I obviously began my childhood quite young. I like to think I’ve grown out of it, but, sometimes it still pokes its head out for a breath of air. I’m not sure that’s all bad.
Being the middle of seven children spread out over nine years meant that we had enough people in our family to field an entire baseball team (if only we lived close enough to anybody else to find some competition). Yes, unfortunately, we did drive our Dear Mom to a clinical nervous breakdown at one point, but she still loves us.
I did require a few spankings, but you don’t need to be bored with the details that led up to those (besides, I’ve conveniently forgotten those details, anyway). I, ashamedly, admit to being too much of a cry baby. I used to cry so hard sometimes that I would literally pass out (those were not some of my finest moments).
My older sister walked me to my kindergarten classroom on my first day of school. I later found out that some of her girlfriends asked her who that cute boy was that she came in with. Its pretty heady stuff to be considered ‘eye candy’ at the age of 5 (fortunately that term hadn’t been invented, yet; and we lived so far out in the sticks that nobody could exploit that fact).
I was born ‘pigeon toed’, my toes were closer than my heals when I stood up. I remember going to the Rockford, Michigan Hushpuppy factory to be fitted for some special shoes… they were designed to try to curve my feet outward. There’s a family picture of us kids lined up on the sofa, my legs were too short to bend over the front of the cushion… my shoes looked like they were on the wrong feet, but they weren’t. As therapy to straighten my legs I had to sit on the floor for an hour a day with my feet splayed to the side, my knees and butt on the floor. It was only a slight challenge getting into that position, the real pain was in trying to get out of that pose. It took a few minutes to be able to be able to stand again. I remember doing that after the doctor said that I didn’t need to just to see if I could endure that pain another time (I know if I tried that now I’d permanently break something). My feet are now straight, not pointing outward like ‘normal’ people’s feet.
I was saved so young that I can’t recall a point in my life that I didn’t love Jesus. There’s a church a half a mile East of the farm-house, we didn’t attend that church because the preacher didn’t have a Bible College education. Instead we went to a church that a neighbor who lived a quarter of a mile North of the church invited us to, Croton Community Church (it was about 7 miles away). There the Bible was the focus of all the Sunday School classes and sermons. We made up over half of the Christmas program each year.
I’ll always remember the summer that I saw the sign at the local church announcing their Vacation Bible School. I was at the upper limit of the age range so I decided that I was going to go so I could hear more about Jesus. I told my Mom and set off on foot Monday morning with my little Gideon’s New Testament that I received at the public school I attended (yes, that was legal back then). On Tuesday my three younger siblings walked up there with me… by Friday my Mom was driving to the family that rented our other farm-house to bring as many of their 6 kids that were old enough to go. I don’t know if any life changing decisions were made that week… but I’ll learn one day.
I also remember the time that many of us decided to ask Mom if we could be treated to eating our supper in the living room while watching TV (I don’ think there was anything special on… we just wanted to be pampered a bit). I don’t recall that she gave a reason for her decision but she told us ‘no’, so I just resigned to the fact that we were going to eat at the table. The other kids were begging her to change her mind… she didn’t. But, then she quietly came over to me and told me I could eat in the living room because of the way I responded to her. I didn’t necessarily want to eat alone, but, after we were served our meals she asked me, “Aren’t you going to the other room?”. I recognized that there was a lesson being taught then so I picked up my plate and took it away from everybody else. I think the neighbors heard the “That’s not fair!” that rose from the table at that point. So, for anybody wondering if I was a compliant child… come on now, that’s compliance on steroids.
Of course there were the constant demands of the farm. My main chore was washing the cow’s udders (it wasn’t actually the udders, but that’s the most tactful way I can put it) for the evening milking. There were endless hours on the back of the John Deere B tractor raking hay in the summer. And stacking the hay in the barn for storage (starting when the bales were bigger than me). One day my Mom and I were stacking hay in the highest part of the barn, she baked a chocolate cake for dessert (she knew that was my favorite). I was so tired that I couldn”t stay awake long enough to wait for it to cool (I had some for breakfast the following day).
So much for the lazy days of summer. The only thing worse were the teenage years… but, that’s next time.
I’ll see you later. Wade