Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 27, 2004, Herald Journal

Creating wonderful childhood memories


As a child, I, along with my twin brother and all my nieces and nephews, could let our imaginations soar to create a multitude of cherished childhood memories on our family farm.

Among many things, we also learned that everyone has to do their part, everyone has responsibilities to get things done, and you don’t need a lot of fancy toys and “stuff” to create those cherished memories of childhood fun.

With lots of space, land and fields, buildings and a barn, granaries and corn cribs, a grove of trees, and the Crow River practically in our back yard, we had plenty of “settings” and “play” things to create endless play scenarios and memories, and we did just that.

One of our favorite things to play was “ranch.” Using our bikes as horses, small ropes and handle bars as reins, and the barn stalls as the horses’ stable, we rode our “horses” in and out of the stable (of course, the cows were in the pasture).

All the buildings, including the granaries, the “summer” kitchen, hay barn, hay shack, wood shed, and chicken barn (every building had a name), became a house in our neighborhood of play. We’d move hay bales, buckets, wood, and whatever was in the buildings to create “furnishings” for our homes.

The animals – cats, dogs, and bunnies – transformed into our “babies,” tractors into our “cars,” the yard into marvelous parks . . . our imaginations went on and on with different play scenarios.

When I was growing up, winter was a “true” winter, with lots of snow to keep us active. With the tractor bucket, my dad would create endless, or so it seemed, hills of snow, and we loved it.

We made major snow forts, played “king” and “queen” of the hill, had snowball fights (we always had enough kids around to have a good “battle”), skated on the river, and went tobaggening down our hills. We always had so much snow that we would climb the snow hills up to the roof of our granary and body slide down the incline of the roof.

With the Crow River so near, it became another playground for us. We loved to “camp” in the woods by the river, especially when we got in trouble with my parents – it was a good place to go for some “separation” time.

There were also small creeks and logs that were ready-made obstacle courses for us, and it was just plain fun to walk through and see all the habitat and plants growing.

The river also provided the annual summer canoe races that we would watch from the river banks, and summer and winter fishing were always something we enjoyed.

Growing up on a farm meant exposure to lots of different animals. We, at one time or another, had cows, chickens and a rooster, cats, dogs, horses, and a Shetland pony, named Butch. My dad bought Butch at the auction barn so you never knew quite what you were getting, and we didn’t.

Butch was a small horse with a “big” attitude. He was mean, and even my dad had a hard time trying to control him, sometimes. Nevertheless, we had a pony, and we rode him. He was known for bucking, and it was a good thing he was small because the fall to the ground wasn’t so long.

We had a mean and mighty rooster (too say it nicely), too. It was always a big task to try and collect the eggs from the chicken barn because the rooster “ruled” the nest in our chicken coop. With shield and defense in hand (gloves and sometimes, a stick to keep him from pecking at us), we’d courageously enter the coop and collect the eggs as quickly as we could before the rooster knew what we were doing.

Having lots of animals meant the opportunity to observe the birth of new little baby animals, as well. We watched calves, kittens, puppies, and chicks enter the world. I thought it was fascinating.

With animals and farm life, there were lots of chores to go around for everyone, including myself, but we always found some fun in our “jobs,” too.

Feeding the calves, after they were weened from their mothers, was a responsibility that I had. I loved mixing the milk replacer with water in the galvanized buckets, and stirring it with huge whisks (a similar process when mixing formula for an infant, just in smaller proportions). The calves loved to suck on my clothes, hands, and whatever they could get their tongues on.

I remember at Christmas time, sitting on a small stool, feeding the calves, and singing Christmas carols while my dad would be milking and my twin brother would be engaged in another chore – scraping the walk or helping with milking.

Another big job was cleaning the bulk tank after the milk truck came. Needless to say, this job could be fun, too. We used a sprayer hose to clean the tank with a bucket of warm water and soap, and what kid doesn’t like to play with a big “squirt gun?” I always got this job done, maybe a little wet in the process, but it got done.

Big family sit-down meals were common at our house. It wasn’t uncommon for 10 people to be sitting at the table, having a three- course meal on an almost daily basis. We had wonderful home-cooked dinners and great conversation.

In Dr. Phil’s book, Family First, when he discusses the role of a parent, the head of the household, he asks readers if they have created an environment that generates feelings of safety, security, belongingness, self-confidence, and strength for the child or children they are in charge of.

I can definitely say that my parents and the environment that I grew up in, did just that for me.

Creating wonderful childhood memories with and for your children is the foundation on which they will grow and flourish. One, if not the most important thing I want, and probably most parents want, for our children is for them to be happy and to feel safe and secure.

Joyful children don’t come to be because they were born with a “joyful gene.” Joyful children are taught how to live, think, interact, control their emotions, and express themselves. They are taught how to be joyful, Dr. Phil said.

Providing an environment for our children to grow and flourish, allowing their imaginations to “soar,” is probably one of the most important things we can do for our children.

When I look back at my childhood and the memories, I smile from ear to ear. I hope that when my children are grown, they, too, will be able to reflect on childhood memories, and smile “from ear to ear.”

May 2005 bring many cherished memories for all of you!

A quote

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

– Elizabeth Stone