Ruling the Roost ~or~ How to Survive Childhood


Angelic. Check out that hood ornament!
Angelic. Check out that hood ornament!

Who by this time has NOT seen the internet meme that doles out the list of what we kiddos of a certain vintage were able to “survive.” Stuff like playing outdoors until the streetlamps came on, cars without seat belts, saccharin laced Tab cola, red dye #5, and a plethora of other dangers, poisonous weaponry passed off as toys, and ways our mothers laid us down for naps.

I’ve come to task you with a challenge– to take a trip headlong down memory lane. This is one of those projects you can use either way. It can be left behind as a love-note to future family historians generations in advance, or you can do some digging and write about an ancestor’s point of view.

Today, tell your blank page about your childhood, or that of a loved one who also survived it. By childhood, I mean the insignificant daily doings that went on, that in retrospect were so damming that they could be titled “it’s a wonder the human race exists at all now.” Take a walk through your early years and recall the heady smell and creamy mouth-feel of a new jar of school paste. Were you the kid who ate the paste, or the one who sat watching someone else who ate it like it food of the gods?

I am up to my elbows in this Nanowrimo self-induced sickness. As I write this (and it IS SO LOVELY to take a break from fantasy and fiction) I have clocked just over 25,000 words so far. I have passed the half-way point for word counts, goals and calendar days survived under the heading of November 2014!  Woot Woot!  I just might make it after all. This is a bit like our writing topic for today–surviving in spite of all the little real or fretted snares lying about trying to kill us…

Here’s an excerpt from the Mom’s Book of Childhood I will share with you as and example. Maybe next month when my brain re-solidifies, I will post a Nano sample page for anyone who is interested in taking a peek behind the curtain in front of the alter of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz…no wait…that was the movie I watched with Doll-baby yesterday. Boy, my brain is really past its own limitations at this point!
When i was about 5, my mom and dad built our house in the country. I loved this time in my life. To save money while the house was being built on a little spot between two bridges over the drainage ditches we called creeks, we moved in with Gramcracker temporarily.

Each day when my dad finished his day job as a house painter working on the Brady Bunch mansions and Tri-Levels that were smothering the woodsy north side of Indy, he zoomed home, picked up my mom and his sandwich and headed out to the country to “work on the house.

“I’m not really sure how he survived it. He left for his job before sun-up in the morning, and then together my parents  were rarely back from the country before my grandmother came home from 2nd shift at the Rubber Company around midnight. Being a kid of very few rules, I staid up as late as I wanted, watching old movies and “spook shows” with my great grandmother Kate who I knew as Granny. The highlight of my semi nocturnal existence was Gramcracker’s home coming each night. She always had a little “something” for me in her pocketbook. I had no understanding of money or origination…I just thought that the Rubber Company must have been the most incredible place in the world.

Arriving home, each night Gramcracker grinned, hugged me tight and called me Goldie. Then she would ceremoniously reach into her trademark large handbag and pull out a prize. Never failing to dazzle me with a treat, there was always something in that big purse for ME! Sometimes the prize from the rubber company was a small carton of chocolate milk, or orange juice. They looked just like the ones at the grocery, only these were so amazingly small… made just for kids, midgets, and Munchkins. Sometimes a pair of Dolly Madison coconut snowball cakes was my treat. A Popeye Pez candy dispenser was not out of the realm of possibility, and sometimes my own pack of Twinkies was the prize nestled next to her Zippo and Luckys. Anything available in the vending machines was open game for my nightly gift.

When i look back on this time with modern  adult eyes I am appalled that I was left alone in the house basically unattended night after night for 6 or so hours with only my Granny to watch me. She was completely immobile, could barely speak and mostly sat in her chair smiling at me, rocking, and never complaining when I stood between her and Gunsmoke on the television.

I’m not sure what kept me from burning down the house, running out into traffic or choking to death during those hours.

I don’t think this arrangement lasted real long though.  After a few months, my mom, pregnant with my brother, became too “big” to help with the “house.” Never mind the lead laced paint fumes, the open stairwell in the floor to the basement, or the 20 mile drive without airbags or safety belts, her tummy and my brother became just too “in the way.”

She started staying home with me and Granny, handing my dad his thermos and sandwich and waving goodbye from the porch as he headed off to Boone county. She headed off to bed of course around 9,

and I watched the spook shows and waited for my Grandma and her pocketbook with Granny…my life went on as usual.

So what moments of childhood can you point to as those survived only via providence of a skilled Guardian Angel? Laugh it up, have a cry, marvel at the terror in the rear-view mirror of life…whatever or however it was…

Maybe someone should write that down…


Author: Mom

I am a writer who just happens to love family trees. As the self proclaimed Family Historian and Writer in Residence at my house, I blog to others about family history writing. When I first began this journey, everyone was bored silly with my "family tree stuff." Once I started writing the stories down, everyone willingly joined in. Now the whole family pretty much participates! Imagine that ! Follow along, and you can gain a little family appreciation for all your hard nosed genealogical research while learning a little something about the craft of writing too.

