“When I was young, it really did take a village to raise a child. At least, it seemed to me that the village I lived in took an inordinate amount of interest in my raising. No matter where I went or what I did, someone was sure to say, ‘I see what you are doing. If you don’t stop this instant, I will tell your mother or grandmother!’ And believe me, they would not hesitate to yank me out of the road, tree, pond, or whatever fun thing I was currently enjoying.
I did not dare say the things I was thinking. I would wander off muttering foul things to myself perhaps, but to the grownup in question, I would say ‘Yes maam’ or ‘Yes Sir’ — although it seemed to be ‘ma’am’ more often. If some luckless child was fool hardy enough to sass back, he/she would be dragged home by the scruff of the neck and the entire episode repeated to the parents. The parents would then deal out two punishments — one for the original sin and one for the cardinal sin of sassing a grownup.
This treatment kept all but the most hardcore troublemakers out of any serious incident. The benefit was that because our parents knew everyone was looking out for us, we were given a tremendous amount of freedom. We were allowed to roam without restraint almost any place we chose to go. As long as we returned home for meals and bedtime, we were footloose and fancy-free.
My friend and I spent one entire summer playing in a giant oak tree near my grandmother’s house. This beautiful, old tree had been half-felled by a storm. Because it still had roots in the ground, the leaves stayed green. It was held off the ground only by its huge branches. We played Tarzan and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, all summer. I got to be Sheena because it was my grandmother’s tree, a distinction only I seemed to appreciate, and not one adult yelled at us.
We went wading in the small creek, caught tadpoles, made daisy chains, and acorn dolls. At night, after supper, we would run barefoot across the lawn catching lightening bugs to put into a jar. The town had a free barbeque every Fourth of July. There was a town square where they sold popcorn, peanuts and ice cream in a cup.
Sometimes, when I see people afraid to let their children walk to school or play in the park, I yearn for a village — a village of people who cared enough to be involved; and parents who appreciated their involvement. I thank them for giving me a childhood of wonderful, carefree summers where I could be Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. I thank my village for the wonderful gift of freedom and the room to be myself.”
- Barbara Morita
Barbara keeps up and writes often from her home in Utah.
I think most of us from Barbara’s generation would agree with her sharp vignette of life in a small community of that period. We probably all long in our secret heart for that more peaceful, safe time of growing up nurtured in the bosom of a loving family. So many children will never know that sense of safety and protection where they live. Drive-by shootings, crack cocaine sold on every corner, no structured home life and absentee role models for the children; leave a drifting segment of our population without roots. How sad.