Many a summer evening my cousin and I would spend the night at our grandparents’ house. My cousin lived next door, my grandparents right behind us and all three of our yards adjoined. Sue and I would take our baths and after Grandma had gently combed out our long, wet hair, we’d curl up on the couch and watch t.v. together. This is one of the shows I remember watching:
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Little House on the Prairie made its television debut in 1974 but my brothers, cousins and I were playing our own version of pioneer living in the Mojave desert of Southern California long before that. There was a playhouse in my grandparents’ large back yard and we all spent many an hour there. Sue and I played house and tended our baby dolls while her younger brother and the two of mine would take care of various tasks such as harvesting the *wheat*, or what I now know is cheat grass (click on the link for a picture and you’ll see why kids would think it resembled wheat).
I remember one summer in particular when we all decided to fix up the playhouse. We swept it clean and wiped off the very primitive *furniture* we had inside. The playhouse had been built by my uncle and was a very simple wood structure with a shingled roof. There was an opening for the door but no windows. That fact didn’t prevent Sue and me from fashioning curtains from some of Grandma’s cast-off tea towels. We nailed them up where a window should have been and tied them back with pieces of ribbon. She and I also nailed together some scrap wood and made a little bed for our dolls. We took it for granted that we could always find scraps of building materials lying around in one of our backyards for any project we might have in mind. The men in our family were always building something or adding on to something so there was no shortage of wood scraps, bricks and other assorted materials.
I have to tell you something that will probably make you chuckle. When David and I bought our first little house here in Oklahoma, I remember needing a nail for something one day. Without a thought, I went out in the backyard and started looking around on the ground. I was actually surprised not to find any. Growing up, all any of us kids had to do was look around in the sand near any of the areas one of the men-folk had been building something and there were sure to be any number of nails. I thought that was normal. 😉
So anyway, during that memorable summer we not only fixed up the inside of the playhouse but we worked like crazy making a yard of sorts around it. We weeded the area and then swept the dirt smooth. We collected rocks and outlined the little yard area with them. We even tried to plant a tree, which was really just a branch cut off one of Grandma’s trees.
I don’t recall how many days we worked on all this but when we had everything fixed up, we invited our parents and grandparents to a dedication ceremony. I don’t remember all the details but we put on some sort of little program, including singing a song, and then took them on a tour, proudly showing off the results of all our hard work.
When I think back on my childhood, it’s full of similar memories. We may not have lived like the Ingalls. After all, we had electricity, running water, air conditioning, and even televisions. However, our play was the same sort of simple, imaginative type that Mary and Laura enjoyed. Times may change but children don’t.