I’m starting to figure out that a chunk of my resentment towards life is a result of not being able to let go of my childhood years. We hold on to most of our experiences from growing up, good or bad. I’ve told about some not so great experiences in my previous post, but it’s the great memories that I have that are clinging to everything I think about.
I don’t know how many people are born and raised in concrete jungles but I believe I’m pretty fortunate as to have been raised amongst magnolias and plum trees. Mississippi may have its hang ups and set backs but growing up in a rural Mississippi town has it’s own way of providing a sense of freedom. Basically I mean we had a whole lot of room to run amuck and raise havoc. That’s a perk of having plenty of yard space (mmmm, the smell of not living two feet away from your neighbor. Smells like freedom). And if there was one thing my family believed in, it was locking us outside in the summer heat to play all day as to prevent is from running in and out of the house. No, they really did lock the door on us. But they loved us enough to slide us some sandwiches and lemonade out the door before they locked it again. And there were plenty of us to keep ourselves entertained, especially when my Detroit and North Carolina cousins came to visit during the summer months. In all it was about eleven of us from the third generation ripping and running. That’s not including the cousins from our non-immediate family who stayed right next door and down the street. From the time school ended we would be outside on our bikes or in the field in the go-kart. My grandparents, whose house we tended to overrun, had plum trees, peach trees, and pear trees that we continuously raided. My uncle had a watermelon patch that we snuck into intermittently, mostly when he was at work during the day. We would climb the bushes (they were really tall bushes, I swear) and see who was bold enough to climb all the way onto the roof of the house (usually just my brother and cousin Justin conquered this feat). Sometimes a cousin would luck up and get a pool and you could bet all of us were trying to squeeze in there at one time. If no one could convince a parent to splurge on a pool we would volunteer to wash their cars just so we could play in the water. During the evening times we would play “drive by” in the ditches and probably looked like a bunch of crazy kids. But really, who in the world came up with that game??? (If you don’t know what that game is basically whenever a car comes by you drop down. It’s like a drive by is going on so you’re ducking….). My cousin Whitney knew how to drive a four wheeler so we’d take turns playing passenger. We would visit Mrs. Pittman who sold Popsicles and candy and if she had some spare items shed just give them to us for free. Sometimes we’d just visit to visit because we knew at some point we’d be roaming her backyard anyway. She’d be watching soap operas that we didn’t understand but we liked to look at her pictures and listen to her tell stories about her family. When it wasn’t summer we would pray for snow and sometimes God answers the prayers of little Mississippians and throws a couple of days of snow in. Thankfully when it snowed it would stick around for at least two days. Plus school let out for slush anyway. We truly can’t handle snow in the south. Ma would fix us mugs of hot chocolate which we fed to the snowmen (she vowed to never do it again when she found out). This was like our mini revenge since she would drive the car through our precious snow, and we hated that with a passion. Or we would slide down my uncle’s trailer in the trashcan. Yep, we sound pretty country right now…but it was amazing because there was a lot of space to grow up. Since most of our neighbors were relatives or long time friends of our parents/grandparents we weren’t under tight supervision. Sure, there were times we would be under restriction since most of the adults were at work but we really weren’t venturing too far so even the regulations were a bit loose.
