Posted by: Rachel | July 13, 2011

Childhood Perceptions

My girls and I went on a gallivanting trip across the countryside today. Eh, I guess it was more of a running of errands, but gallivanting trip sounds so much better. And it makes me think of Bill Peet books, which are possibly the best children’s books EVER. Next time you take your child/ren to the library make sure to get some Bill Peet books. In Peet’s books everything has character, even the houses look sad or happy. ‘Cowardly Clyde’  is the book that talks about gallivanting across the countryside, if my feeble mind is correct.

Awesome book

But Bill Peet and Cowardly Clyde are not what I wanna talk about. The picture below is what’s got me all distressed.

Weavertown Road

You see, on our trip across the countryside I drove past the house where I lived from age 4 until 4th grade. I wanted to show my daughters where a significant part of my life unfolded. We pulled in the driveway of my old house and sat there for a few minutes as I told them how I lived there when I was little, and that the barn wasn’t there when I was little, and how that was our garden. But as I sat there I kept thinking ‘this is not right.’ It just didn’t look like I remembered it. Everything was so small. The front yard was postage stamp size. The garden was not nearly as big as it used to be. And the neighbors house was so close. And even the house didn’t look big enough to contain all the room that I remembered inside. It felt like a toy town version of the world I used to live in.

This picture isn't the best. Blame it on Bing Maps

Inside the black circle is our side of the house. It is a ‘double house.’ Here is a short history of the buildings: JP and his family lived on the farm on the right hand side of the picture- they owned the house to the left of the black circle before it was made ‘doubled.’  Their daughter R became a widow with four very young children after her husband was killed in a farming accident. So JP built a small addition to make the house ‘doubled’  for R and her children to live in. Then R got remarried and had more children. So her and her husband JZ moved into the left, larger part of the doubled house. Then me and my parents and my two bratty wonderful brothers moved into the right side, smaller part of the house.

In the picture above the storage shed is still there. It’s right at the end of the red arrow. Today there was a huge atrocious two story ugly barn there. The Amish nowadays insist on building these barns that frankly look like the north end of a south going mule. Totally gross and with no respect for the eyes of those looking at their ugly barns. Ok, ok, that was kinda mean, and I do understand why they do it, cause they don’t have electricity so they have to put huge windows in them and they want to make activity rooms up in the second floor. But still, these barns are a monstrosity. Also Amish people seriously build whopper big houses, huge basements, huge barns, just absolute gluttony. Ok, end of rant. But I will probably have to soak my eyes tonight because of the damage done by looking at that barn.

Back to the size of it all: In the pictures from Bing Maps/Virtual Earth everything looks the right size. But when I drove down that road all the houses were so close together. People that I thought lived kinda far up the street were in all reality probably closer than our current next door neighbors. And there’s this hill in the road on the right hand side of the second photo. Right beside the barn. In my mind that hill was a big hill, but it’s actually just a gentle slope. I’m sure I remember having to work  hard to walk up that hill, but seriously, it’s like an ant hill. Maybe I was just a giant wuss when I was little.

I also went past the first school I attended. And the schoolyard shrunk to half it’s size since I was in first grade. It’s as if God just shrinky dinked that part of the world.

I think it’s because I rarely go through this old neighborhood, maybe once a year, if that. And so as I got older the sizes in my mind didn’t have to go through a reality check. Does that make sense?

My old Stomping Grounds

The red arrow points to our driveway. The big black X is the meadow where Mr JP once got attacked by a bull. The blue arrow shows the barn that was shared by us and R and her husband JZ, but is of course no longer shared because some crazy Amish person decided to build an ugly barn. The green arrow is pointing to the meadow where I spent many hours playing with my brothers and JZ and R’s children. There were lots of sheep turds in that meadow. In case you don’t know, sheep turds look like raisins. Lots of little black raisins on a pile. That turd-filled meadow is also where my dad tried to teach me how to throw a softball like a boy. I believe those lessons must not have helped much, if the laughter of my husband when I throw a ball is any indication.

