I sure wish I could have brought my underoos.

When I was a little kid I thought that a normal family outing might include going to watch bears dig through the trash at the town dump.

And, I thought the whole world was the forest. Well except for Grandma and Grandpa’s, they lived in the fairy garden that my Uncle David planted. And except for Grandad’s, he lived at the beach. But other than that, world = forest.

Until I was 5, I grew up in Northern California, in the tiniest of tiny towns called Orleans. My Dad worked for the Forest Service and the Forest Service compound was practically the only thing in town. There was a grocery store which was run by the family of the little boy that I had sworn to marry. He played the violin and he had a Great Dane named Hindenburg who was so tall that he would lay his head on the hood of our brown VW Dasher when we came to town to get groceries.

When I was five my family moved to another forest in the Black Hills of SD. And I loved growing up there. But, in some ways, the memories of the years in California sometimes feel more vivid and super-sized. Maybe because the world was bigger because I was smaller. California was where I played in my Wonder Woman Underoos in the yard and kissed neighbor boys behind bushes and rode on the handlebars of my sister’s bike and also where we backpacked and camped on beaches and played in rivers and watched our dog chase salesmen onto their cars.

I learned that pumping your arm up and down would get the semi’s that drove by the main road to honk their horns. I learned that my sister (who is 7 years older than me) could charm snakes and climb trees and she was just about the coolest thing on the planet.

I have been trying to remember these times lately to remind myself of how fun simple is. I do this as I sit at home with my two-year-old and feel guilty because we don’t go to museums very much and we play at home a lot and we go for hikes, but is she bored? Should we be doing more? It feels like everyone around me is doing more. And then my son gets home from school and I often kick them outside to play but should we all go do something?

And if I think about it, we didn’t ever do a ton of things growing up. At least not until school and organized sports started. There wasn’t gymnastics class and music class or swimming pools or library story hour. We played outside. And because it was so rainy in Orleans, we played inside. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. I can remember the two stuffed dogs, Woofy and Cuddles, that I loved the most. I had to play with them equally because I felt like they might get jealous otherwise.

So, when I think of how glad I am that I have landed in a place on this earth that feels the most like home, I also think of how happy I was growing up. And that the simple stuff really was enough.

I want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember trees. And dirt. And that favorite stuffed animal or that favorite doll. A little freedom. The snow. Occasionally some homemade cookies. I want them to remember good food and riding their bikes on things that they shouldn’t.

And bears. Yes, I even want them to have their memories of the bears.


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This post was brought to you by Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF). The Sentence was “When I was a little kid I thought…” Please visit FTSF blog hop hosts:

Stephanie at Mommy for Real

Kristi From Finding Ninee

Janine from Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic

Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine

Finish the Sentence Friday

11 thoughts on “Memories of Bears

  1. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    That was lovely. 🙂 I miss the magical thinking of childhood. I too worry that we aren’t “doing” enough. But then I remember the slow, delightful pace of my own childhood, and how I made my own magic and fun, and I feel better.

  2. Absolutely beautiful and I am not a fan of bears to be honest, but your childhood (minus the bears) sounded perfect to me! 🙂

  3. lynn says:

    damn! i love your writing! seriously.

  4. I’m not a bear fan either. Ran into one a few summers back while dog walking. My two were warming up in the nearby outdoor pool for a swim meet. Poppy – border collie cross – and I headed down the windy trail to the beach. Coming back up she started barking at a stump. Silly pup? Nope silly me. I wasn’t wearing my glasses and was horrified when the stump moved. Big black bear. Yikes. She took one look at us and sniffed and mercifully lumbered down the cliff, snapping branches and leaving one excited dog and one terrified mom.
    Lovely post – yes, here’s to the simple stuff.

  5. findingninee says:

    Ok with the exception of bears, I want my son to have the childhood you imagine for your daughter. I worry that he’s getting too much “screen” time. But he’s 4 and has such intense therapies..well. I want him to remember dirt and mud and trees too. This was truly a lovely post. Huge love of it I have (I sound like Yoda there).

  6. Bonnie Frank says:

    Beautiful post, thank you. I love the idea of Grandma and Grandpa i the fairy garden!

  7. I worry that we’re not doing enough with our kids sometimes, but when I think back about the best times I had with my own dad, I remember playing catch in the street or watching Monty Python and then the Three Stooges late one night. I can’t recall a particular zoo trip or even our trip to Disney as vividly as I do riding my bike along side him as he jogged in the park and getting ice tea at Dairy Queen afterwards.

  8. Wonder woman underoos. We have GOT to be in the same age range. I had some. 😉 Love this post. I have gone back to visit some areas where we used to live and even looking at my high school or the place I lived during high school look small. I wonder why that is – considering I am the same height. Very interesting. My brother and I used to do that with the semi’s until one scared my dad and made him swerve our VW beetle.

  9. Yup, let them do all the imagining they can now, taking pleasure in the simple things before they get “plugged into the Matrix!” 😉 [#FTSF]

  10. Amy Teigen says:

    I love this post, Joelle! I often feel the pressure of everyone around me doing more. My kids groan when we say ‘let’s go DO something.’ They are perfectly content playing with each other in the house or in the neighborhood for hours, days, even sometimes weeks! The same game. “Pretend we’re at school and this is the classroom and over there is the gym and you’re the reading teacher and I’m the math teacher…”

    I also have very fond childhood memories of driving to town in northern Minnesota while we were at our cabin to watch the bears dig through the trash. Our cabin was way up in the forest. We did not have running water there. We peed in the coffee can at night when it was too dark and scary to walk to the out house. We hiked. We skipped rocks in lake Superior and if we were brave enough, we would dip our toes in the frigid water. It is the simple things I remember and treasure most.

  11. This is really very beautiful. I’m busy imagining what the fairy garden could be like, and how good the forest must’ve been to compare to the sea 🙂 You have some really amazing memories, and I’m so happy that you want to ensure that similar experiences and memories are had by your children.

    Now that’s the legacy of a good childhood 😀

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