Feeling Nostalgic ~ A Memoir

Sometimes I sit on my computer and rant at the way things have become in the world, both socially and politically. Today though, I sit here thinking back on my childhood as I try to figure out how to get my 11 year old to get out and get some fresh air in the inner city! She’s a very talented child… musically, artistically, and technologically. However, I fear that the only way to get her away from her MacBook is to pry it from her cold dead hands! Here we are, in the 21st Century, and things have changed SO much since I was a kid. For a girl her age, and in a city so large, it’s almost a necessity for her to have a cell phone in case of an emergency (given that they have a built in GPS and I can track her if she gets lost, or Goddess forbid, kidnapped). She has always been far ahead of her years in her way of thinking, and really doesn’t have very much in common with other kids her age. She was into dolls for about a month when she was 3, and then it was over. Most girls her age are still into dolls of some sort, gossip, or (yikes) starting to have at the very least celebrity crushes on boys. I asked her about this and she told me that she doesn’t have time for that nonsense, because she is concentrating on graphic arts, coding, and film editing… at 11! She will be 12 at the beginning of next month, so it came as quite a shock to me when she gave me this answer!
Don’t get me wrong. She loves certain sports (she can pitch a MEAN baseball with complete accuracy), skating (ice, roller, and longboard), she can run… FAST… and believe me when I say that it’s actually surprising since she is quite small (about the size of an 8 year old). She doesn’t let her size get in the way, but uses it to her advantage! She loves horseback riding, and camping as well. Yet most of all, her ultimate love lays within the advancements in computers and other technology. Yes, I know that this will be a talent and skill that will take her places and secure her future, yet at the same time, I would like kids these days to be able to experience some of the fun that we had growing up as well.

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, my family lived out in the boonies (and when I say “boonies,” I mean 7 miles out of town) in an agricultural area. My house was at the very end of the street that we lived on, so next door we had my Granny and Grandpa, nobody across the street, and a huge alfalfa field on the other side. Directly behind the house, there was land… ALOT of land! I’m talking acres and acres, with nothing as far as the eye could see. We had horses and a very large red barn that my father and grandfather built when I was in either Kindergarten or the 1st grade (I actually think it was the summer between the two school years), and behind out own acres, there was yet more land and nothing in the way of houses between us and the distant hills. The barn was originally built to house horses, chickens, pigs, sheep, and cattle. My dad thought it would be great to be a farmer, so he invested what I assume was a sizable sum. He had grown up in Los Angeles, lived in Las Vegas where he and my mom met and married, and moved to Southern Utah due to a job transfer (or so I was told). I would go out in the mornings with my mom to collect fresh eggs from the chickens, and then I would help my dad muck out the stalls while the livestock was out grazing. He had made sure to build a “tack shed” in the barn near the horse’s stalls, so it would be easy to get to in order to tack the horses when we wanted to ride. This was proving to be more expensive than my dad had anticipated, however, so he sold off most of the cattle, pigs, and sheep. I know that the cattle and pigs went to a butcher who from what I remember my dad telling me, slaughtered and butchered them into various cuts for us to freeze for the winter in exchange for letting the butcher keep a portion for his own family. You see, if it weren’t for freezing meat, we would have starved during the winters. After our frozen stores of beef and pork had been depleted, my father started deer hunting with a friend of his who had a daughter that was close to my age, so that we would have plenty of venison in the freezer to get through the winter months. My mother had tried her hand at gardening, but she had a full time job as well as my dad, so the gardening idea didn’t work out very well. We also learned that growing veggies aside from corn in Cedar City was a massive challenge, because without a greenhouse, the garden would just freeze and thus was the end of the produce endeavor. I think this is why I get so upset when people try to criticize me for being a meat eater, since I know what the reality of keeping food in the winter is really like when you live in a farming area 7 miles away from the nearest town and often get snowed in, or the roads are too icy to make a 14 mile round trip just to get some lettuce and tomatoes. Of course, my mom would pick up produce from the grocery store after work, but it was usually in small amounts so it wouldn’t wilt or go bad. 
When I look back on my childhood now, it’s a wonder I’m even still alive to tell the tale! During the springtime, I would often ride in the back of my dad’s pickup truck just for the fun of it (and sometimes to guard stuff we purchased in case anything flew out of the truck on the return trip). Try doing this now! I might also add here, that living on dirt roads where large farming equipment would also travel and create large potholes, so I was bounced around in the truck bed PLENTY of times! 

