You don’t have to be a Bob Dylan fan to see that the times they are a changing.They always do. You can no more hold time in your hand and keep it from moving on than you can change the number of stars in the sky. The entire world is on a time table moving us through history into the future and we little know how strong an impact we can make on it all. We’re just busy living in the present, some having fun, and some having none. Today’s kids live different lives than I did. They get tattoos and body piercing, they text message each other, conversation is becoming a lost art, have babies outside of marriage, spend hours with their cell phones plastered to their ears, experiment with marijuana, play video games by the hour, use foul words I didn’t even know existed till I was in my mid-twenties, call each other Dude and listen to something called rap that is no competition for Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers.
I grew up in the Midwest in small towns with rivers creeping through heavily wooded forests, passing trees meant for climbing, trees meant for dreaming, trees announcing the changing of the seasons. Northern Minnesota and North Dakota had the best winters, watching Jack Frost paint pictures on the windows, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows while we dressed for school, our backsides leaning towards the wood stove. Minnesota was where my Finnish grandparents lived. I adored them. They had a cabin on Laminade Lake with 40 acres of wooded land and blueberry bushes everywhere. Grandpa built the cabin for the woman he loved for 56 years and beyond, while they were on their honeymoon. It had a porch with a sink and a pump for water, a kitchen with a large black woodstove with smells of blueberry pie and roasting chicken, a dining room with an old Victrola playing Bing Crosby records, and a large bedroom with windows half way down the walls looking out on the lake and the woods. Several sagging beds were bunched together and the walls were covered with photos from magazines. An outhouse was nearby as was Grandpa’s woodshed. Down by the lake was the Finnish Sauna. We took saunas on a daily basis, dashed madly down the wooden pier, dove into the lake to cool off when our bodies could stand no more of the intense heat, picked blueberries, fished off a rowboat, swam through the forest of water lilies, rowed till we had blisters, fought off mosquitoes, poison ivy and sunburn and loved every minute of it.
Nebraska meant fields of corn and wheat, stands of oak and cottonwood, small towns with water towers, country bridges and dusty roads. It meant the Beaver River where we swam in the summer and ice skated on in the winter. It meant Rae Creek, my wooded forest with its rambling paths through oak, cottonwood and elm, wildflowers growing in thick abundance and meadows with cows wandering aimlessly. Nebraska, especially Petersburg, where we lived in a red house out on the highway, a total of four years, became my home. We had roamed from town to town since I was years eight years old and I needed a place where one day our bodies would lie in a nearby cemetery, a place I could grow roots in.
We had a vegetable garden and each of us kids had a plot to tend. The crowning glory of the yard was the flower garden. Rich with climbing yellow roses clinging to it, the arch announced the entry to the garden. A rocky path circled around a center plot thick with bachelor buttons, daisies, hollyhocks, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and various ground covers.A tulip bed had a bird bath in its center, purple iris circled the house, a lilac bush lived outside my bedroom window, its fragrance awakening me every morning and a weeping willow tree provided a perfect place for me to read Nancy Drew mysteries while I munched on the ever present popcorn. Nighttime prayers as we knelt in a circle around mom, dad listening absentmindedly in the corner while he smoked his pipe and read, punctuated the heavy Catholic atmosphere that brought stability and spirituality into a home that lived with rituals as vital as the air we breathed.
We canned vegetables and fruit, stored it in the basement along with sacks of potatoes and onions, hung clothes on the clothesline, played Ditchem and Hide and Seek at night. In the winter we made snowmen and snow forts and had snowball fights. We raced our sleds down large hills packed with hardened snow.
Holidays marked time on the calendar; Easter, with baskets and egg hunts; Fourth of July, watching Dad light fireworks as we chased each other with sparklers; Halloween, a never ending "trick or treat", where I dressed up like a Gypsy in Mom's long skirts, colored scarves and jewelry; Thanksgiving and Christmas with feasts of food; driving into the woods to cut down a tree and happy hours spent decorating it while Mom made Christmas cookies, munched with hot chocolate. We sang in the choir, went caroling at Christmas, stood on each other’s shoulders to peek in mom and dad’s closet at packages from relatives, went to midnight mass where one year the electricity went out so Father Sudbeck had everyone light candles. It was magic.
Even New Year’s Eve was a night to celebrate the passage of time, as we stayed up past midnight watching enthralled while Mom and Dad toasted each other with champagne out of long stemmed glasses where the amber colored liquid went through the stem to the bottom of the glass.
Throughout the year, weekly visits to the Roxie movie theatre, my quarter allowance clutched in my hand, watching the Movie tone News, Tom and Jerry cartoons and John Deere commercials before the much awaited double feature, climbs up the grain elevator where we played in bins of corn and jumping on and off the freight train that rumbled daily through town added even more adventures to an already magical life.
During the day, Mom was the center of our existence. When Dad came home, it was as if Santa Claus had arrived. He wrapped his arms around Mom and had special kisses for everyone; the Scottish kiss, the Finnish kiss, and the Eskimo kiss. He grabbed each of us in turn and heaved us onto his shoulders as he paraded around the house, happy in the adoration of his family. Mom brought him something to drink and we nestled at his feet as he talked about his day.After dinner we gathered around the radio listening to Gangbusters, The Lone Ranger or Gunsmoke, while munching on buttered popcorn, washed down with homemade lemonade. My parents made a perfect team and my life was safe and filled with joy because of their love.
Then, when I was thirteen, one cold November night, dad came into my bedroom in the middle of the night, where I slept with a rosary under my pillow, and raped me.
Yup…………the times, they are a changing.