Shadows of Yesteryear

Over the years I have enjoyed hearing stories from my parents’ past. My mother was a tomboy through and through and was always finding herself in some kind of trouble. I have asked her to share some of her stories on my blog. Today she is here to tell us what life was like in days gone by. I hope you enjoy.

Shadows of Yesteryear

By Renitia R. Ruff

Being a hopeless romantic and nostalgic at heart, sometimes I long for the days of the simple life, of the years gone by, and I miss those innocent, carefree days of youth.

People today have no idea of life as we knew it in the early 40’s, when folks worked hard, from daylight until dark and still had time to visit their neighbors—because they cared about them. Children ran free over the countryside with neighborhood friends, not afraid of being terrorized by some evil person. Then windows stayed open at night and doors were never locked. Social hour was the worship hour on Sunday morning after Sunday School, and the preacher and his family were always invited to someone’s home for dinner after church. The school teacher was an outstanding figure in the community, held in high esteem and respected (with fear and trembling,) by parents and children.

When time allowed, kids enjoyed rambling through the woods looking for treasures of nature: wild berries (sand berries, black hogs and whatever else we could find—we knew them all by sight,) and how enchanted we were with the little purple violets, and the wild pink azaleas that grew along the banks of the branch where we loved to wade in the water. Then, there were those fragrant little nuggets we called ‘pigs’ that grew in the forest under layers of decayed leaves and mulch. Indeed, they were a treasure to find! Their leaves were broad and purple in color, their fat, spicy fruit, shaped somewhat like a peanut with a fluted end. It was a chore to get them—but worth the trouble when they were finally harvested—just to enjoy their pleasing odor all the way home.

Another treasure we enjoyed was the sweet shrubs that blossomed on the stubby bushes in the woods. We were the envy of all the girls at school when we arrived with the ambrosial little treats tied in the corner of our handkerchiefs. (That too, was where we transported our little ‘change’ we carried to school. Of course, we didn’t have purses or pocketbooks or pencil cases to tote our necessities—at least not when I was in school.)

Summer provided warm days and the water needed to wade barefoot in the branch. My sister and I were always careful to watch for the snakes swimming in the water and crawfish, so they would not grab a toe—word was, a crawfish would not turn loose until it heard thunder! Anyway, there we tried to catch the minnows that darted in schools through the crystal-clear shallow water flowing lazily over the smooth stones. A short distance up the branch bubbled a spring, from where sister and I hauled buckets of water in our little red wagon. I remember the Lily pads adorned with white blossoms that floated atop the water in the summertime. And I remember the large bullfrogs that croaked in their deep voices, and as we waded forward those frogs would hurl themselves into the water’s edge before we could catch them.

In those days, kids created their own entertainment. There were no extravagant toys. My parents never bought us bicycles or roller skates for fear of a broken arm or leg. But where would we have skated? We had no paved roads by our house. Tin cans and twine became stilts or our telephones. Discarded tires brought hours of fun as we rolled them up and down the dirt road. And who could find a more splendid horse than those we imagined among the chinaberry saplings which grew beside an old tenant house? After bending the young, slender trees to the ground we would ‘mount’ them, give a push with our feet, and soar into the air. This was repeated over and over as we went higher and higher. Sometimes we broke the smaller saplings, stripping off the branches to make ‘stick ponies’ which we would ride around the house and down the road. What fun it was being a tomboy!  

In the shade of the large hickory nut tree in the front yard, sister and I drew off our playhouse. Two openings were left for our doorways. Piles of leaves and straw created our couch and chairs. A board atop two rocks became a table where a fruit jar held a bunch of fragrant roses from Mother’s flower garden, and broken pieces of dishes became our treasured dinnerware.

These are things I miss of days gone by, but through my memories I can always return to shadows of yesteryear.

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