Flowing with the Tides of Change

| 7/2/2009 12:47:40 PM

Tags: country life, changes,

I grew up in small-town suburbia. Nice middle-class neighborhoods were surrounded by farmland, open meadows, and woods. Simply put, it was “the sticks.”

Barn and farm

Our town was too small to have a zip-code; we “borrowed” ours from a neighboring town. It was close enough to Detroit for my Dad to make the hour and a half drive each way to work; Dad was a tool and die foreman for General Motors, a good job that enabled him to provide well for his family for the rest of his life, and for Mom thereafter. Mom grew up in Detroit; Dad was transplanted there after having spent much of his childhood in rural Pennsylvania. But by the time I was born, Detroit had changed, and the old neighborhoods weren’t considered safe anymore. I was less than a year old when they moved out to “the sticks” to give their growing family a better life.

And my two younger brothers and I did have a good life – everything a kid could ask for living in small-town suburbia. We had bike adventures on the trails through the meadow known by every neighborhood kid as “The Field” at one end of the block; at the other end, we caught frogs, turtles, and got generally covered in mud at “The Creek.” We walked nearly a mile to school on the path through “The Woods,” and on snow days when that trek was cancelled, we went sledding down “The Hill.” Simple titles for uncomplicated times. I had a happy childhood growing up in the sticks; we all did, and we reminisce about it often.

After high-school, at age seventeen, I joined the Army – it was an opportunity to experience the world outside my comfort zone. It’s something that if my daughters were old enough to do now, I’d try to discourage; the world is just too volatile a place in this age. My parents might’ve had their reservations too, but they were proud, and consented to sign the forms, sending me off to see the world and find my place in it. I did find my place while I was in the Army; I met my husband while I was enlisted, and after our tours of duty were finished, we got married, and started our own family.

I’ve been home countless times since for family reunions, holidays, special occasions, or just to visit for a few days when time and scheduling allowed. It’s been nearly a decade though, since I’ve been to the old neighborhood and haunts. My brother’s house, in even a smaller town than that of our childhood, has become the hub for family gatherings; he’s got the room, that’s were the nieces and nephews live, and Mom and my other brother would come from opposite directions, all the family converging in one place.

Early this June, I returned to the place of my childhood. I began to grow uneasy the closer I got to the area I once knew like the back of my hand. I felt lost. Nothing was familiar. Two-lane roads that once sliced through farmland were now four-lane congested thoroughfares lined with strip malls on either side. I recognized the old Schwinn Bike Shop, amazed that it was still standing after all these years. Dad took me there to get my first bike that wasn’t a hand-me-down from one of my umpteen cousins. Shiny cobalt blue, with a banana seat and high sissy-bar in the back, it seemed to fly effortlessly over those trails in The Field. Long after I’d outgrown the bike, I flew effortlessly down the dirt road that veered from the main road, driving the family Suburban with my friends all piled inside.

cindy murphy
7/8/2009 8:44:08 PM

I have a big extended family too, Lori. Mom was an only child, but Dad was one of fourteen children! That's a lot of aunts and uncles...and a lot of cousins. My brothers and I were the youngest of the cousins, and most of them lived far enough away that we only saw them once or twice a year. I've got cousins who I don't know except by name, but even when I saw them recently, exclaimed "I remember when you were just a baby in diapers", (such an attractive way to be remembered). Other cousins we saw weekly, and those were the ones who taught me to tie my shoes, feed the chickens at their neighbor's farm, and swing from the rope out of the hayloft. It was my brother, and his friends who taught me to be a tomboy; he and I are only fifteen months apart so we had many of the same friends, and there was always some rough and tumble game going on. Tackle football - yeah, I played that too, and still have the divet-like scars on my shin from football cleats to prove it. Like yourself, Michelle, such good memories - even the divets!

michelle house
7/7/2009 8:35:42 PM

Hi Cindy, yes they were good memories,, Hugs Michelle

7/7/2009 8:41:48 AM

Cindy, I am one of those people who see the changes gradually. I live where I grew up, and the changes do not seem so great when you are living through them. One way it really strikes me is when I look at some arial photos that my mom and dad have from years ago. They have one of my Grandma's house, taken before I was born, and their house where I grew up. When you look at those, the changes that have taken place are amazing! I grew up surrounded by relatives. There are 6 kids on my dads side, and most of them live within a couple miles of us. I could ride bike to my Mam and Pap's house, the meeting place for all the cousins. Since most of those cousins that were my age were boys, I was quite a tomboy! We would play football, and none of that sissy stuff, it was tackle, or baseball, or a number of other games. We would have so much fun over summer vacation. My dad pastured the one field where we played baseball. It didn't stop us from playing, but every now and then the Black Angus bull named Tiny that occupied the same space decided he didn't approve of our game and would send us all running for the fence. I don't think the games lasted long after that because it's hard to keep one eye on the ball and the other on the bull!

