Over the last few days, my daughters and I have worked on research about our rural region in Ohio for a book project I’m working on. Together, we have visited historical sites, gathered information and conducted interviews. I ask the questions, one daughter takes notes, and the other runs the camera. It’s been a wonderful shared experience.
When we got home yesterday from a particularly delightful interview of a couple in their 80’s, we debriefed over root beer floats as we sat in our white wicker furniture in our sun porch. My older daughter sighed as she reminisced about the childhood experience of Don and Mary. “I really hope I have as good a life as they had. It would be cool to do some of the things they did as kids,” she said.
The other daughter said, “Our family has had more of the simple fun than most kids our age.” And suddenly they erupted with a flow of memories from their own childhood:
Making homemade lime sherbet
Birthday parties with a green theme or making bread art with bread dough as a craft activity.
A Halloween alternative party at our house with a Fully Rely On God theme
Playing in the backyard, making chalk drawings and turning a broom into a play horse
Reading Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie books
Since I hate decorating cakes and the nearest Walmart was 65 miles away, we replaced the highly decorated cakes all their friends had for birthdays with creative cake decorations like a pink iced cake with peppermints or creating a bouquet of balloons with licorice and gumdrops.
Making homemade Christmas wrapping paper with sponges cut in Christmas motifs and dipped in tempura paint.
I was amazed. At the time, I struggled against the norm of the highly decorated birthday cakes, visits to Chuckie Cheese, and hours of tv. I tried to come up with family fun but wondered if it meant anything to anybody. At the time, they didn’t seem excited, still pining after what their friends did. Now as they are on the verge of stepping over the threshold into adulthood, those memories are rising to the surface. “Those things are special to us now because they were different,” they told me. “If you had done what everyone else did or did the decorated cake thing every year for our birthday, it wouldn’t have been as special.”
Creating family memories takes patience and courage. A family creates a memory by their willingness to do something different, something new, something unique that others wouldn’t necessarily do. I hope when my children are 80 years old, a younger generation will listen to memories of their childhood and sigh and say, “I really hope I have as good a life as they did.”