Picture a car. Picture a Toyota Corolla, dark blue, with rust eating away up the outside of its wheel wells. Now picture thick globs of dry mud caked all over the car.
“We need this car to drive through six-inches of mud!” My mom would enthusiastically tell anyone who seemed amused by our ride.
We had a lot of pride in the way we lived. It was who we were. We were different, brave, rustic- we were rednecks. We lived on eighty acres of pure heaven, off the main grid. We had a generator that went on in the evening, and got turned off at around twelve O’clock, depending on when my grandparents got around to going to bed.
When the generator was on, we pumped our wash water from our well into those rubbermaid plastic garbage barrels, and our drinking water into those water jugs you can buy at grocery stores. There were several different showering methods, just as there were several different families. My grandparents had a mobile home with a bathroom, so they’d hold watering cans filled with hot-water over the curtain rod for each other. My aunt and her kids did the same.
My family had a rubbermaid that was shaped like a bathtub, and then an even smaller rubbermaid filled with hot water. We’d fill the small one with hot water and use an old metal pot (the dipper) to pour the water over ourselves. It did the trick. We did this for something like seventeen years. So what? That was life. But one thing I want you to take away from this, please? Don’t ever take a shower for granted.
Life growing up on a ranch was awesome. My sister and I had our cousins to play with, dogs to play with, cats, horses, chickens, sheep, goats, horses, cows, and other various farm creatures. We grew up on fresh produce; eggs, milk, veggies, lamb, beef, honey (our on well water-- actually, let’s unbracket that for a minute and talk a bit about water. So many people I hear saying “water has no taste” and “I can’t stand plain water” and I have to be very honest; I think these people are crazy, generally. But when I taste city water, I’m reminded of the water most people have to drink. City water tastes like chlorine. It’s bitter, and hard to choke down in a lot of cases. Well water, on the other hand, is sweet- but it’s all different depending on where you’re from! Still well water is refreshing and just amazing. So I understand why some people would say water is gross, not ever really tasting real water perhaps. Don’t get me started on spring water. Now that’s a different kind of heaven.
We grew up building homes for frogs, and playing hide-and-seek in the woods. We build forts and snow forts and held tea parties and had snow ball fights and ate wild strawberries every summer. We fought imaginary monsters and hung out in trees. We caught snakes and then watched them slither away. We were kids, and like kids, we were opportunists.
When it started out, there was eight of us kids- three eventually left for reasons I’ll probably get around to telling you, leaving just five of us when I was six. And honestly I might as well start there because I think the earlier stuff is more confusing.
Alright, so there were four little trouble makers left, and one good child- me (don’t worry, it’s natural to feel bummed when you realize the person you’re reading about is in fact, not the interesting one). Nah, I had my moments. But in case you’re not convinced that I was an angel, let me tell you a story.
When I was little, I was running somewhere as little ones do, and I fell in a mud puddle and started bawling. But I wasn’t bawling because I was hurt, I was bawling because I was sure my mom would be mad that I got my clothes muddy. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was laughing- in fact I still couldn’t figure it out until my mom showed me the picture of me on that day: mud all through my messy blonde hair, up my shirt, on my pants, and the sadist pouty face in the history of pouty faces.
Still don’t believe me?
How about the countless times I had to betray my friends to go tell the “grown-ups” that they were doing something that they weren’t supposed to again, like: hiding under my grandparents mobile home, eating icicles off of roofs (we had pigeons, need I say more?), playing on insecure hay bales, running away, etc, etc, etc.
Fine. I was just a plain old tattle-tale. But I didn’t do it to get on the good sides of the grown-ups, I was genuinely concerned for my friends.
Oh right. I introduced them as cousins. Here’s the thing: we grew up calling each other cousin’s because my non-related grandma ended up being my mom’s mum and it’s really confusing to explain. It was a religious family. We chose to be a family. I’m glad I grew up that way because even today I believe that there’s plenty of space in my life for more brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and uncles and aunties. Hell, I could even go for another set of grandparents right now, heaven knows there’s plenty being neglected.