This is a picture of me, my Uncle Aaron (the blonde kid in the back row with the growl), my Grandma Snow, my sister and my cousins. It was taken in the mid-70s, although I’m not sure exactly when.
Seems like many kids are stressed out these days. Their minds have grown accustomed to three YouTube videos a minute, and video games moving at the speed of sound. Children’s TV shows are filled with rude kids who scream half the time, and each scene is splattered with many colors. All an attempt to keep their interest, even though it rarely does.
My parents, my little sister (the small one, front-left, with the green shirt) and I (the one with the goofy smile, holding the Evel Knievel action figure on the left) lived 3 ½ hours away from everyone else, so I only saw my extended family once or twice a month. We weren’t a group to sit around, and kept ourselves busy playing most of the time.
I recall long walks in the woods at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Sue’s place in the country. Eric (2nd from the right, with the huge, contagious smile) and Kathy (blonde, big smile, front-and-center) are Jim and Sue’s kids, and we played outside every chance we got. I remember them having an old car in the back yard, and Eric and I made that our “space cop car” as we whizzed through the universe, using our toy guns to shoot at bad guys of all alien species.
We would spend the night at each other’s houses, and I remember once when Aaron, Eric and I were all sleeping in the same bed when we were little. We woke up one morning and Eric, who was in the middle, had somehow turned himself completely around—without disturbing the covers, mind you—and his feet were on the pillow between us. Crazy.
When Kathy and I were Kindergarten age, she looked at me really seriously and asked, “Did you ever used to be a girl?”
I pondered the thought for a moment, and then replied, “Huh….I don’t know. Did you ever used to be a boy?”
She looked at me just as quizzically, and after a pause, answered, “I don’t know.” We both stood there for a moment thinking about it, and then ran to the back yard to climb a tree, the answer being lost to the ages.
There was a time when all of us kids were very young, and a cousin of my mom’s, Mary, was babysitting us. There were a TON of fireflies out that night, and we started out catching them in a mason jar. When we grew bored with this game, she taught us how to make “jewelry” with the tail-end of the lightning bugs. We would take the florescent bottoms and smear them around our fingers.
“Look,” Mary said, “a ring!”
It always seemed the house of my cousin Rex (the scowl on the far right) was more like an amusement park. His dad had one of the first laser disc players I’d ever seen, and it seemed AMAZING to me to be able to watch movies which were normally only shown on TV once a year. I also remember a batting cage, which, everywhere else, I had to pay for. But at Uncle Gary and Aunt Ann’s house, I could play all day long for free.
Annette and I tried to hang out, but being opposite sexes and 3 years apart, that didn’t happen much. I DO remember a few times when she’d get her Barbie and Ken dolls, and I’d get my action figures, which included Muhammed Ali, OJ Simpson, and many variations of Big Jim and G.I. Joe.
“Let’s play DOLLS,” she would say.
“No, it’s not DOLLS, it’s GUYS. We’re playing GUYS.”
We never met in the middle on that one, and just for the record, I never conceded to playing “dolls.”
Grandma Snow (top right, obviously) was amazing beyond words. I remember once at supper, when I was around three years old, when my dad said I had to eat everything on my plate before I could go out and play (common back then). My grandma had boiled chicken, which I hated, and I recall crying, telling Dad I didn’t like it.
“You’ll sit there until you clean your plate,” he said calmly as he walked out of the room.
A minute later, Grandma Snow walked in and asked me what was wrong. I told her, and she immediately picked up my piece of chicken and ate every bit of meat off of it in 30 seconds. She laid the bone on my plate just as Dad walked in. Grandma used the apron hanging from her waist to wipe the grease off her hands and face as she walked out of the room.
Dad looked down at the empty bone, and asked, “What happened?”
I smiled, wiped my tears, and said, “I ate my chicken!”
Dad knew better than to argue with Grandma, so he just sorta mumbled, “You can get up now.” I ran into the other room to give Grandma a big hug and kiss, and then into night tojoin my uncle and cousins.
Aaron lived in Springfield, and he and I would walk a block to the train tracks, and then keep walking. We’d walk for miles, until we grew tired or the sun went down, and then turn around and come home.
It never occurred to any of us we could get hurt in any way. It was a different time.
I even remember when Eric and I had taken one of these walks. Seems we’d walked all day, and suddenly realized we felt like we were dying of thirst. We found a machine which had sodas for $.25 each, but all we had between us was a dime, a nickel and 15 or so pennies. I didn’t think twice about walking up to a stranger’s door and asking them if they would trade a dime for 10 pennies, and the lady never thought twice about doing it.
Looking at that picture now makes me a bit melancholy
One of the definitions to “melancholy” is “sober thoughtfulness.” I looked it up to make sure it aptly describes the way I feel, and it does. Sure, those were great times, but those kids never knew they’d lose their beloved Grandma a couple years after this picture was taken.
I never knew, years later, I’d suffer a suicide attempt, chronic pain, depression and two major back surgeries. You can’t see it in the picture, can you? All you see is my goofy smile.
My Uncle Aaron wasn’t aware he would suffer many years of drug and alcohol addiction, as well as several surgeries and severe, chronic pain, so bad he has to walk with two canes.
In this photo, though, you just see “Big A” (as we call him) growling like a lion.
My baby sister never knew she’d undergo the horror of spousal abuse, as well as her own drug problem.
This picture just shows her pretty smile. It makes you wonder who she was looking at, but whoever it was, she loved them. You can see it on her face.
Kathy had no inkling she would contract (and BEAT!) cancer many, many years later. What’s great about her is she never lost her big smile, even when she didn’t know if she’d get to watch her grandbabies grow up.
We didn’t know any of this, but God did.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)
Crazy thing is, He still sees us as bright, shiny, happy children, even when we don’t feel like it. We may have lost our smiles, but God wants to help us find them again.
The kids in this picture were fully oblivious of the hard times ahead.
No, all we knew was light, laughter and love.
As Christians, we know the endgame.
“Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12a)
I know your inner child may have been locked away in a dungeon somewhere a LONG time ago, but they are crying to get out. If you follow Christ, you KNOW you have nothing but peace, health, happiness and joy ahead, so I urge you:
Make the trek down those rickety stairs, into the darkness and pry open the door.
That child is still there, believe it or not, and he or she is waiting for you to let them out.
Life is trying to suffocate you, but you can’t let it happen.
Do it, I dare you.