When I was a child, life was difficult. My parents were both alcoholics, both violent, and money and food were scarce. In looking back at that particular period of time in my life, I have many good memories… memories of being a happy child. The memories were of me coping in the best way I knew how to cope.
One of the ways I coped, was getting outdoors and discovering what beauty was there for the taking, and to focus mindfully on it. My yard was crammed full of bushes, trees, and flowers. They grew on their own and nature watered them. There was a bridal wreath spiraea bush that grew in my front yard. My siblings and I would cut the flower branches off, weave them in a crown, and wear them on our heads. In our mind’s eye, we were kings and queens for a day. The branches were heavy and thick with tiny white flowers that seemed to billow out from the ground. In May, we would make flower baskets at school, bring them home, fill them with flowers from our bushes, and hang them from the neighbors’ front door knobs. The May baskets overflowed with lilacs, spiraea, roses, and daffodils. I found joy in giving to others.
The roses came from the climbing rose bush and the blossoms were red. They grew through the wire fence in the back yard. We would go out every day and pick them and smell them. They ended up in a pickle jar filled with water and sat on the kitchen table. In the Spring, daffodils and tulips sprung up like magic and ended up in the pickle jar that was used as a vase. Dandelions covered the yard like spilled gold in the Spring and Summer months. We made dandelion bracelets that graced our wrists and blew ripe dandelion heads into the air. We sat in the crabgrass and smelled the lovely scents around us; laid down among the dandelions and saw the bees come and go; and watched thunderclouds scuttle across an azure blue sky.
Another coping skill I had, was foraging for natural food by searching my back yard and the alleyway for nut trees and fruit trees. We had a walnut tree in our yard, and when the shells fell to the ground, I would crack them open with a big rock. I picked mulberries and ate peaches from the trees that grew in the back. A pecan tree and pear tree next door, helped to ease the cravings in my stomach. I ate well in the fall and winter. When food was not available, I climbed into trash barrels for beer and pop bottles and would sell them for money to buy food. If I got too thin, the woman next door would often bring out fresh hot tortillas for her son and I and hand them to us. I had another friend whose dad owned a grocery store. I’d go in with his son to visit. He’d say, ” You need meat on your bones girl, or the wind will blow you away.” He’d toss us both potato chips and ice cream, and sometimes give us pop. I learned to eat dandelion stems and grass…. the kind that had little tiny banana-like fruit that had a sweet-sour taste.
These are the good memories I have of childhood… being resourceful, adjusting to my environment, and having good friends to hang out with, whose parents were nurturing. Good days did exist in my childhood and I was grateful for them.