My dad was a curious creature… not by way of HIM being curious, but he was more of a curiosity sometimes. He was an Army Veteran, so he could be very militant in his ways, and was mean as rodeo bull when he would drink too much. He never told me whole lot about his time in the Army except for telling me about duffle bags & how to pack them, the canned rations, bootcamp, and that he was stationed in Verdun France, which is where my oldest brother was born. My father had been married a few times before he met my mom, and was 18 years older than her, so he had my 2 older brothers from his 1st marriage… my sister (who is 12 years older than me) was from his second marriage, and I am the only biological child of my mother. So I am the youngest of 4 siblings… I never call them my “half” brothers and sister. To me, they are just my brothers and sister. Sadly, because my sister was raised with her mother in L.A., I never even knew I HAD a sister until I was 4 years old. My brothers had moved away and were starting on their own families, so I was raised as an only child. I feel for my 11 year old, and am so grateful that her sisters (the oldest being 23 going on 24 and the other being 22) live here in town, and were both living at home when my youngest was born, so they are all very close. They both love grabbing Chey to take her out to do things like go shopping and to the movies, so even though right now Chey is the only one living at home, she has always had access to her sisters. Getting back to my dad, though (since I went a little off track here), other than him telling me that my oldest brother was born on the base in France, he never mentioned anything to me about what actually happened after bootcamp. Even though he had told me he never had to go into battle or anything, I have a suspicion that something traumatic had happened because anytime I would ask, he would just shut me down and he was quite a heavy drinker. Somehow though, he was a functioning alcoholic and he was a very hard worker. It became progessively worse over the years, especially after he retired.

Childhood abuse is something I am quite familiar with, even though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. Yet anytime I did ANYTHING that reminded him of my younger big brother (who was dishonorably discharged from the Army and became addicted to drugs, causing my dad to basically disown him), I would get the belt, and sometimes the fist. In hindsight, I do now know that my dad’s methods of punishment would have no doubt landed him in lockup nowadays, as I was often bruised and he was always careful not to leave marks in any visible areas. It taught me one thing though… something that has saved my life in my adult years… and that is how to defend myself (something I’ve had to do a few times). Something good came out of it, and as weird as this may sound, I’m thankful for that. Had he not been that way, I may have been dead a few times over by now.

My father had some really great points as well, and I have many fond memories of him that don’t involve my hiding in terror. We would go on cross country vacations (always by car. I’m not sure if it was just that he liked seeing the scenic stuff and liked having the freedom to stop at random to check out interesting things along the way, or if he just didn’t like to fly). We toured through Texas, all the way from Ft. Worth/Dallas down to San Antonio, stopping here and there to see sights such as Judge Roy Bean’s courthouse, the Alamo, etc. We took a trip to Ft. Wayne, Indiana one year to see my Mimi and Grandpa over Thanksgiving one year, which was a little scary simply because of the weather. My dad though, had a way of making you feel calm during terrible weather, even though you could see all of the cars that skidded off of the roads, or the 18-wheelers that had jack-knived and overturned into a ditch. One of my favorites was our trip to Monterey, California. We had stopped in Big Sir, took the 17 mile drive, ate on Fisherman’s Wharf in Cannary Row (my dad had me read the book about it on the drive there by Robert Louis Stevenson) where we had calamari for the first time, and we even took a fishing boat tour out into the ocean to see the migration of the blue whales, which was impressive! I remember the name of the fishing boat: “The Big Kahuna!” My mom was wearing flip flops, and somehow one of them flip flopped right off of her foot and into the water… I swear to this day that one of those whales surfaced with that flip flop on it’s head! Hahaha!

As I grew older, and hit about the age that Chey is now, I decided I wanted a phone in my bedroom. Ironically it wasn’t really to talk to boys (yeah, like you believe THAT! Hehe), but I loved listening to Dr. Demento on Friday nights, and would constantly call the radio station to request songs, or try to win free tickets to the roller rink by way of radio contests that they only really did in the late evenings (usually around 8:00pm PST). I even wanted my phone to be a “push button” phone, because that was all the rage at the time. That was out big advance in technology… push buttons instead of the old rotary dial phone I would have to haul into my room and hope nobody broke their neck by tripping over the cord that was stretched through the house. My parents finally gave in and installed one (it was just an extension phone, not a separate number, of course), only because I worked my tail off and got a decent grade on a math test. You see, back in those days, you had to work for something when it came to your parents… good grades, extra chores, stuff like that. Even then, it was a privilege to have it and could be taken at any given time for letting grades slip or just plain misbehaving. Basically, you earned it, you got it, but your parents still owned it.

