Where we grow up stays with us forever. Sometimes even where your parents grew up has a huge impact on your life. When my folks say “back home,” there’s no doubt in my mind where they mean, even though they’ve lived in California for over 60 years. Back home is the hills of Oklahoma. Where is “back home” to you and your loved ones?
The older we get the more we go back in memories to the place where we feel like we belong. Even the land can define us, the people and the times we grew up in. No matter how hard we had it as children, we think of good memories of when we were young, strong and bursting with the excitement that comes with growing up.
Thoughts of Being Young
My mama grew up about as poor as one could get. She doesn’t talk about the hard times but of details like how a tomato tasted when she pulled it off the vine and ate it right there with a bit of salt she carried in her pocket. She talks about her six brothers and five sisters who were both a pain and a blessing.
She’s told me about primping all day on Saturday and ironing her full skirt until it could probably stand on its own. She’d wash and curl her hair and put on as much make-up as her mama would allow. Then her gang of friends would show up in an old Chevy and they’d pile in the back seat and of course that well-ironed skirt would be wrinkled to the max and the Oklahoma humidity took all the curls from her hair. She said it was some of the best times in her life when people rarely lied to you and you always felt safe.
We all think we know our parents but if we haven’t taken a sentimental journey with them through their childhood, we’re missing their true essence. None of us are just who we are today. Inside of all of us is a child who grew up somewhere, had a million experiences and overcame obstacles that stayed with us. Talking about those times with our children and grandchildren will help them see us in a whole new light. Talking about your parents’ childhood and early life can help you understand them better and truly . . . understand yourself. We are a product of our people.
Get the Photo Album Out
My mother loves pictures almost as much as I do. She has old candy boxes sitting out. You know the heart-shaped ones that feel like velvet. Inside are loose photographs of her childhood, my childhood and my children’s childhoods. The grandkids love to open those boxes and look through all the pictures. They always ask questions about who is who and what was their mama or daddy doing. It’s a time to connect them to who they are and where they came from.
I’d Never Have Known Them
Had I not spent nearly every summer in Oklahoma and walked the same streets and roamed the same woods as my parents had, I’d never have known them as well as I do. When my kids were young I took them back home. We walked the 160 acres where my daddy grew up. We talked about the things he did as a child — where he went hunting and all the chores he had to do. The farmhouse was gone and the barn lay collapsed by the years of neglect and bad weather, but it was a wonderful day with some tears and a lot of laughter. It was fun to take my California kids down in the cellar and explain it was the place to go during tornadoes.
Don’t Miss a Chance to Really Know Them
It’s often hard to take an actual trip back to where you or your folks grew up, but you can always take a journey through photos and memories. My uncle sends my parents the newspaper from their hometown. They get a kick out of reading it and nearly wear it out before they’re through reading it. Reconnecting with your hometown is a really good thing and calling on those old friends is a gift you can give yourself and your special friend. Encourage your parents to look up their old friends. Those sweet visits roll the years away to happy times when they were young.