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September 11, 2020

Thoughts on Childhood Pain: When the Past becomes “The Good Old Days.”

What are the good old days?

Memorialized half-truths now remembered best in moments, like pictures.

They’re beautiful, heartwarming seconds of pleasure, as fleeting as ripples in water, in front of me.

They’re sea animals scurrying about beneath the surface—there’s nothing I enjoy more—quickly peeking toward the earth before they dive below again.

Gone are the good old days, but not my memories of picking apples from our tree. The boredom seemed to last forever, so every moment of enjoyment sieged into my soul like the branding on a pig.

I remember the silliness—laughing alone while finding worms eating the dirt.

I remember lying with my cousins on their trampoline, and thinking, with the conviction of saints, that tonight would be the night we would sleep out there. And I remember the tragic feeling of realizing we were too cold; I remember having to go inside.

I remember things so distantly from that time, but it’s usually the littlest things that come up. My last memory of my grandma Millie was her making me fried eggs in the kitchen. And my last memory of first grade was feeling proud (and awkward) as I passed out the amazing snack bags of her homemade treats—not only for my class but the entire teaching staff and principal.

It wasn’t even a big holiday, if I remember correctly; it was probably President’s Day or something. She was the quintessential homemaker; she made everything from scratch, and she always canned a bunch of food. The cans took up an entire wall in her basement.

She sewed clothes for me and my dolls, and though I can’t say she always got it right, she usually did.

The cousins and I would all match in our Easter outfits, and since my cousins didn’t celebrate Halloween, I was the only one with homemade Halloween costumes each year.

In kindergarten, I was one of the dogs from the movie 101 Dalmations, and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t cute. It was a giant (nearly touching the ground) white sweatshirt with black spots sewn on. But I wasn’t sad at all. I wore it proudly in the parade because the year before that, I was an award-winning princess with a gorgeous satin, blue gown and a crown.

My birthday parties would be at home and, usually, nobody could make it because it was the dead of winter—a snowstorm-ridden Midwest town. But she always made things fun. She was the most fun person anyone could know, and all the cousins would beg to stay the night with her.

And I got her—all the time. I was lucky.

She didn’t know how to cook for only a few people and would often bake multiple pies at a time to pass off to friends and neighbors.

The only fighting was occasionally when grandpa stayed up too late with friends or if grandma spent too much money (she was always buying stuff for other people).

What are the good old days?

They are moments in memory, happily comfortable in separate compartments than the rest.

And there is always more.

Sometimes the best memories are made while waiting for an answer.

I didn’t enjoy it at the time; I lived in books and imagination.

Like a brave adventurer, I would leave the house after breakfast and stay out all day. Left to my own devices, I would pick wildflowers and throw them into the well and make wishes for a different life.

How will anyone remember me when I die?

Who will care about me if I spend all my time alone here, just running from snakes and making healing spices to rub on my wounds?

One day I decided I would run away because I was destined for a bigger life…out there. I didn’t pack anything; I just started walking. I climbed over the fence I had never crossed, and then I climbed up a fallen tree and decided to sit for a while.

Underneath me, I saw a rattlesnake. I was so scared I could not move. Then, in the distance, I heard my name called. “Oh, this is bad timing!” I thought. I sat there completely fearful, not moving a muscle and not yelling back that I was fine and or heading back. I couldn’t speak because I was too scared.

The voice got closer.

It was Grandpa.

He kept yelling my name over and over, and I heard the tree branches breaking under his feet. The snake went another direction right before he found me. He picked me up and walked back toward the house before running away again.

Little did I know these would be the things I’d look back on and call “the good old days.”

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