I was quite the avid equestrian growing up, having been around horses my entire life. We went quite a long stretch without our own horses, but the family of a school friend of mine who lived on the same street had a few horses, so we spent most of our free time on horseback.  My parents had sold our horses shortly after I started Kindergarten for a couple of reasons. Between both of my parents working, and the cost of keeping them, they really had no choice, as I was too young to care for them myself and they could just no longer afford the upkeep, hay, oats, and the occasional vet bill. So until I was in my teens, I had to rely on other people’s horses. However, by a small stroke of luck, when I was 14 or 15 years old, one of our neighbors had approached my dad with a proposition. Mr. Blackmore knew a few guys who had 5 horses (a Thoroughbred/Arabian mix that was retired from racing, a Quarterhorse who had injured her hip when she bucked in the horse trailer a few years prior, a purebred Arabian and her foal, and a Mustang) that needed a place to go. The owners had lost their pasture in the mountains, and had no place to keep the horses aside of paying a small fortune in “horse alley” (a “horse kennel” if you will), and since we still had the barn and pasture, asked if we would put the horses up. My dad had told him “look, I will let them use my barn and pasture rent free. They need to provide all necessary food, as long as my daughter can ride whenever she wants.” I was so happy, I even agreed to keep the stalls clean, and feed/water the horses myself. So a week later, we had 5 horses in our care, and I became fast friends with Snip (the Thoroughbred). I would come home from school, quickly do my homework, and out the backdoor I went to tack Snip, and go. We would ride for a few hours, just going everywhere yet going nowhere. I would ride him into the outskirts of town just to grab a soda from the gas station at the freeway off-ramp. That summer, you couldn’t get me away from those horses. The Arabian was the only one I couldn’t ride since she had never been broken, but I did ride the Quarterhorse, giving her light exercise. In fact, one day when I was riding her, she tripped over her own front feet and in an explosion of dirt and debris, down we went ass over kiddy-cart and she rolled right over me. I suppose she and I were both going on instinct, because I stayed as low and close her her back and neck as possible and she arched her back to keep from crushing me. Shockingly, I only came out of that terribly frightening ordeal with a few sagebrush scratches on my arms! 

Ask a child these days what they want to be when they grow up. I knew what my two answers were. I either wanted to be a jockey in horse races (for a woman back then, that was no easy feat, but at 5′, and 98 lbs, I would have fit the bill nicely as far as being light enough), or a Solid Gold Dancer! Of course I didn’t know at that time that a show like Solid Gold wouldn’t be there forever. Talk about crushing my dreams when the show was cancelled! I was devastated!

As I got into high school, I started realizing that in some way, shape, or form, I wanted to be a performer. I was in choir (our choir took State one year. VERY cool!), and Drama. In fact, at that time, our high school didn’t recognize Drama as a letter earning activity. Myself and the rest of my class got together that year and organized a mass Drama walkout if the school didn’t allow us to letter, because it WAS an extracurricular activity worthy of a letter between the time we spent in theatre itself and the weekends when we were at the school rehearsing for hours and hours on end. I had earned an Honor Thespian Award by that time, but there was alot of effort being put in for a tiny little lapel pin, and we didn’t feel that was quite enough for the time we had to spend away from home. Finally though, the school board relented and lettered those of us who had earned it after coming to observe us for a couple of weekends as we were preparing for a production. They realized how much time and stamina it took between the tech students, actors, and stagehands, and how much time we had to spend away from home. Not to mention we had to maintain our GPA in order to stay in the play and not have our part go to our understudy. I still became a stage dancer and later went to to do some choreography later in life, which more than likely contributed to my bone issues (making me feel like I have a 90 year old skeletal system, rather than my 43 year old self). 

