The joy of eccentricity profits with age. As a child, anything slightly diverse can be cause of humiliation as was my life growing up in an old country schoolhouse.
I reflect back on those days fondly now, but then, I would criticize my home like one would speak of a quirky relative with jokes and stories as if they are never to be taken seriously. Best to make fun of you first, I always say. Nostalgia posted no such things as “stay-at-home moms” they were just moms. Mine wore an incalculable set of spongy rollers wrapped in an orange-netted scarf. Smoking was considered a leisure activity for which I believe my mom mastered the art of driving while preserving an ash string of 6 inches.
Joy was relative. A good day meant riding our mini bike to the nearby farm to collect a dozen eggs not kept in proper refrigeration. We gathered them from an old tin pail placed on their stair well. I might spend all day constructing a pool party for Barbie or Midge by digging a hole for a vintage plastic butter dish and arrange a date with Ken since G.I. Jo was always off cavorting with his headless army buddies.
Joy was scarcity. The lack of money meant each of us five kids placed our feet in the paint of our choice and walked around our brown speckled kitchen floor. This is what my family considered both entertainment and purposeful planning.
Joy was getting paid a double Popsicle for an hour worth of work rounding up the cattle that happened to stray from the field, by bike no less.
Joy was problem solving. Believing that blackbirds were really evil creatures who wished nothing more than to wait all day on a telephone line for that unsuspecting banana seat stingray to come cruising down the gravel road where they dive frantically at a toe headed child like an eagle fishing for trout. I was convinced that if I could race fast enough while throwing handfuls of blackberries over my head, the confusion alone would buy me time. It took around 20 attempts to prove my theory incorrect.
Joy came with no safety instructions. Our wood covered station wagon drove like a boat over rough seas. Seat belts weren’t discovered until the end of my second decade of existence which helped me conquer fear of flying by jumping from the backseat to the front seat in as many attempts as possible between home and the Piggly Wiggly.
Joy can be as small as a minute collecting tadpoles or as large as a lifetime spent forgetting a place once considered an embarrassment. I have chosen to remember and recreate pieces of a life I now crave for. Humiliation – to- longing. Who would have thought?