Saturday, January 16, 2010

Raising Children

We were raised by sheep. But back in those days, everyone was raised by sheep.
The parents that raised me and everyone else I knew didn't have Dr. Phil ideals.
They way kids were 'raised' was a simple thing. You feed them, they got bigger and then one day, they're all raised.
Little Tommy is too active? Have him go shovel horse shit. Cute little Mandy has a low self esteem? Who cares. We all do.
We rode in the back of trucks, on the highway, often switching seating positions as the truck moved at sixty miles an hour down the freeway. If you were bored, you could always throw a rock at someone. We played tackle football on the dirt road and we never even considered stopping the game when someone was injured. If some bloody kid was limping off, we would try to make them feel better by yelling, "You're the biggest baby! You aren't even hurt! Go cry to mom you baby! You're like a girl!"
The girl comment only worked on boys.

We didn't have drug or alcohol rehabs. Our parents did it the hard way. They had to keep drinking. It was common to walk down the dirt road at night and see an old man sitting in his backyard by a fire he made out of a wooden chair singing, "To all the girls I've loved, before..."
We lived on a plot of land with four other families. All the families had kids that were our age so it was a giant bunch of aimless youth, all hyperactive with low self esteem. It was a religious community called 'Cristo Rey'. We all parked our trailers, or mobile homes on the land and the adults lived a Godly life while us kids, ran around the dirt streets like a wild pack of wolves.
The absolute center of our little world was, the ditch. Every single thing we did in our day involved, the ditch. Meeting a friend, walking on the ditch, throwing things in the ditch. Trying to fish something out of the ditch. And of course, the popular, pushing someone in the ditch.

We would have family from other places come visit and the adults would say, "I hope those kids aren't by that ditch." The real question was, "If the kids aren't by the ditch, where in the world would they be?"
Let me explain the ditch for those of you who have lived a charmed life. The water in the ditch was muddy and stinky. It reeked. Some areas of the ditch rushed with water and other areas stood still with a layer of toxic film. The ditch was taken over by bugs, mosquitoes, lizards, snakes, spiders, anything that could bite you lived in or by the ditch. This didn't bother us one bit. If you went to bed at night and you hadn't been bitten at least twice during the day, you hadn't lived a full day.

There were things about living in this time that makes you sad for today. For example, we were small kids, but we could walk the roads for ten hours a day and never worry about 'stranger danger'. We would leave in the morning and explore the world, via the ditch, until sundown. Then we'd walk in the trailer filthy, stinking and starving.
Me and my best friends Jeanette and Patricia would meet halfway on the ditch. It was easily five miles to their house but that's how you got somewhere if you planned on going somewhere. You walked the ditch. We met each other about ten times a week. Overweight kids were almost unheard of in those days.
The ditch had enough space for a car to drive down it but it was tight. You'd be real careful or you'd end up with a truck upside down in the slimy water. The number of times I remember seeing a giant tow truck pulling someones truck out of the ditch is too high to count.

There were secret places in various locations on the ditch path. Hiding places. Who were we hiding from? Army soldiers. Vampires. The ditch witch. The ditch witch came out to the ditch at night while we slept but during the day we could look for her foot prints or look for the children she had murdered, although we never knew of an actual child that had been murdered. Yet.
I remember so clear the feeling, walking to meet my BFF's. Perfect weather, no fear, walking alone, singing something. We had nothing as far as things you buy with money. But I don't know of any group of wild kids that had more fun than we did. There was no limit to our adventures. Everyday we had fun, got bit by something and got hurt. We didn't know then that this would be the time of our life. I spend five years with dirt in my hair but we all had dirt in our hair, dirty nails, torn up clothes and shoes. At that time it wasn't about how you looked, or smelled for that matter. It was about playing, being a kid, getting into everything that wasn't nailed down. No boundaries, just fun and an occasional trip to the ER.
These days you can't even allow your child to go in the front yard without your constant supervision. Kids can't stretch out their arms or their imagination. It completely sucks. It's not fair. And I don't care if they have cool things like Ipod's or the Wii. There isn't a better feeling in the world than fishing a lone shoe out of the ditch with a long stick as everyone screams in support. You hook the shoe and lift, very slowly, so slowly. Then, almost falling in, you grab it and the audience cheers as you stand there holding a slimy, toxic gym shoe, smiling like you just won an Emmy. That's a Kodak moment! Too bad, we didn't have a camera.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Luv it! Being raised by those same ditch banks and meeting The Cain's halfway....Wow this brought back so many fond memories! Today, here in Phoenix, people laugh when I tell them I run along the ditch bank, they have no idea what that means... and then they try to correct me and say "you mean the canal?" "No, I mean I run along the ditch bank!" Thanks Dina, Corine