Today i am very very grateful for ....my childhood.
I truly had an idyllic, blissful childhood. Some of my sisters would disagree (for themselves), but for me it was a childhood made in heaven. I was allowed to be a child for a long long time - I still played with babydolls until I was 13 and I never had a barbie - just not my thing. I've written about this topic before, so this time I thought I'd post part of a round robin book I worked in ages ago. The theme was "childhood" and I wrote and illustrated about my own....
"The House on Bird Avenue"
The closed pages. Each word opens a window with a photograph and explanation...
The pages opened....This is what it says:
I GREW UP IN A RAMBLING 2 STORY 5,000 SQ FT SPANISH STUCCO HOUSE ON 2 ACRES. The house was located in the heart of san jose, calif at the base of the curve in the road. The house itself was set back 50 feet from the street, with a 3 ft high white 2 foot thick concrete white fence that protected the house from the street traffic. (many a night we would hear the screech of tires and the crash of glass as someone once again was driving too fast and missed the curve in the road….but they never could penetrate that fence!)
My sisters and I and our friends would spend hours on that fence playing statues...like the local traffic didn’t think we were really kids standing in awkward positions on the fence as they went by!
The front yard was lined with 100 foot redwood and pine trees. Many a Halloween my mom would string flying witches and ghosts from those trees. My brother built treehouses, 40 feet up in the pines… we also had many water balloon fights from those huge, strong trees. Mama had an extensive garden with giant colorful peonies, snowball trees, calla lilies, elephant ears and snap dragons. There were 3 other homes in the neighborhood that grew champion irises, so of course our yard had gorgeous hybrid irises of every color everywhere, compliments of our neighbors!
The front yard also had a fish pond with tadpoles and fish and lily pads…..and the front door was placed deep on a brick terrace.
This house was a child’s dream! There was always something to do! In the main backyard we had more huge pine trees for climbing and a swing set. ..and there was a great mulberry tree full of fruit every year.
My dad put in a 20” doughboy pool, and then when I was in high school, he added an addition to the house and put in a huge built-in swimming pool.
The backyard had a detached 4 car garage that my parents set up as a rec room, with a billiard table. My dad built me huge extensive breeding cages, and I raised rats and guinea pigs. I loved those animals! My mom sold them once a month, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I found out she was selling them to Stanford University for research!
Many of the rats would escape from those cages, and my mom adopted them as pets and they would run wild in the garage...(she would feed them in their own dishes everyday).
We also had lots of dogs, and rabbits and even chickens, once. But no cats. Mama hated cats!
The back yard was fenced separately. It had avocado, peach, apple, cherry, apricot, persimmon, orange, lemon, walnut, and almond trees. My mother also grew artichokes and rhubarb year round. Once a year my grandfather would come and plant corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and potatoes. The potatoes never grew!
…and to top it all off, one half of the “2nd backyard” as we called it, was naturalized with yellow daffodils – still my favorite flower.
Our house was a kid magnet! You could bring home anyone you wanted and not have to ask permission. My mom never fed less than 20, every night…..when I was in high school I had no less that 5 different classmates move in – from 2 weeks to one year - everyone was welcome in our house. Everyday after school my mama had beans and home made tortillas and rice pudding or Italian cookies for us to munch on…wednesday was always spaghetti night...
But- we were not spoiled…..we didn’t have a lot of money and I thought my dad was the cleverest man alive, the way he built things and recycled things….and my mom sewed all of our clothes and canned our food and we sold the fruit and nuts…and she did lots of volunteer social work for the church and our community, and we did volunteer work, too! (mama would have me babysit very old and infirmed women over night so that their caretakers could take a night off – very scarry in their old houses…one old lady made me snort snuff with her – I was 12!) …40 % of any money we earned had to be given back to the household…and we all had jobs early in age….
My mom loved fires….and would pack all 8 of us kids into the old station wagon to follow the firetruck. I still remember the fireman saying to my mom – please, Mrs. Rinaldo, take your children home !
We had a crazy woman named Millie, who lived in our basement. Mom had hired her to help with the ironing., but she never did a lick of work…
mom didn’t have the heart to throw her out in the street, so she made her an apartment in the basement and Millie would bang all night on the plumbing pipes and berate the air. But she’s another story….
the house was always chaotic and noisy and wonderful. Mama made mud pies with us and sang to us, and made funny faces at us that made us laugh. She told us great stories and had an incredible imagination which she shared with all of her children…. I could go on and on with my childhood memories…I was very lucky…….
My childhood was a joy !