On Growing Up

Whenever I’ve traded childhood stories with anyone or discussed what it was like growing up, I always tell them the same thing; if anyone had a better childhood than I did, I’ve never met them.

I always said it but never gave much thought as to why I felt that way. I suppose, as a child, you live life a certain way and take so much for granted that you never consider that others may not be as fortunate.
As I grew up  got older, the reasons didn’t seem important enough to spend time thinking about it. I was busy with work and helping to raise three daughters; living in the present. I never understood until years later what made growing up so special for me.

It was family.

But it was more than just family. It was having immediate and extended family around me all the time. I never realized how blessed I was as a child. Aside from having terrific parents who worked hard, respected and loved each other and set the right examples, my brother and I were surrounded by our grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins every day.
We lived in an Italian/Jewish neighborhood which was only a few blocks by a few blocks. My parents owned a small grocery/meat store and we lived behind the store in a small two bedroom apartment. It was the classic neighborhood corner store, where every one congregated. We didn’t have much monetarily but I never noticed or thought about it.
My aunt and uncle lived around the corner, my cousins up the block, another aunt who was like a grandmother to me and was always around, lived a few miles away. Both of my grandmothers had died but my mother’s father, who had originally owned the store, was there everyday. He came each morning and left before or after dinner. My friends and I would play cards with him, pitch pennies, play handball, listen to his stories and tell jokes.
My dad’s family lived in Brooklyn. They came to visit every other Sunday. Aunts, uncles and my other grandfather. That grandfather would take me to the park to hit baseballs, play basketball and stop at the candy store on the way back for an ice cream soda. Every other sunday.

Life was different then. Families didn’t move away as much as they do now. They remained a part of the neighborhood. They stayed close. They made memories. The kind you can only make when you can walk down the street to your aunt’s home and know there will always be something in the oven or candy dish for you. Where you can walk into their yard and help pick the figs or pears off the tree and leave with a bag of fruit and veggies. Where your grandfathers became two of your best friends.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced those moments, all that they’ve missed. The weekly sunday dinners, the loud card games, the laughter, the knowledge that you can never wander too far without someone you love looking out for you. Someone right there in your backyard.

As you get older, you begin to lose those pieces of your life and childhood. Stories that only a select few people knew are not told as often. One day they will fade completely. Places you went for sunday dinners now have other families sitting in that same kitchen. Sometimes when I pass by, I want to knock on the door, just to peek in and imagine everyone again, as they once were.
Change is always part of life’s eternal equation. That’s just the way it is. But what made my childhood so special remains with me today. No amount of change can change that.

Because you can’t take away family.

 

 

 

76 thoughts on “On Growing Up

  1. DailyMusings

    George what a wonderful childhood indeed. The families that stay closely knit like yours did are few and far between these days. What you had was special- those bonds with cousins and aunt and uncles wonderful-all having the same shared point of reference. Heartwarming to read this and know at one time it existed. The world was different, life was different.

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  2. thechickengrandma

    Aaahhhh George….you nailed it! I grew up two houses down from my cousins, three blocks away from both sets of grandparents, and multiple uncles and aunts within walking distance. My greatest wish is that my grandkids have that wonderful experience of knowing their extended family has their back.
    I also laughed about your striking out the growing up and just settle for growing older! I am with you all the way on that one!

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  3. Ilona Elliott

    George what a beautiful and special post. You were blessed for sure. I had a similar childhood in CT, but moved away at twenty one. I spend every holiday now thinking about the large family gatherings I was blessed to be a part of growing up. Your post stirred up all those emotions again, like looking through the family photo album. Thanks for sharing such a warm and familiar feeling post.

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      1. Ilona Elliott

        Yes George, I am a fortunate person. Those moments make us who we are, and are a reliable source of comfort and joy when I need them. But thanks for reminding me of that. Sometimes I forget. Warm regards for a beautiful holiday George.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Miriam

    What a wonderful childhood you described George. As the youngest daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in Australia and forged a new life amongst a close knit community I understand the closeness that becomes ingrained with traditions and family/friends. You were absolutely blessed by the sounds of it. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories.

