it had two bathrooms–making it much easier and more efficient to get ready in the mornings–it had two living areas so we didn’t have to all agree on what to watch on TV, and the yard was huge. The weird thing about it, though, was the “backyard” was actually on the side. The backyard was fairly small, but apparently the original owners had bought the lot next to the lot where the house was built, thus making their yard twice as large.
The negatives outweighed the positives, though. We lived very minimally in that house. 75 percent of our things were in boxes and all stacked in one of the bedrooms. The downstairs den was large, but the previous renters left it in a horrible state, including an infestation of fleas from the two large chows that lived INSIDE the house. It took a substantial amount of time for my parents to get that room clean and flea-free. We still ended up spending most of our time in my parents bedroom and the living room which had become my bedroom. It was miserable. I cried the day we moved out of our first house, but the day we moved out of the rental I had never been so happy!
When we moved to the suburbs my life changed. My family started going to church, where I met my current best friend. I liked the small town life. The town has since grown to be quite large, but when I was a child, we couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone we knew. The people there were different, they had more money. We didn’t have to worry about someone breaking into our house or getting shot in the street. Life in the suburbs was good.
Overall, I had a terrific childhood. I made many memories that will last a lifetime. I was luckier than many children. I never had any siblings, the only part of my childhood I wish were different, but I had parents who loved me and included me in everything. I always had something to do and never had to work for their affections. I had numerous health problems, which required major surgeries, which resulted in my being forced to stay inside a lot. I think it was this which helped me discover my creative, artistic spirit. I loved to write stories, paint pictures, and pretend. Being an only child, I played by myself a great deal of the time, so pretending was necessary. Though I had problems and setbacks, I believe my childhood–especially the special things my family did during the summers–helped shape me into the person I am today.