Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wild Child

I recently received some pictures from my former stepmother from the summer of 1970. It was a summer we spent  living in an abandoned farmhouse in Central Wisconsin.
There were 8 of us kids, my brother and me, my stepmothers 5 kids and my baby sister, the product of the dad and stepmothers short lived marriage.
 The land and the house belonged to my stepmothers parents, I have no idea how long the place had been abandoned, but it had no indoor plumbing, the water came from a pump down by the barn, some 50 yards from the house. There was very little in the house save a classic 19th century wood burning stove. The stove worked, and my stepmother frequently cooked on it. We had also dug a cooking pit using our collapsible army shovels. My Dad taught us how to prepare the coals where we cooked kettles of stew in a Dutch oven underground.
 Living in such an environment with acres of playground in the form of woods, a pond, corn fields and an old barn we wandered, climbed, swam, explored, rode horses from down the road, and learned about things such as leeches, ticks and sharing a bedroom with skittish little mice.
I remember all of us kids bathing in the lake, it was that or under the icy cold well water from the hand pump. I remember all 8 of us sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags in the upstairs which was basically one large empty room, with mice.
When I look back now 40 years later with the training of a Social Worker, I realize today's bureaucracy would have had a field day with that scenario.  I can imagine the initial assessment report...and it makes me laugh. I don't recall feeling neglected, or unhappy or maltreated. I recall one of the last years of pure childhood before puberty hit. I recall learning about nature and her ways by spending hours in the woods or at the lake. And best of all I remember riding a tall Appaloosa named Beau, galloping at top speed with the wind stinging my eyes, my tangled hair flying, feeling wild, brave, adventurous and unstoppable.
There's something to be said for letting kids be kids.
Copyright 2010, Jennifer Hazard