When I was a child, life was hard and a daily struggle for survival, but it was also filled with so many delightful experiences. I lived in poverty, food was scarce, and I was hungry most of the time. I was lucky enough to have people, who lived near me who believed in the old African saying, ” It takes a village to raise a child.” My next door neighbor was a Mexican woman with a son about my age. She would send him out to play with me with extra hot tortillas to share. I suppose that is why my favorite place to eat as an adult is a Mexican restaurant, Carlos O’ Kelly’s. I also stop by the Sonic most of the time on my way to get my infusions, to buy a breakfast burrito. I’m sure it’s a way the child part of me receives comfort and warmth before my eight-hour infusions at the hospital.
During childhood, I played in the alleys and a near-by school with children from the neighborhood. My best friends were twin boys whose father owned a local IGA store. We would play baseball all day long in the hot sun. The thud of a baseball in a well-worn glove and the crack of a bat still brings fond memories. After we finished playing ball, the twins would take me to their dad’s grocery store. He would hand us all popsicles. I always chose grape. I never forgot the feeling nor the taste of a melting grape popsicle clinging to the roof of my mouth before sliding down my throat. My favorite treat now is buying a grape slush at the Sonic. It’s another way of connecting a pleasant experience from the past to the present and it brings comfort.
As a girl, I was fearless in the out-doors. Inside my house was poverty, domestic violence, and alcoholism. My parents were absent most of the time. But outside, there were people who cared about me, alleys to explore, flowers to smell, trees to hug and rest against, a river to catch crawdads in, insects to study, and birds that sang beautiful songs I still recognize as an old woman. I carry inside me now a passion for nature who gives me safety and comfort.
Even though life was filled with hurtful experiences in my childhood, it was also a time filled with life-giving, beautiful experiences. These experiences built hope for the future. All I had to do was reach out and take it with a receptive heart.