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  5. Ann Coleman

    You described the childhood that everyone should have! Not lots of things, but lots of people who love you, always around. That’s what gives a person confidence and the self-esteem to be a truly good person. And now we all know why you are so nice!
    And wouldn’t it be nice, just for one day, to go back and revisit it all?

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      1. George Post author

        So would you want to revisit the past knowing what you know today or going back just as you were. Why do I think I know how you’re going to answer this question?..:)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Osyth

    And the fortunate had versions of this all over the world (mine was upper class and English but the values and the sense of belonging in a family that was close knit and close geographically was, it turns out, priceless). The world has become far smaller and people have to move away for so many reasons but this smaller world makes for fracturing of family and that, I think is detrimental on every level. I loved this.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Osyth. You’re right, the world shares these memories and values and this smaller world we’ve created has a significant downside to it. I’m not sure we can ever change it or go back.

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  7. Lynn

    George, this post truly touched my heart. Admittedly, I have been struggling a bit in recent days with the fact that both of our married children live away from home. So many of our wonderful family memories stem from all of the things you describe in the post, the nearness & thus the ability to spend precious time together, whether it be a Sunday dinner, an unexpected afternoon BBQ or maybe just a walk together. I long for the simple pleasures of living close to one another. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Lynn. We have three daughters. One lives five minutes away while the other two live 45 minutes and an hour and twenty minutes away. We still get together a lot even though we’re a little spread out. But it’s not what I knew growing up. Still, I know parents whose children are a plane ride away. I fee lucky that we can get in a car.
      Still…….:)

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      1. Lynn

        Yes, I feel your sigh! Our daughter is about 1 1/2 hrs away (although depending on traffic, that can equate to a 3 hr drive) & our son is a 3 1/2 hr drive. Like you, I am grateful it is not a plane ride & we too, do our best to get together frequently. STILL…..:)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. joylovestravel

    I had a similar and very wonderful childhood George – my sister and I grew up in a village where our parents and grandparents had lived their whole lives. Everyone knew everyone and most people were family – it was a beautiful place to grow and thrive. I moved away when I got married. We don’t have family nearby but make every effort during school holidays to go back and spend time with my father and that huge extended gang of ours. Our son loves it and slots in as if he’s never been away, I absolutely regret he didn’t have that experience I did but we try!!

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    1. George Post author

      I’m glad you had that same experience, Joy. So you understand what it’s like and the childhood and village you describe sounds perfect. As I said, it’s hard to explain that feeling to those who were never that lucky..:) I’m glad your done experiences a taste of that…:)

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  9. Kate Crimmins

    I grew up the same way in a more rural setting. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins all within walking distance. My husband has 4 children and all live on the other side of the country and try as you may, it’s not the same. The granddaughters don’t have the connection you get when time is spent together. Sending gifts does not make a connection. Even the children themselves don’t know the new interests their father has. I smile when he gets a gift that would have been more appropriate 20 years ago. It’s sad but it’s a way of life these days.

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  10. sportsattitudes

    George, I can identify with going by places “gone by.” My wife and I moved back to where I grew up years ago but it never ceases to amaze me how some buildings and areas look exactly the same as when I was a child but have been repurposed…while other structures and locations have been razed for something completely new. Lots of memories walking and driving by all these places. The memories are still the same, still available…even if the environments that gave birth to them have “moved on.”

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  11. Anne Mehrling

    What a beautiful picture of family life! My husband was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. His grandfathers died before he was born, but he always had his grandmothers nearby. I grew up in a small town in West Tennessee, and my grandparents were just across town. I had no first cousins, so when our own children were born, I was thrilled that they grew up in the same town with their six first cousins. I loved their closeness, and they still keep up with each other. We need to keep encouraging family closeness to all we come in contact with.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Tonya. I’m sure you had/ have those same memories. Coincidently, I’m currently reading The Bedford Boys, which I bought when we visited the D-Day Memorial. The backstory of those boys, the families and the town are very similar. But it was a different time back then..:)

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      1. Fourth Generation Farmgirl

        I have. It’s one of the nice things about growing up near my grandparents and extended family.
        I think you’ll enjoy The Bedford Boys. I read it a while ago. It was a very sad time in the community after D-Day. Telegram after telegram after telegram telling of another husband, brother, or childhood friend who had lost his life. I remember my grandmother telling me what a black day it was to learn of so many young men who wouldn’t come home again. Young men she knew from school, local dances, and in the community in general.
        But, you are right, the backstory is certainly similar. A different time, and maybe even a better time in ways. 🙂

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  12. aFrankAngle

    A simple, but straight from the heart post about one of the major things that is important in the big picture. Times were definitely different in those days, but this captures the essence of the times for so many. Well done, George!

