A few weeks ago my neighbor, Mary, came down to sit in the front yard while her grandson was playing in the water. Our yard has a bit of a sandy beach and a boat ramp that makes entry into the water easier so it is the gathering point of all who go in and out of the lake. Sitting in the front yard is also an invitation to any and all to gather around and chat for a few minutes or most of the afternoon. Mary is active in several groups around the area and one of them is a book club. Often she tells me of what she is reading or has read, but doesn't often say "you've got to read this book!" On this particular hot and humid afternoon, she said just that about the book, "Little Heathens" by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. It is the story of growing up on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression. There isn't so much of a story line as there is recollection of how she was raised and how things were done during that period. I haven't yet discovered why or how the book got it's title, but I'm thinking it has to do with the way the older generation thought of the younger ones. That I can remember and relate to!
My paternal grandmother lived with us as I was growing up and her sayings, depression-ist methods and ways of doing things were quite similar to what is described in this Little Heathens. One of the things that reminded me of my childhood was the annual gathering of greens. This is not the annual Christmas celebration but the arrival of dandelions in the yard! Grandma, like the one in Little Heathens, had her special butcher knife that she used for digging greens. Grandma in her bonnet, long dress and stockings held up with garters (ladies didn't wear pants in those days!) would go into the yard with her knife and bucket and gather greens that she would later soak and wash very well to get rid of the bugs and beasties and cook them with a bit of bacon and onion. We all would gag at the thought of eating weeds from the front yard, but how were we to know that someday this would be the "in" thing to do and eat - as long as Chem Lawn doesn't visit your yard! Our reaction was not the same reaction as the author who thought these a tasty treat.
The book is full of fun things ........ like how to make really good fried potatoes - something Mom is so good at but who keeps bacon fat around any more? .... making porcupines, putting cardboards on the spokes of bikes with clothespins, (I'd love to have those old baseball cards that we used!); how to make marshmallows and of course, the adventures of out-house tipping.
I'm enjoying a visit to Memory Lane thru this book. It will take me a week or so of front yard sitting to get thru it - not because it is such a thick book, but because I enjoy sitting in the front yard, occasionally reading a page or two, watching the swans or boats on the lake and of course, the neighborly chats. We are building memories that need to be passed on, just like the ones in this book.