Growing up I had a pretty great life. I lived in Springfield (no nuclear power plant, lots of Homers) out by the lake but not on the lake. I had great parents who both seemed to like me. They spent time with me and on me. I played Little League, had a dog named Ginger and did the whole Boy Scouts thing. There were lots of things I wanted to do but didn’t get to do (and I’ll grudgingly admit that was probably good for me to).
I was also spoiled. I embrace this truth. When my little brother Brad got this cool gun for Christmas that shot plastic bullets I whined and moped for a while and my folks got me one too. When PONG was born, we got it, and all its’ blip-blip coolness. My mom made my lunch for me every day for school. When cable finally came to our neighbourhood, we were hooked up. We never got the backyard swimming pool but we did get to go on just about every school trip that came along, including my brother’s trip to Germany with the German Club. (Come to think of it, I never got to go to Mexico with the Spanish Club – I can’t remember if that’s because I dropped out of Spanish or if someone owes me a trip…)
Of all the coolness growing up, one of the very best things my folks did for me was send me to my Aunt Norma’s for a week or two in the summer to walk beans. On this side of the initiation into the adult conspiracy I realize that the 2 weeks at my Aunt’s were as much for them as for me, but it was an incredible gift that, at the time, I didn’t really appreciate.
My folks would pack me up, toss me in the car and we’d make the drive to Uncle Keith and Aunt Norma’s. My Dad would take “the back road” which was a rural roller coaster. We would get off the ride around Taylorville, drive by ‘Little Nashville’ and go right by a girl’s house who was one of my first crushes: she had an incredible comic book collection and a dad who got to wear a gun to work, two very cool things to a 10 year old guy. After driving another 30 minutes or so past soy bean and corn fields over newly oiled and rocked roads we’d get to the farm.
We pulled into the crushed rock U shaped driveway that went around the house and separated the ‘yard’ from the farm. Along one side of the driveway peonies grew with huge blooms in pink and white. We’d pull up to the carport, not garage, carport, park the car and unload. There were always kittens around, most of them pretty wild; all looking like they’d survived a ride in the car after climbing up into the engine for a nap. They would run as my brother and I tried to approach them. My Aunt and Uncle would come out to greet us in their screened in room between the house and the carport.
I still remember the smell, after all this time. It was a combination of grease, nitrogen, diesel and dirt. Inside the house had its’ own smell. Inside it smelled old. Not a bad, moldy, musty old. It smelled old like a library or museum or used bookstore. It was a comforting old; the scent of hard work, commitment and family memories.
In the summers of my childhood I would move into my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Assumption for a week or two. I’m going to tell you a few stories about what those days were like. There’s no use changing names to protect the innocent in this case, we were all innocent, but I’ll try not to embarrass anyone except me.
…to be continued.