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  13. http://www.salpa58.wordpress.com

    Love this post because that’s exactly how I was raised. My parents did not own a store but worked hard and loved all six of us. All of my grandparents passed young but I had plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins and four sisters and a brother.
    Things do change and now we are spread all over the map but I will always have my family with me they live in my memories and that as you mentioned will never change. :o)

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  14. Jennifer Kelland Perry

    You were very fortunate, George, to have such an idyllic childhood. I didn’t grow up with as many relatives living close by, but there were regular get-togethers with extended family on Sundays and holidays. The good old days! 🙂

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  15. candidkay

    Oh, George. Sounds wonderful! You were so lucky to have cousins, etc. right there. I remember the cousins coming for Thanksgiving as a HUGE treat. I was lucky enough to be the youngest of six, so had a tribe. And yet, I’m the only one who moved away. So, for decades, I have not had the advantage of family close by. It has made life that much harder–but I must say, it has forced me to spread my wings and grow. Beautifully told, George.

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  16. Helen Devries

    I enjoyed – and somewhat envied – your memories.
    For me family were scattered, but as children we were all packed off to Scotland to stay on the farm and to go to the coast together so I was lucky enough to have had those times – and those memories.

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  17. reocochran

    It was beautiful, George! You told your childhood story in an honest, humble way and touched a lot of people’s memories and even, some who wished they had had this kind of love.
    My childhood was pretty lucky and wonderful. I am lucky to have instilled this need for togetherness among my children.
    They spend Thanksgiving, traveling 3 hours one way to share a meal with my Mom, this past 15 years since Dad died. He used to bring Mom to us. ❤
    They brought the whole turkey meal, in 3 separate cars. I made a veggie tray and Mom bought a pie. When I was a single mom of 3 kids, ages 1, 3 and 5 I never dreamed we would choose a completely new town and never look too far back at my mistakes. Now, my old college sweetheart who re-married comes to "our" town with his wife and other family.
    Still, we all reminisce and remember how the family tree's branches spread to embrace new growth and love.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you and I’m happy you have those same memories and even happier your children have the opportunity to experience some of those same feelings..:)

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  18. lagoodwi

    I love this post and really enjoy hearing about your childhood – you should talk about it more. : )
    I too had the most amazing childhood and love the memories it gave me. I feel very fortunate for that.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you…I’m glad you feel you had such a nice time when you were growing up. I’m sure it makes your parents very happy to hear that…:)

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  19. Kim Gorman

    I loved this post, George. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood. Isn’t it funny how your father’s family would visit every other Sunday? Nowadays people would be too busy watching football to bother. I, too, remember Sunday dinners at my grandparents house with cousins and aunts and uncles. They are still some of the best memories of my life. It struck me reading this that I’m not creating this type of childhood for my children. I mean, my father-in-law does pick up our son from school every day and they watch him until my husband picks him up, but our Sundays are spent doing laundry, cleaning, paying bills, grocery shopping, and anything else we didn’t get to during the busy work week. Life is too busy and complicated. Every time I try to simplify, it never seems to work. I don’t know why.

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      1. George Post author

        Sorry, I got cut off. I was going to say that even somebody things we’re doing, like you describe, is just playing catch up or keeping our heads above water. There is a county around here that has blue laws which doesn’t allow retail businesses to be open on Sunday’s. I remember when that was the norm….a very long time ago…:) but it forced families to be together.

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      1. Barb Knowles

        Wow. In addition to not being exceptionally close emotionally to many of my relatives, on both sides we were a military family. So we were spread far and wide and moved around. Thank you for sharing your memories.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. mandy

    Loved reading about your family, George. Very different from my childhood. I think the Italian culture has that strong loving family bond. Yours was especially lovely. 😊

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