Those were the days …

Is it because I’m getting older? Has six months of social distancing worn me down? Or have I truly become more introspective? I suppose the “why” doesn’t really matter, but I think about the past a lot more than I used to, especially my early childhood.

I’ve always had vivid “living memories”. I remember people, places and events from the past. I talk about them (and write about them) often. But deep rumination is new to me. I find myself trying to chronologically piece together the circumstances, chance encounters, and twists of fate that made up my world during the first 18 years of my life. I then go one step further and try to recall how these situations affected and shaped my actions in the years to come.

Sometimes a memory and the corresponding future action are easy to figure out.
I am the eldest daughter in a family of eight children. I helped my mom with chores and childcare because she obviously needed an extra pair of hands. I felt I could manage, none of the other kids were remotely old enough, and so I stepped up. Crossing our (very quiet) street with a baby brother in my arms and a toddler-brother hanging on to my waistband is a very early memory. We three made it safely across but a panicked neighbourhood lady came running up to me. Oh my goodness! What are you doing? What’s wrong?

Now, it’s not hard to understand why she got upset. I was only 3 years old. But at the time, I felt utterly confused, I couldn’t see that I’d been careless. I carried the baby around all the time. I made no distinction between the safe confines of our house and the unknown perils that waited for us outdoors. My mother heard the other mom calling something alarming like … Marg, Marg, come quick … and she did so.

After some nodding and mumbling between the two of them, Mom returned us to our side of the street. She didn’t fuss at me but I remember her saying I shouldn’t do that again because I would worry people. I suppose I didn’t completely appreciate the import of her advice because 3 years later, I received a similar admonition for letting those same two brothers walk to school with me. That time though, it was Sister Constance, the principal of the parochial school I attended who phoned my mother to come and collect the 2 smaller boys. I can still see her, hurrying along, while pushing the buggy with two more (smaller) children.

Thinking about those two incidents, I realise that from an early age, I considered myself capable. Acting impulsively didn’t worry me, but of course, I didn’t fully consider the consequences of my actions. The fact that I never “got burned” as a child encouraged me to move on to bigger challenges. At 18, I insisted on accepting an Assistant English Teacher’s position in southern Peru. Then at 24, I moved to southeastern Mexico.

My wings got clipped once I had a family, but yes, I am still like I was at 3 … ready for adventure … I hope that we get a vaccine soon. My need to be active and on the go is still strong. I don’t want all these “golden years” to pass me by, and yet, I think I am making the best of the situation. Thinking about days gone by is not my only activity… I am working on a new book, I’ve done some painting, and oh yes, picture sorting. The ones included with this post are of Stephen as a baby in his bassinette and of my brother, Peter and Me with Dad, in front our house and Mom’s vegetable garden. Ah yes, that was the year we crossed the street.

I don’t really remember why I took my little brothers and did that. To get to the other side? I guess that was it.

And here’s some accompanying music… “Those were the Days”, by Mary Hopkin, 1968

Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include reading, painting, cooking and travel.

3 thoughts on “Those were the days …

  1. As the youngest of five plus a step-brother older still, the same worked in reverse. I was the one with the ‘extra pair of hands’ because i was about. It never seemed to occur to my father that I couldn’t/shouldn’t be doing things the older ones did. The summer that i was 6, Dad (Joanna’s grandfather) arranged to have some land cleared under a veterans’ scheme (he was a WWI veteran but the Canadian Government applied the benefit to all veterans). This meant cutting down the trees and blowing up the stumps. One of my older brothers cut down the trees and Dad and I dealt with the stumps. I still remember that it was 6 sticks of stumping powder to each blasting cap and that up to 6 sets could be joined together with the fuse. After discussion of how many sets were needed, I would carefully lay out the sticks and wire and Dad would attach the blasting caps. Once Dad lit the fuse, we would run off and hide behind a tree. Summer passed with no accidents. It was a great summer! Come September I had to go to school. My high hopes were soon dashed by being expected to learn 1+1=2 and even more daring, 2+1=3. I became an expert at weaving paper mats that year, but I learned much more blowing stumps. Those poor middle children really miss out.


  2. Thanks, Joanna, for sending us down memory lane in such a charming way. I have always looked back on my childhood as a time of growing and learning. I fear that some of those “good old days” are gone forever, at least for most children. I, too, seem to have been born with a certain self-assurance that has never deserted me. At 3 and a half, shortly after my younger sister was born, i heard her getting fussy in the bassinet and, since my mother was sleeping, it just seemed natural to lift her out and into my new doll’s carriage that I had gotten for Christmas. I walked her up and down the upstairs (!) hallway for a bit and was totally mystified when my mother woke, saw she was missing and got a bit upset when she found her in the my possession. I can still remember that I thought my solution to her fussinest was the most logical thing in the world. Later, when I was 7, my older brothers had me drive the Ford tractor slowly through the hay field as they picked up and stacked the bales on the wagon it was pulling. Think about that! A 7 year old driving a one-ton tractor. It never occurred to me or to them that I wouldn’t be able to handle such a thing. At the end of the summer, they ceremoniously “paid” me $2.00 for my many days of hard work. Ah, the thrill of earning your own money. I will never forget it.


    1. When I was growing up in a rural community, although we did not farm, it was not unusual to young kids drive the tractor, in fact, I’m sure they were expected to be part of the labour force. But driving a tractor could be dangerous as the ones in those days could easily tip over. I well remember the sadness of one six year old boy I went to school with who was crushed and did not survive when the tractor he was driving tipped threw him off and fell on him.


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