I recall my years growing up in our small mountain community with fondness. Perhaps we recall all periods of happiness with great joy. My life in those hills, surrounded by love and simple pleasures were some of the most valuable in my life, I think.
Our play was simple and filled with imagination and very few manufactured toys. Of course, we had a few, but for the most part we relied on our imagination. We were free to roam the countryside without worry which I fear is something lost to most of the current generation. There are too many fears and parents are bombarded with news about horrible hazards constantly.
It is funny to think back and recall the things on which we based our play. For example, we had a modified game of hide-and-seek/tag which we aptly named “No Bears Are Out Tonight”. We always played near dusk which made the prospect of being chased by a bear even more chilling. Everyone in the neighborhood played and my grandmother’s house was often our home base. I never saw a bear growing up, but the adults talked about them often and the history of the early settlers involved a lot of bear hunting.
One of my fondest memories involves playing with my brother’s cars. This would have been in the early 1960s so they may have been some of the early Matchbox cars. We lived with my grandmother and across the road sat the old one-room school house which had been converted into the community building. There was a small parking area made of dirt and gravel. My brother and I would spend hours with a small piece of wood or sturdy cardboard dragging them through the dirt to develop a large maze of roads. We would weave great adventures as we drove our cars, trucks and other vehicles through the dirt.
My grandmother had old plates which we decorated with grape leaves and grapes from our little grape arbor. These became the centerpieces of elaborate feasts fit for royalty. If we were lucky, we added wild strawberries from a patch tucked at the edge of the woods. There is no flavor match for the taste of fresh berries and grapes warmed by the summer sun. No washing of the fruit required because there were no pesticide concerns.
At night we caught lightening bugs and in the summer, yes, we caught June bugs and tied them to a string. I would not do that now, but it was part of growing up in Appalachia.
This song Dolly Parton wrote about her Tennessee upbringing is spot on. This was exactly what life was like.
Life is different now, but the magic can still be found. I really enjoy introducing my grandchildren to imaginative play. They love going outside at night to catch lightening bugs or just to simply look up at the abundance of stars. So many of our memories have centered around these times and I hope it brings them joyful memories in the future.