When I was ready to have my own car after passing my driver’s test, my dad had gotten this Ford sports model car for me. He was definitely a Ford man! Unfortunately, it was a car that was short lived. Being the rebellious teenager I was, I drove out to a friend’s house by way of back roads (while I was grounded, no less) one day in February (if I remember correctly), and on the way home… because I knew I had to beat my parents home… the road was EXTREMELY icy, and a gust of wind swooped right under my car causing me to fishtail. I had just about corrected myself out of it when the back passenger side wheel hit a boulder and caused me to flip. I THINK the car rolled twice before landing on it’s roof. I wasn’t going very fast, but with a car that light on roads that slick, it was just enough to cause a disaster. Thankfully I got out of that with minimal bodily damage, but to do remember saying “I broke a nail!” My dad then picked up a Ford Escort for me from AA Row where my Grandpa worked, and I had to make payments to my dad, plus pay my share of the insurance on it. It was a good little car, but it had it’s problems, such as the coil. I would be driving to Zion National Park for another week of work, when suddenly the car would just putter and die. One time, I was driving my friend Tammy to Zion with me since we both lived in Cedar and both worked at the Park, not to mention being roommates. As we exited the freeway to go into a little town called Hurricane, my car stalled out and died. I can’t remember exactly why, but I was wearing a pink pair of pumps that day. So I jumped out of the car, opened the hood, and started beating the holy hell out of the coil connector with my shoe! Tammy was laughing, of course, because watching a woman basically “shoe whip” a car HAD to have been quite a sight! I got it going though, and we were on our way. To this day, however, my favorite car was the 1963 Ford Galaxy 500 that I bought off of my Grandpa. It was fire engine red, had an engine that was also dubbed the “Police Interceptor,” and had a spotlight on the driver’s side. This was the same year and model used as the police car in the “Andy Griffith Show,” by the way. Oh, how I loved that car! The day it threw a rod and blasted a hole in the engine block, it tore a hold in my heart as well, because the parts weren’t easy (nor cheap), so restoring the engine was out of the question. Even the speedometer gear (the little internal gear that moves the needle) had to be custom made and was costly, so I learned how to stay with the flow of traffic and judge my speed by the RPMs. That engine had a rumble that would quake you to the pit of your stomach, as the old muscle car engines are prone to do. Yes, I would love to eventually find another one!

I was very active by then with the SCA (Society for Creative Anacronism) as a sideline to theatre, since being in Cedar City (home of the Shakespearean Festival), it made sense. I rode sidesaddle in one of the opening parades one year (which TRUST me when I say, sidesaddle is HIGHLY uncomfortable!). We would help out with the Renaissance Faire in the park, and held “battles.” That’s actually how I became so proficient in archery, since I was a “War Bunny,” which also meant that I had to wear a chainmail bikini lined in rabbit fur while I was shooting “arrows” (boffer-arrows, of course) at the opponents. We were the main distraction… but I do not suggest wearing rabbit fur-lined chainmail in any capacity! Not practical or comfortable by any means! In fact, I loved the Festival Season so much, I wanted to go to SUU (then it was known as SUSC, but gained University status later on) to major in theatre, but then life happened. I married, had two girls, divorced after 3 miserable years after moving to Las Vegas… married again (for one year), divorced again, and got married once more. Luckily, the 3rd time was a charm, and my husband and I have been together now for almost 20 years… married for 12 of those. We had our daughter (my youngest of 3) the month after we married. While those years have been a struggle at times (financially, not emotionally), I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I found someone very supportive, and even now as I’m dipping my toe back into the waters of performing (which I put on hold for 2 decades), he’s got my back. I am making some wonderful friends along the way… I actually give ALOT of credit to the TV show “Supernatural” for that, since it brought me out of my shell with the annual conventions, and I hope that I can do something with the NEXT 43 years!

Children these days will never know that back in the day, the struggle was real. If we needed to research something for our homework, especially when writing a paper on a certain topic, we had to hit up the hard copies of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or go spend some time at the library. We didn’t have fancy cell phones and Google that would give us the information within seconds, or music at our fingertips. So now the question is, how do we get this new generation back on track while at the same time utilizing modern technology as a tool of education and not one of entertainment? THAT is what I think about when I feel nostaligic and look to the future of the human race.

One last note…. all photos and memes I have used on here, I have found on the internet. Since I do not know the original sources, I will say this: You know who you are, and I give you full credit. I take no credit in the photos or memes in this blog  🙂

~Kristi S~

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