When my daughter, Corrie Petersen told me that her husband, Kevin and son, Josh weren’t feeling very well yesterday, I instinctively told her to tell them that they weren’t sick…it was just the meanness coming out. It’s a funny little saying my dad came up with to lighten the mood when we weren’t feeling well. It’s funny that even when we weren’t feeling well, that comment never failed to make us giggle…along with rolling our eyes, and the whole, normal for kids comment…”Da-a-a-a-d!!” Then, Dad would always grin and try to look innocent, while saying something like, “Wha-a-a-t?” It was just the kind of comment my dad would make. Always act like you are totally innocent in the whole thing, right.
He was always coming up with these strange comments. I remember coming in from playing, crying because I had hurt myself in some minor way. If I stubbed my right big toe, Dad would offer to stomp on my left big toe, because it would make me forget about the pain in my right big toe. It was silliness that added a light tone to the drama that always seems to go along with a house full of girls. Dad was very outnumbered in our house, because with five daughters, he was the only male in the family. I suppose that it’s possible that his silliness was, in reality, a self defense mechanism. Imagine being the only man in a house full of women, five of whom could go from playing happily to squabbling in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes it was the things that people would never expect that we, and later the grandchildren and great grandchildren really liked…oddly. Things like the Whisker Rub, which is just what it sounds like. Dad would grab us and rub his end of the day whiskers across our face. I’m sure there are people out there who would cringe at that, and believe me when I say that Dad had a full face of whickers, but once he was done, we would invariably say, “Do it again, Daddy!!” It was a great game, and he never rubbed hard enough to make it hurt. It was just another way to lighten things up around our house, even if everyone was in a great mood already.
Dad always found creative ways of making us laugh, and maybe that was the reason that we hated it when he worked out of town for a time. His laugh was contagious, and he never really grew up, so playing often included Dad in some way. The grandchildren and great grandchildren can attest to that, because of the game where he sat right by the door of the kitchen, and the kids ran from kitchen to living room and back trying to get by him before he could swat them. They almost never succeeded, but they had a great time playing the game, and Dad just laughed and laughed.
I love those great old memories. And I think it’s awesome that some totally unrelated event, like someone not feeling well, can trigger those precious memories from my childhood days. My only regret now is that we didn’t have the ability, forethought, and accessibility of the camera phone, to take pictures of those silly moments to add to the precious memories that we can only see in now our memory files. Those really were the good old days, and I miss them a lot.
About the time my sister, Cheryl turned 12 and went to junior high school, things started to change around our house. We had always danced in some form in the house, but not much of the dancing that went along with rock music. That year marked the end of the immature child’s play for Cheryl, and the introduction of the teenage world for the rest of us. Cheryl and her friends practiced dancing in our living room every chance they got, and the rest of us tried to follow along. As with most people, there were those of us who had a natural rhythm, and those of us who…just didn’t. Unfortunately, I found myself in the latter category. Maybe I was just in those awkward pre-teen years, or something, I don’t really know, but for whatever reason, I was more the bull in the china closet type of dancer. It wasn’t that I hit anything, but more that my moves were really klutzy and I couldn’t seem to hear the beat or find any semblance of rhythm. I suppose that in time and with a lot of practice, I could have figured it out, but I simply decided that I was probably never going to be much of a dancer, and for many years, I danced only with my sisters in the living room, because I figured that if they laughed at my moves, I could live with that, but if my friends did so, it would be the most humiliating thing that could ever possibly happen, and something I chose not to risk.
I don’t recall just how good my little sisters were, but I remember that Alena has always been a pretty good dancer. She was a lot like Cheryl in that way…just a natural talent for it. Caryl, does real well these days too, and has even taken dancing lessons, so she can do some of the really cool dances from days gone by…like the ballroom type of dancing. I don’t remember just how good Allyn was, but then she was only three years old when we started dancing in the living room, so I’m sure she was uninhibited and we all thought she did just fine…and she seems to do just fine these days too. In a way, my younger sisters might have been given a great advantage with those early dancing days, because they weren’t in the awkward years of growth, and they weren’t self conscious either.
Even though I felt self conscious in those days, I still stuck it out, because it was fun to hang out with Cheryl’s older friends and my sisters, doing something totally goofy…at least in my mind. I don’t remember if Cheryl ever hated having all her younger sisters hanging out in the same space as she and her friends were, but my guess is that she probably did, because having all your little sisters hanging with your friends is always tough when you are a tween or teen. Nevertheless, she was stuck with us…at least for those dance sessions, and it was probably ok with her if we danced with her when her friends weren’t there. Whatever the case may be, I learned pretty much all of the little bit I know of dancing right there in my parents living room, with my sisters, and I learned that dancing isn’t exactly my forte.
Jacob, the son of my cousin, Denise DeVogel, who I recently met on Facebook, got busy the other day and in his play, he reminded many of the rest of us in the family about the fun things many of us did as kids. Jacob pushed the couch and chair in his mom’s living room together, covered them with a blanket, and…presto, he had a private little tent to camp out in. He has spent the last couple of days having a great time in that little tent. And his mom, Denise has had such a good time watching him have such a good time.
Looking at the picture she posted on Facebook, took me back to my own childhood, and the many tents my sisters and I made. We had such good times playing in the little shelter that the tent provided. Not that we needed shelter, but more a secret little place to hold our meetings, play games, have snacks, and pretend to go to sleep…not that any sleeping happened, unless we planned to camp out for the night like it seems was Jacob’s plan to do. The things that went on in those tents, were such a big deal when we were kids, and I suppose that everyone’s games were a little different, but we all thought that our little club meetings were a total mystery to our parents, not ever realizing that our parents were little kids once too, and they probably played many of the same games you did.
And it wasn’t just me who took a trip down memory lane while looking at the pictures of Jacob in his tent, because Denise’s friend, Karen commented, “How fun!! I remember doing that!!” Her words were exactly the ones that would have come out of my mouth, had she not beat me to it. It’s pictures like these that remind you of all the good things that define childhood. It’s the freedom to be creative, inventive, and yet silly, all rolled into one little person, that makes the whole scene so fun to watch. It makes me want to be a kid again…well, maybe not, but I could be a kid again for a day or maybe a week, so I could build a tent in the living room, and hold the little club meetings, or read a book, or camp out, and then I could step back into reality again, and take with me the little vacation memories I had in the tent in the living room. Thanks for the memories Jacob!!