I often see Facebook pictures showing smiles of pure joy on the faces of my great-nieces/nephews and everybody’s grandchildren. There is something about a delighted child that makes me forget – for a while – some of the ridiculous situations we adults cause and then bemoan.
I think it takes less to delight a child than we might believe. Years ago at a family get-together, one nephew reveled in the discarded Christmas paper and bows lying around, while paying scant attention to the new toys he had just received. Another nephew, his mother, and I played “restaurant” one Friday night for at least an hour with no toys, no props – just his imagination. And sitting on Grandma’s lap listening to her read a story was always as sweet as it was simple.
My childhood was filled with many such pleasures. One delight occurred on the first day of each month. Back then, several calendars received as advertising from banks and businesses hung in our house. As each new month dawned, Mother tore off the pages from the month just past; and we kids had the whole back of those several sheets for writing and drawing. Oh, we had coloring books, but our parents rarely bought paper for artwork. There was also the occasional back of an envelope in an era of much less junk mail. But those calendar pages – they were a sure thing.
A related pleasure that happened less often was just as sweet. The colors we used on the calendar pages were actually from small pieces of crayons well past their prime. The size of each crayon indicated its rank on our favoritism scale: red and pink crayons were usually stubs, while the seldom-used gray color remained much larger. It was a great day if some random crayon – still wrapped in its paper cover and possessing something of a point – showed up in our crayon container.
Another simple pleasure was musical in nature. At Vacation Bible School we children often formed a rhythm band. In the box of instruments stored in the church closet were several sets of rhythm sticks and wood blocks, but only one triangle, one set of cymbals, and maybe a tambourine or two. It was just so ordinary to play the sticks or blocks, but occasionally I managed to get my hands on a tambourine or the cymbals. Now that was fascinatin’ rhythm!
It was a great day at school when the latest Weekly Reader arrived; I usually had read it cover-to-cover by the time it had been distributed to the entire class. Sadly, this current events, leaflet-like magazine ceased publication in 2012.
But we were a family of magazine readers. At various times Mother subscribed to Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Home Companion, Redbook, and Workbasket – a tiny magazine filled with patterns for knitted baby booties and crocheted doilies. My father was a regular reader of Farm Journal, Hoard’s Dairyman, and Ohio Farmer.
We kids had our magazines, too. Over the years there were subscriptions to Highlights for Children and Humpty Dumpty. However, my absolute favorite was Jack and Jill; as a bimonthly, it still includes writing and artwork contributed by kids as well as stories, articles, crafts, and activities for children ages 7-12. I could barely contain myself when the Jack and Jill appeared in the mailbox at the end of the lane, and I devoured every word of every edition.
Sometimes a sweet moment happened as part of adult circumstances. My father farmed “on the halves” with our landlady, who lived in a fancy house on Scioto Street. Her big-city relatives once used the lodge-like structure across the road on the west bank of Mad River for a party and were badly frightened by the cows grazing in the surrounding pasture.
To prepare for periodic visits from the landlady, we had to make the house and ourselves presentable. My father set up the brown card table in the living room and brought out the gray metal box that held important ledgers and family documents. After he and the landlady, who always sat in our best dining room chair with the burgundy cushion, had “settled up,” she would pull a Hershey bar for each of us from her purse; and she was off. A sweet treat after a long stretch of required good behavior seemed even sweeter.
Perhaps the most appreciated pleasures occurred when least expected. Until the Graham consolidation, each Concord bus driver had a specific section of the district to cover on his route. Our bus driver for years was Roy Shirk.
Upon departure in the afternoon, he drove south from the school, stopping at the intersection next to Harlan Toomire’s store in Eris. Mr. Shirk then proceeded straight ahead to continue dropping off kids in front of their houses. Once in a great while, however, he turned left at the intersection. Half the bus riders would break into cheers, leaving the other half to groan. On those infrequent occasions, he ran his route backwards: kids who usually rode for longer arrived home sooner. Consolidation with its interlocking bus schedules and eventual double routes prevented route reversal, but it was great fun when it happened!
Such were the delights of a childhood lovingly remembered. I wish for every child a wonderful collection of simple pleasures that will become sweet and delightful treasures in their lives.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.