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.