By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
Like many kids who grew up on farms in the 1960s and 70s, our rural life was pure Americana: we lived and worked together; we gathered nightly around the long, sturdy farm table, sharing hearty, delicious foods; our extended family surrounded us, helping during plantings and harvests. As a child, the problems in my little world seemed minor and were usually resolved quickly.
Each night, we climbed the old farmhouse’s steep stairs, said goodnight to one another and were tucked safely in our beds. We were usually tired from rigorous play and activities, and I often fell asleep hearing snippets of my parents’ quiet conversations from the kitchen table or from their bedroom.
Sometimes there was muffled laughter.
Sometimes there were murmurs of more serious subjects.
Sometimes there was silence.
Always there was safety and trust.
It wasn’t until I neared adulthood that I realized how unusual my childhood was. How innocent. How wonderful.
While we enjoyed playing outdoors all year long and in all kinds of weather, being outside in the fall was the best. After school, we put on our play clothes, had a bowl of cereal, and as quickly as possible, we escaped out the back door. We raced around the yard, we repaired our forts along the ditch bank, we threw a football or played hide-and-seek. There were barns to visit, ropes to swing, woods to explore.
As the evening approached and the sky darkened, we played closer and closer to home; like little planets circling the sun, we tightened our orbits.
One late autumn afternoon, during the final minutes of play, I paused and stood, leaning against the maple tree just a few feet from the dining room windows. Night was settling and unpacking in the corners of the yard. It was cold, and my breath became airy clouds around my head. I looked towards the house, my face hidden in the tree’s shadow: my first—and only—time as a peeping Tom.
Our home was illuminated like a television screen. This familiar scene and script held my complete attention.
Mom was cooking, checking the potatoes, setting the table; already in his pajamas, my youngest brother toddled past, a metal car gripped tightly in his tiny hand; soon, our freshly showered dad appeared in the kitchen and headed towards the backdoor.
Dad entered the chilly darkness and stood on the porch. “Come on in, kids! Get washed up! Time for supper!”
From the farthest reaches of the yard, my three other brothers emerged, racing towards the house.
“Last one in’s a rotten egg! All included! No times!” one shouted.
I joined their sprint, Dad closed the door behind us, and we were in for the night.
Our childhood was a gift, perfect in its simplicity and predictability. There was a richness and fullness to such an upbringing, and the construction of a firm foundation on which to build our lives.
These episodes from my childhood are preserved, reruns I love to watch as the seasons change.
It’s a Fine Life.