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When I was born, and for many years after my birth, my paternal grandparents lived on a beautiful little farm in East Texas. This was the place where my Dad and his siblings had all been born and raised in a tiny little farmhouse without electricity or running water.
To my memory, it was a magical place. Beautiful trees, chickens and various animals, and an old barn which was labelled off-limits to us children – it was a great place to spend time.
Moving to Dallas for a New Start
I don’t know if I was three or four years old when my Dad purchased a truck stop in Dallas. Behind the office of the business, attached to the building, there was a small apartment where my family lived.
One night, after I and my brother were snug in our beds, but, thankfully, before my Dad was asleep, the office caught fire. The fire grew to be huge and the apartment was catching when Dad realized what was happening.
All he managed to save was me, my brother, and the parakeet.
The insurance was not yet in effect. We lost our home, and everything in it, to the fire.
I remember a man, a regular customer that I liked, holding me while I stared at the burgeoning fire lighting up the night sky and cried for my mama. She wasn’t home at the time.
We Regroup After Loss of Our Home
Eventually, we ended up living in that tiny farmhouse in East Texas for a few months, until Dad and Mom could regroup. Evidently the adults had trouble sharing the home, but we children loved it dearly.
There was a stock tank – more like a pond than anything else – which my Granddad had stocked each year with “eating fish”. There were pecan trees, which fascinated me. These and the chicken’s eggs were my first experience connecting table foods with their origins.
To me the trees were huge. Later my Dad laughed at my memories. The trees, he told me, were not particularly big, but I was kind of small!
That farm spoiled my attitude towards Dallas. I truly felt best in the outdoors with trees and plants and animals around.
A Sad Restart
I was disappointed when we had to return to Dallas. When we lost our home to the fire, we also lost Dad’s source of income, of course. We ended up in the federal housing projects in West Dallas. There was lots of concrete, lots of tarred streets and huge brick apartment buildings.
Each apartment had a small patch of lawn that was planted in grass only. I can’t remember a single tree there. Ever since then I’ve always loved a wooded area.
I also prefer a bit of land, rather than a tiny 0.15 acre house lot, but that’s getting to be less and less available, especially for any reasonable amount of money.
But There Were Blessings
We were fortunate as kids in that we occasionally had a place to play outside. I know that, especially nowadays, that is not a given. That’s a darn shame.
Exposure to nature, the joy of running freely, the thrill of being able to play softball or basketball outside with the neighborhood kids — these are all part of a joyous and healthy childhood.
We need to figure out how to give our children more outdoor freedom, more nature experience and more free socialization to keep our kids mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.
Kids need happy first memories.