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Make Sense of the Past

As a child I woke to the smell of coffee brewing and pancakes on the griddle. Mom was on the job, never shirking or cutting corners. Sending Dad off to work anything but full and contented was unthinkable. Eight hours later returning home to an orderly house, the aroma of delicious cooking would greet him. She was a loving wife and mother, a homemaker. In the 1970s this notion was challenged that such a simple life was unfulfilling and that a woman needed to get into the workforce to make her mark in the world to elevate the family’s income and status. Looking back, I wonder what exactly was gained and — more importantly what was lost?

My three sisters and I were taught basic, simple values. The Golden Rule “Do unto others…” from the Bible was often spoken. A concept easy for even a baby to understand; fairness, honesty, and being truthful. In the classroom, the law was reinforced. There was no ambiguity and daily structure held strong.

This is not to say we didn’t test boundaries. Once I tripped at recess going up the slide and said that the purple knot on my shin came from being kicked by one of the boys in my class. When mom was set to go roaring complaints, I confessed. Another time, we went as a family to pick strawberries and I decided it was easier to just take some berries from baskets just sitting there unattended and bursting with red berries. The owners’ indignant howls nailed my red hands dripping strawberry juice. Another time, jealousy prompted me to slip into a neighboring garage and mess up a girl’s beautifully organized playroom. For some reason, I got away with my foray into childhood vandalism but to this day wonder what I was thinking and regret my stupidity.

In a small town, people looked out for each other and one day a neighbor knocked to say, “Your girl must be mighty hungry for watermelon because I saw her on the corner eating rinds thrown from a car. “ As kids, we learned that actions have reactions and how to reign in bad tendencies. Sometimes an explanation was all it took to mend wayward ways. For truly bad deeds, we were sent outside to get a fresh green switch for daddy to use when he got home from work. I am grateful for my normal, small town, loving childhood and know not everyone was so lucky and found ways to cope with adversity and flourish using their own devices and instincts.

The words we heard growing up, sometimes repeatedly, remained in our heads. It is called developing a conscience. The words taught the art of self-governing, knowing right from wrong. Through actions and talk we developed compassion. We learned how to play the game of life fairly, how to see beyond childish egocentrism.

At you can find an array of journals to reflect on paper, in a tidy little book, events you lived. Having a designated place to store them is not just fun, it is educational and empowering. A journal is a second chance to make right times you were less than gracious, fumbled or just plain messed up. You can also pat yourself on the back in the nicest way, brag and reflect on triumphs and lessons learned. Get started while memories are vivid. Do it for yourself and if you wish to share it is a fine way to bring others into your realm and keep them close.

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