Recently I made a post in which I revealed a lot of ghosts from my past, and it apparently struck a chord with many people because it brought me an enormous amount of traffic and comments. Had I known so many people would read it I probably never would have had the courage to write it. But I'm glad I did, because the feedback I've received has been 100% positive.
However, since the post dealt with a lot of the negativity in my life I've been worried that I might have created a skewed picture of what it was like for me growing up. Yes, I went through some tough stuff, including some things that would be difficult for an adult to handle, let alone a young child. And it was healing to write about that, to be up front and honest about it and have it read by strangers and new friends. But now I want to balance that a little and post about how GOOD my childhood was. Because mostly when I look back on being a kid, I don't think of all the bad stuff. I think of how free I felt at home and how loved I was.
I think of my grandfather taking time to play with me even when he was bedridden. He didn't need to get out of bed to pull a quarter out of my ear, or to play "astronaut" and help me count down to liftoff, or to teach me to play chess.
I think of my dad, for reasons I have never found out, dragging home a full-sized Centipede arcade game and plunking it in the yard. We only had it for a night or two, but my four-year-old self was amazed.
I think of my mom busting out the fingerpaints and helping me paint a beach scene on the wall behind the bathtub in our old trailer. We called it Hawaii, and it was still there when we moved out.
I think of my grandmother telling me ghost stories - I insisted they be ghost stories - before I went to sleep, every Friday when I stayed at her house. Most times I told her what the story should be about and she just repeated it. She wasn't a patient woman in general, but she was always patient about this.
I think of having cats running around our wide open yard, and of checking every cat-sized hidey hole for new kittens every spring. I always got to name them, and we always kept them all.
I think of being able to watch all the Nickelodeon I wanted, and watching hours every day, yet still finding time to play outside, make up stories in my room, read encyclopedias, and draw. I had all the time I wanted to do all this stuff, except when school interfered.
I think of my family being dirt poor, yet finding ways to get me into Girl Scouts, ballet, softball and marching band, and still getting me new Barbies too. My mom told me recently she used to roll pennies to buy me toys. We ate a lot of hot dogs and cheap noodles, but no one minded much.
I think of handing my mom a tape recorder and insisting she say something funny, and labeling the tapes COMEDIENS with a big marker.
I think of Elvis movies and Beatles records and Partridge Family reruns. My mother's childhood was part of my own, always, and I feel like I've lived in more decades than the two and a half that have passed since I was born.
I think of being allowed to "plunder", as Nannie called it, in dresser drawers and jewelry boxes, and then hearing the stories about the treasures they held: buckeyes from my great-grandfather, Confederate money, beaded necklaces from the 70s, my late uncle's wolf ring, my mom's bright red Willie Nelson bandana. I was just looking for fun stuff on a boring day, but I found my whole family history.
I think of my grandmother easing one of my bad years in school by taking me to either McDonalds, the park, or the library after she picked me up. Every single day.
I think of being picked up from school early one day to go get a Nintendo 64, because they'd been sold out everywhere and Walmart only had two in stock and by God my mother was going to get me one if it killed her. I'm sure she rolled pennies to get that too, though I haven't asked.
Of my teen years, I think of my grandmother driving me all the way into the city (she hated to drive in the city) to see my best friend. I think of sleeping when I wanted, spending hours on the internet chatting with close friends from all over the world, meditating, playing the piano, dancing, and exploring religions I'd never heard of. I think of getting all the privacy and time I wanted (I was extraordinarily private and introverted as a teen), and my parents agreeing to always, always knock before coming in my room.
I could go on like this forever, listing the little details that made my childhood more happy than sad, that gave my life an unschoolish feel years before I ever left school. Because that's another key to unschooling: you build a foundation of trust and joy with the little things, and that foundation cannot be destroyed by whatever big, scary, bad thing that comes along. No matter what pain I've gone through in my life, I've always known deep down that I was loved. Whenever life has sucked, I knew on some level that there are things to live for. I had good memories to hold onto during bad times, and people to spend time with when there was no money to go anywhere. Those are the things that get you through when shit happens.