One morning during his annual summer visit, my 14-year-old grandson came dragging into the living room. “I’m so bored,” he groused, iPhone in hand and headphones over his shoulders. I thought for a moment to alternatives for his boredom, because isn’t it, in fact, our God-given responsibility to ensure that our children and grandchildren are not bored?
Then I stopped. Instead I thought back to when I was 14-years-old and my summers. My prized possession was a transistor radio with AM/FM capabilities. The sound quality was scratchy and one-dimensional, but it was my connection to another world. In the evenings, I’d listen to baseball games on KMOX out of St. Louis and one night a week, my sisters and I would huddle around it to listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown. But during the day, the transistor was our lifeline in the cotton fields that surrounded the small house we called home.
Nowadays, l live in a midrise with a slight view of the downtown skyline that’s only a short 5-minute drive away. I still get a thrill visiting new cities and getting lost in the maze of high-rises and skyscrapers, and feel like a fish out of water when I trek to the suburbs. It’s easy to forget where I grew up.
I’m a farm girl, raised in the flat South Plains of Texas around Floydada and later Abernathy. Lubbock was the big city, we would go visit only occasionally. My father was a farm hand, a farmer at heart, who could grow anything from the bright zinnias and roses around our house to the fields of cotton, soybean and wheat he planted each year.
As farm kids, we were never bored. We had chores from feeding the chickens to helping our father pull pipes from the irrigation ditches – a chore we loved because we would get to stand on the bumper of his old Jeep pick-up and jump off to move pipes when he signaled, then run and jump back on the bumper. When we weren’t doing chores, we were climbing, exploring and running through the fields or riding our bicycles full speed on the dirt roads around our house. Quiet times would be spent lying under the trees watching the occasional clouds or reading from the World Book Encyclopedias that my parents had bought from a door-to-door salesman.
By the time I was 14-years-old, we worked in the fields – chopping cotton. We were armed with newly sharpened hoes and our job was to cut down the weeds that grew prolifically in West Texas. To do this, we would start at one end of the field and walk and up and down the neatly plowed rows, cutting down the intruding weeds between the cotton plants as we walked.
We loved the job because for the first time in our lives, we were earning money at a rate negotiated by my father and the farmer for whom he worked. We found ways to entertain ourselves during the long days. We played word games, challenged each other in spelling and listened to the radio for hours on end. The money we earned was stockpiled to pay for our school clothes at the end of the summer. We were given a small allowance each week that we spent on 45s of our favorite songs and on batteries to keep the transistor radio going.
After my grandson told me he was bored, I shared my story of what I did during the summer when I was 14. He looked at me like a strange alien who had just walked into the room, slowly nodded like he understood and then walked back to his computer in the guest room.
I’m not sure if I made an impression on him with my tale of summers past. In the end, maybe it was I who was impacted most as I remembered those summers long ago. Sometimes, we need to take a moment to remember where we came from and the experiences that shape us.
Note: Experts suggest sharing your stories orally or writing them down. The good news: this helps our brain and also leaves a legacy for your family.