cindy murphy
7/5/2009 9:08:31 AM

Hi, Lacy and Dave. I think it's always a bit of a shock when you return to a place you've loved. You want things to remain how you remembered them - how they were when you lived through all those things that are now cherished memories. It's the same with people we haven't seen in a while. We're amazed at how much a child has grown, or perhaps we notice a few gray hairs and a couple wrinkles on a friend, while we ourselves, look in the mirror each day and that stray piece of gray blends in with the rest of the blonde so it doesn't stand out, glaring at us. Change happens around us all the time; day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year. But when we live through it, it's a gradual process which occurs slowly, less glaringly noticable. Changes, while we may not like them, are easier to handle in small doses, than taking it in all at once. "Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change." ~ Thomas Hardy

cindy murphy
7/5/2009 8:23:25 AM

Hugs back at you, Michelle. I hope those memories of your childhood town are good ones. It's amazing to me that some of the things I saw while I was home triggered memories of my childhood that I hadn't thought of in years and years. In one of those little towns on the drive to the hospital, there was a beat-up, rusted-out pick-up truck with a for sale sign on it sitting in a front yard. A short distance down the road, sat another similar model truck that was for sale. This one had polished chrome, and was painted shiney-black. These were old trucks, probably from the fifties. The contrast of the condition these two vehicles were in, reminded me of Clyde, (now there's a name you don't hear often these days). Clyde was my Dad's friend; they worked together, and Dad would pick up Clyde each morning for the long drive into Detriot. Clyde lived right outside of our town in an old farmhouse with a big field behind it. His hobby was restoring old cars, and the field always contained a couple of junkers he used for parts. Sometimes after work, Dad would go to Clyde's to help with the restorations, and he'd always bring my brother and me along. While they worked, we played....in those junkers in the field. Cops and robbers, we "chased" the bad guys in their get-away-cars. Sometimes we were the bad guys Bonnie-and-Clyde-style. I haven't thought of Clyde in probably decades - he died long before Dad. The farmhouse is still there, but the field was turned into condos years ago.

nebraska dave
7/4/2009 9:22:51 AM

Cindy, it appears that you have been doing some deep reflection. I too returned to my heritage roots where my first memories of life began. My first memory of life was about three years old according to what my mother said. It was on an 80 acre farm that my parents had bought. I was under a porch playing in the dirt. I accumulated memories up to the age of eight in that place then we moved away to another country house they rented. I never forgot those precious days of exploring the woods and the big ditch that sometimes had water flowing in it, riding the neighbor’s horse, riding the bus to school, climbing that big tree that had the big bumps in the bark, skating on the walnuts on the concrete floor of the corn crib to remove the husks, helping to water and feed the pigs, eating those wondrous home cooked meals made by Mom, or watching Dad fix just about anything that broke. Those were years that really began the process of molding me into who I am today. When I returned a couple years ago to see the old place, all the trees of the woods were gone, the big ditch had been filled in, and cows were wandering around in a feed lot. It was a sad thing to see how progress and time had changed the entire landscape of my memories. The tides of change really do flow through life. It really is true that we all are in a state of change whether we know and accept it or not. As for me I am probably on the down hill side of life and well past the time when success equates to how big a house I have, or how new my car is, or in general how much stuff I have. When our loved ones have health issues the realization of just how fragile life is starts to hit home. Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection, one knows from daily life that one exists for other people. – Albert Einstein

razor family farms
7/4/2009 7:57:05 AM

I can relate though mine was less shocking to the system. I left home (Virginia) and moved 3,000 miles away where I met my husband. Josh was stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA and we lived there for about a year and a half before moving to Georgia. I went home for a visit in November of 2008 for the first time in several years. I was shocked at the changes. Farms I'd cherished, barns which served as landmarks as well as keynotes in my life were gone. In their place stood cookiecutter houses lacking in the old world charm that made my hometown stand out from all the other stops along I-81 and historic Route 11. The verdant rolling hill farmland once dotted with cattle, sheep, goats, and horses was now peppered with bulldozers. Many of the construction projects fell victim to our failing economy and the bulldozers were halted mid-scoop making the site appear haunted by mechanical monsters. The Blue Ridge Mountains with their gentle slopes and purple hue appeared depressed, too. I left home and then home changed. Lovely post you wrote. I was in tears. Blessings, Lacy Razor NEWS @ Razor Family Farms (GRIT blog) www.razorfamilyfarms.com

michelle house
7/3/2009 8:00:01 PM

Wonderful writing... I grew up in a town just like that. It sure brought back some memories. Hugs Michelle

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