The orange campfire is where J U’s lived. They had a large woodworking shop that one night burned up in giant flames. This is how I remember it. Lamar (my nerdy awesome brother) was standing on a chair getting a drink of water at the kitchen sink before bedtime. I was waiting for my turn to get a drink. He said something about a fire at J U’s. Mom and Dad thought he must just be a little boy with big ideas trying to avoid bedtime or something like that. I got up on the chair and we got the parents convinced that indeed, there was a mighty roaring fire.

The orange arrow is where a certain boy lived who moved into the neighborhood when I was in 3rd grade. He was the likes of which I had never met before. Our entire school was quite amused by this boy. He was an extreme case of ADHD before I ever knew what that was. He sat behind me in school and would put his classes on the back of my head so that the nose rested on my hair bun. In the evening when he would take the table scraps out to the cats we could hear him from across the fields calling out “here kitty,kitty kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.” In my mind I remember his ‘here kitty’ row being approx. 10 minutes long. But of course, I also remember everything else being much larger that it really was.

The white tree is in the backyard of some people that occasionally would babysit my brothers and me. They had a small orchard out back and I remember playing out there and there were hens and other animals out there.

The ways I went to school

The red star is where we lived. The red path goes to the school I attended first, second, and third grade. The yellow and teal paths will take you to the school that I attended for the first half of fourth grade. We moved in February and then went to another school. Someone in all their infinite wisdom decided that School 1 was full and therefore me and my brothers should attend School 2 even tho we were going to move halfway through the school term. It was kinda idiotic but also good because School 1 was a trainwreck and if I hadn’t attended School 2 where things were under control, I would have thought all Amish schools were trainwrecks.

As you can see there were two ways to go to School 2. The yellow path was for when the fields weren’t all muddy and wet. We would run across the fields and it was fun, even when the hay or whatever was knee high. If we went the teal path we were walking along Route 340. We had a super cool game we liked to play. We would ‘jump’ the cars. When a car would go zooming past us the shadow would fall over our pathway and so the object was to jump up so that you wouldn’t be touching the road when a car’s shadow was there. If you didn’t jump high enough and landed before the shadow was gone you were dead. So whenever a tractor trailer went whizzing by we always died. Those were such fun days. I had a friend, K, at School 2 who once told me that she was praying for my dad and I thought that was dumb, cause I thought my dad was perfectly fine and didn’t need any praying. But I didn’t tell her that because I was too polite. Imagine that. Me being polite.

My days in this little piece of the earth ended when we moved to Mennoniteville. The first few years of my life I had lived in Mennoniteville but I didn’t remember much about that. So our parents told us all kinds of stories about Mennonites. Mennonites, we were told, learned to ride bike before they could walk. I have since learned that isn’t true, because, you see, they are actually born riding their bikes. Also, Piker Mennonites are so ‘daymetig’ (or however you write the dutch word that means ‘content’) that even their cows are content. If the fence is broken the cows won’t even run away, that is the extent of their contentedness.

And so we moved to Mennoniteville. And I discovered strange people. Like a girl who went to school with me at School 3. It was the first day of going to our new school and it was a LONG walk to school. And there were no cars to jump and no tractor trailers to kill me. And there were these Mennonites walking with me and my brothers. So eventually I worked up the courage to ask the girl who looked my age what her name was. She said some strange name the likes of which I had never ever heard before. I thought maybe I didn’t hear correctly and asked her again. And again she said some strange sounds so I gave it up for a lost cause. These Mennonites were just weird, that’s all there was to it. Oh, to be back with normal people who prayed for my dad.

But I came to realize that she was totally awesome. Her name was Minerva. And we became very good friends. And laughed at how we thought each other was weird that first day we met. And she never said that she was praying for my dad.

Also the good thing about Mennonites is they don’t build ugly barns. And that is why I married a Mennonite guy. Because I didn’t want an ugly barn.



  1. you are too funny, I married (at the time) a mennonite guy and we have a big barn, but maybe that doesn’t qualify as a big barn:)

    • As long as it isn’t ugly it doesn’t matter what size it is, right?! And your barn isn’t ugly so you’re good!

  2. I find your posts interesting :)))

    • Thank you!

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