charmed, i'm sure

I am the granddaughter of wonderful immigrants from the Azores (small, beautiful islands a thousand miles off the coast of Europe). They spoke Portuguese to their neighbors in their tight-knit community and to each other when we were all together at a family gathering. Sadly, my grandparents are all gone now, but naturally their influence remains.

I lead in with this short background to shed some light on my upbringing. See, because of this history my parents themselves grew up as city kids. This isn't a bad thing, at all, it just... is. They had small yards to play in, walked to school and to the market. Tight quarters. When we would go visit the grandparents in Fall River, Massachusetts (where my parents and their first three children-including me-were born), it always seemed so other-worldly. We would play out in the middle of the street, walk to Vallencourts' down the block to buy candy, and sometimes attend Catholic mass, all done in the local Portuguese. To us it was really cool and different.

It wasn't until I was maybe a teenager that I started to understand why we lived where we did and how we did, in our beautiful Virginia. I began to see why my parents needed space. We always had a big yard, with lots of grass and trees. No fences. Dad wouldn't hear of it. Riding lawn mowers, beautiful azalea bushes, space. It was idyllic and, like most kids, I didn't realize it when I was basking in it.

I also started to get how we lived. We had a Tom Sawyer/ Huck Finn kind of lifestyle. Wandering through woods, swimming in ponds, climbing trees, riding bikes along paths through forests, jumping off bridges into the river, rope swings, on and on and on. I tell my suburban-raised husband about my country life and he shakes his head, wondering how I made it.

"I was charmed," I tell him. The five Mello kids were meant to live this way. My parents gave us the gift of trees and wide open spaces as a way for them to vicariously live it themselves. Yup. Charmed, I'm sure.

12 comments

Heidi Ashworth | January 31, 2009 at 3:24 PM

Oh, wow! I wish I had grown up that way! Suburbia was somewhat close but not close enough. But more than that, I wish I could give it to my kids . .. My sister lives in Idaho--no fences. Her vegetable garden has the exact same footage as my whole house yet it is just a fraction of her back yard. Her kids run around and play outside all day long (weather permitting) and are the most well adjusted nieces and nephews I have. Oh, well, one day, in the eternities (I'm really looking forward to them!) (You know, I really shouldn't comlain. It is 67 and gorgeous here today . . ..)

Kazzy | January 31, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Each location has it's advantages. I didn't mention how hard it was to run to the store, or how long it took to ride the bus to school. But the idea of the post was to just comment on the ideal parts! 67 sounds soooo nice....

charrette | January 31, 2009 at 4:47 PM

I love this! Isn't it interesting how parents try to give their kids what they didn't have growing up? Whether it's time or money or space or a big city...

As a kid I used to fantasize about growing up like the Waltons. I wanted the 2-story house with the stream, the trees, places to walk barefoot...and I realize that's exactly what I have now (minus the barefoot part!) I guess I'm charmed too. Hope my kids appreciate it!

wendy | January 31, 2009 at 6:37 PM

Oh yes indeed that is EXACTLY how I wish I could live right now!!!!!! I am such a country girl, terribly misplaced in a big city and traffic. When young and into my teens, I spent most of mu summers at my grandparents in Southern Alberta, just a stones throw from the Rocky mtns. We swam in creeks, hiked the hills, milked cows, rode horses, picked wild flowers and it is the DEAREST MEMORIES of my life.

CHERRANNE | January 31, 2009 at 7:34 PM

*sigh. You ARE charmed. Thanks, Kaz. :-) That was so nice to read.

Minna | January 31, 2009 at 8:28 PM

my children grew up in a neighborhood where they could ride their bikes, build forts in the woods, and play flashlight tag after dark and no one had to worry about them. i see my daughter trying to provide that type of life for her children even though the boundaries and worries are very different today.

Minna | January 31, 2009 at 8:29 PM

karen, do you remember the first time i walked you home after you babysat for us and you said, "mrs. nemerow, this is where we run!" and i said, "why would we run?" you told me it was because of the bats circling the streetlight and we both took off running for your house. :-)

Rachel Cotterill | February 1, 2009 at 3:33 AM

You know I'm a country girl! :)

I grew up in the country, I live in the country again now - there was a brief city interlude (Oxford & London) but I couldn't have handled that long-term.

Melanie J | February 1, 2009 at 2:04 PM

That sounds a lot like how I grew up in Louisiana. I ache for azaleas sometimes.

Heather | February 1, 2009 at 10:09 PM

We are house hunting right now and this post was so fitting, just to put into perspective what we want to give our kids, and where we want them to grow up. One thing I am so surprised about the East is all of the open spaces, I thought it was going to be crowded.

Mrs4444 | February 8, 2009 at 9:29 PM

I'm sure, too. Kids need to run; I'm glad you had the space and time and encouragement.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel | February 8, 2009 at 10:29 PM

Sounds like you had an idyllic childhood. Somehow I understand why your parents wanted to give you that gift. I was a city-girl, and when I had my own family I chose the suburbs. I think I just want for my kids the life I didn't have.