There are some memories I hold more than others. My grandma used to make ice cream for us and there’s nothing like home made ice cream. We were like drooling dogs whenever we saw her break the maker out. My youngest cousin Jabriel was our go to guy when we wanted ice cream because he would ask in his little voice, “Granny, when are you cooking some ice cream?” She loooooved to hear him say that. It was like stealing candy from a baby. My grandad had a thing for popcorn and would ask us if we wanted any whenever we came over. This was mostly because my grandma didn’t eat it and we were his excuse for being able to pop some. It was mostly my cousins Justin, Jabriel, and me who were in the popcorn crew which was fine with us, as long as he let us have the bag. We just really wanted the butter. I remember volunteering to help pick peas one summer and I about died out in the heat since I had to wear long sleeves and long pants to prevent any itching. I stuck it out and ended up picking ALMOST a full basket of peas. I ended up giving out and just throwing some spare peas that had fallen in the bed of the truck in my basket. My grandparents were so proud and thought I had worked so hard that they gave me $10 and My grandma took me to the bank to start a savings account with it (lord forgive me for starting my account with lie money). After that sweat fest I didn’t volunteer for gardening anymore but I would take ride my bike out to the garden and take my granddad a cup of ice water. He talked about that for the longest time after we moved to Jackson. It really made me feel like a million dollars. There was the time my brother Jonathan had to teach all of us to drive, the go-kart that is. He would take turns driving us down the street and back until we finally got the hang of it. When my cousin Fannie first learned I was unfortunate enough to be her passenger. This was the one day we were going to the movies and ma specifically told us to not get dirty. Lo and behold we rode the kart out in the open field, which was pure dirt and dust. And if Fannie didn’t about flip the kart over trying to do a Fast and Furious turn…needless to say she threw me out and I went rolling into the dirt. The impact didn’t kill me but ma just about did. There was this huge tree I my grandparents’ front yard that we both loved and hated. Obviously we loved it for the shade it we hated it because it would drop locusts on us if we sat around too long. Justin used to have mini heart attacks whenever one fell on him. He really hates bugs. One time we got the idea to have a picnic outside and he saw one spider. That was the end of that. He went back in the house and watched us eat from the screen door. Every Fourth of July my Uncle Boady would buy up firecrackers galore, back before they got super expensive. It was the treat of the year. We’d be outside til ten or eleven popping fireworks and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. One year Jessica set off one of those rocket fire works and I’ll be darned if it didn’t chase her around the porch. It had to have been a heat seeking firework…I had thing for climbing out of my window at all hours of the night and just roaming around the yard or across the street before I crawled back inside. When we used to get locked out of the house they would always volunteer me to slide through the windows to unlock the door. It was my specialty…I could be house thief ya know…Justin, Jabriel, and I were super cartoon kids and we adapted to any new cartoon that came along. We went from being saiyans to hampsters (when the show Hamtaro came along). Or we would adopt the idea of being Final Fantasy characters and dream up special powers and weapons. We were all big on video games which worked out nicely since Ma wasn’t trying to buy us games. Whenever they came to visit they would bring their system and we’d all be forced to share. One summer we had to have an intervention for Justin when he couldn’t stop playing Final Fantasy. We just had to confiscate the game at one point. We had one uncle who smoked a lot who decided to challenge my cousin Chaivez and my other uncle to a game of basketball. Y’all should have been there. It was obvious his lungs were not up to par. The funniest thing I have ever seen. Or when he moved in next door in a little mobile trailer and we all had a joke that he lived there with a possum named Robert. We were some weird kids…
Anyways, as all of us have gotten older everything has changed. The giant tree in the front yard ended up getting struck by lightning and had to be cut down. The plum trees barely produce any plums anymore. My granddad recently died and my uncle has taken over his gardening duties. My grandma has dementia and asks the same questions over and over again. If she’s not asking questions she’s talking about how much she misses my granddad. Over 50 years of marriage and now she living in their home of 30 years alone. She wakes up in the middle of the night to see if anyone is there with her. She can’t remember when we come visit so she ends up poking you and asking who you are at 6:00 in the morning. Everyone has moved away from home and we rarely all get together. If we do it’s for short amounts of time or we tend to be glued to our phones, whether from not knowing what to talk about or from just not talking. Getting older is tough because there’s a lot to lose in the process. There’s a lot to gain too but if you’re holding on to what was its hard to measure against what is or what could be. It reminds me of when the cousins from Detroit or North Carolina came down to visit. It was the time we all waited for, I mean we would literally drop everything if we saw the cars that had those state tags sitting in my grandparents yard. Then the summer would be over and they’d be packing up to leave and it was just a hard thing to deal with. Since I was the younger one and these particular cousins were the only ones who were around the same age as me it was like I was losing my partners in crime. We would cry after we hugged and said goodbye, just not in front of each other. Especially when the distance grew from North Carolina to Japan and the visits became less. That’s what growing up is like, saying good bye most of the time. It’s also frustrating because these are memories we can’t recreate, they can only remain memories. It’s like I can create more memories but I want the old memories to be more than just that. But clearly I can’t go back to being 7 years old. I can’t reverse my grandmas dementia. I can’t raise my granddad from the dead. These are things that can’t happen and that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Anywho, this was just me reminiscing. I needed to do some kind of writing as I’ve been really out of a writing mood as of late. So that’s that and this is this.