My Neighborhood Friends

Posted in Excerpts at 09:42 am by admin

EXCERPT – Chapter Nine – My Neighborhood Friends

My Neighborhood Friends

My Neighborhood Friends

According to my father, my mother and Dorothy should never have to collect wood for the stove.  It was my job to check the bin, which was right next to the stove, every day, and collect enough wood to keep it heaping full.            

      ” Ha,ha,” Dorothy teased.  “Little Gracie actually has to do some work.  I hope it doesn’t kill you.”

       The wood supply was in the back of the house, which made my task no small feat.  It took so many trips back and forth that it soon became not only arduous, but worse yet, boring.  While my many neighbor friends pleaded with me to play, I lugged armloads of wood back and forth from the back of our yard to the kitchen. 

       “Come play!  Come play!” my friends shouted from the road.  The sound of them made me crazy as I trekked, back and forth, back and forth, sweat running between my shoulder blades and from my hairline into my eyes.  And then I came upon an idea.

       “I can play as soon as I finish,” I yelled back.  “As soon as the woodbin is full!”  This worked more beautifully than I could have imagined.  My friends swarmed in like so many worker bees to help me.  Sometimes I offered a reward of Mother’s fresh-baked cookies, but usually all I needed was to promise I’d play when the work was done, and my friends set to the hauling. Dorothy looked on with envy and disgust as my assembly line of friends did my work for me.

       Dorothy teased me relentlessly for sloughing my chores off on the neighbors.  “Figures,” she said.  “Lazy little miss Goody-Two-Shoes finds a way out of her chores.  Don’t think you’ll get away with that forever.”

       But I was my father’s daughter.  He had ingenuity, and so did I.


 Graceann’s Comments:


     The picture was taken in front of the chapel built next to our house.  I’m on the right, second row. From this picture it is easy to tell and I was the tallest and healthiest looking kid.  The two girls on my right were Ina and Iolanda who lived across the street. Ina wa s a year older than me and Iolanda was my age.  It looks like I was about eight years old.  

     I lived in a wonderful neighborhood.  I never lacked for loads of kids my age to play with.  They gladly helped me with my chores so that we could continue our play.  Of course, there were no TV’s, radios, movies, computers, video games, and of course absolutely no money.  But not knowing better, we never missed it.  From daylight to sunset, we entertained ourselves. Our parents had no part in this.  We were free and on our own.  

    Some of our favorite activities were hop-scotch and jumping rope.  We became experts and could easily jump two ropes at the same time.

    Another frequent activity was cook-outs.  Each child brought an item to add to our black bean pot, such as: a piece of dried meat, salt and pepper, onions, garlic, lard or bacon, a vegetable like carrots, a sweet potato, kale, even bananas.   One kid borrowed a large pot to cook the beans.  It was usually a large round clay pot.  We placed the pot on two rocks with a space for the fire underneath.  For about three hours we collected wood, kept the fire burning while we cooked our feijoada (bean feast)  During this time, we told stories, sang songs, coughed a lot from our fire’s irritating smoke.  When the beans were done, we used our own soup spoons and helped ourselves to this delicious feast we had just created.

    We were poor in money terms but we were fabulously rich in imagination, invention and cooperation as we created our own fun.  Tragically, I think this “make your own fun” is missing in the lives of today’s children.

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