20 thoughts on “Ruling the Roost ~or~ How to Survive Childhood”

  1. Have you ever heard the saying “The third child gets to juggle knives”? Well, I was the sixth child. I was allowed to use (play with) candles, and thereby matches, even though I caught parts of the house on fire TWICE.

    The first time was my 7th birthday and the big post-cake excitement consisted of relighting the birthday candles alongside my 10-year-old brother. We then progressed to oohing and aahhing over the magic of passing a facial tissue *almost* through the flame so that it smoked but never caught fire. Until one did, and I dropped it on the dining room carpet. My 17-year-old brother came running when he heard the yelling. He stomped out the fire with his foot. My parents were the LAST on the scene.

    My second near-house-burning-down experience happened maybe three years later. My two older sisters had both moved out and I was considered responsible enough to keep candles in what wa,s at long last, my own room. My folks had apparently learned nothing, and neither had I. I got to having a little too much fun and this time it was the curtains that went up in flames. I managed to put it out myself, smothering it with a blanket. So silver lining – yay for panic-induced self sufficiency. Yet I didn’t lose candle privileges. My consequence was that I had to live with charred curtains at my window.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on the sharchives and commented:
    Another cracking post from Kassie Ritman. It brings back faint memories of playing on building sites as my parent built almost all our family homes. Climbing the naked timber framework, chasing possums down half built hallways…the more I think on this, the more that starts to come back.

    Lets take a pause from writing about our long lost ancestors and make a note of our own stories…



  3. I’ve had this same discussion often with hubby – every time yet another “safety” rule is provided to us by the makers of some product leaving us snickering at the idiocy of some of them.

    We did it all. “It” being anything involving those new public safety rules every one must adhere to nowadays. We enjoyed riding in the back of a pick-up, or sitting sandwiched comfortably between our parents in the front seat. No booster seats. No seat belts, period. My brother got to drive when he was about twelve. Which ticked me off. I wanted to drive too, but I was only eleven. And a girl.

    We played outside all day with our mother only requesting that we stay within “yelling” distance. If we wanted to go further, all we had to do was say,”We’re going to so and so’s house.” We walked along a road to a tiny country store, where we bought penny candy. We climbed to the tops of the biggest trees we could find – and waved to our mother hanging clothes on the clothesline. She waved back, too. She didn’t worry about us falling. I could go on and on…but, you can see I’m part of that “generation.”

    Congratulations on your story!!! Wow – 25K words! Having the NaNo goal was worth it, right??? Yes, pls post an excerpt. It would be great to have the opportunity to read it.


    1. Thanks dear, never would have believed I would be this far along already. I’ve been taking weekends off because my grey matter is pretty well cooked by Friday mid afternoon. It certainly has been a “ride”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and very apt for me at the present. Last week my youngest daughter was married and in my FOB speech I majored on why she nearly didn’t make it. Sounds like we were awful parents but the worst situation referred to why she was running down the shoulder of a freeway when she was three!!

    Almost 60 years ago I had my own narrow escape when trying to walk across a rock face, I slipped, grabbed a root which came away in my hand and fell 30 ft onto my back. Five feet either side was rock but I had landed on a bed of rotting vegetation with only a cut to my thumb.

    If your numbers up it’s curtains.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your stories John are absolutely right up my alley–both hilarious and terrifying! You need to write them down, and I really hope someone got you on tape delivering your Dad-speech!!!


    1. Here are some starters Pam~ What would you rarely leave the house without now, that you wouldn’t have bothered with or had “back in the day?” Now I think of things like caller id, cell phones, gps, back-up cameras, debit cards, my pedometer, spray tan, spanx, my phone charger, Starbucks gift card, a hard plastic–not able to be tampered with driver’s liscense, and a BOTTLED WATER that costs a couple of bucks and originated in Fiji 🙂


  5. Congrats on the NaNoWriMo! I’m doing the NaBloPoMo, where I publish a blog post a day. Fortunately for me, I can schedule a post to publish in the future. Unfortunately for me, my posts are photo-heavy and wordy.
    My mother was so worried that something bad would happen to us that we weren’t allowed off the back patio, where, of course, we could have fallen and cracked a skull. However, she was on prescription meds due to some medical issues, and napped a lot. It never occurred to us to chow down on the meds in the pill bottles, which didn’t have child-proof caps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are soooo funny and sooo entirely right! My friend’s grandson once ate a bunch of his great grandmother’s heart medications. When he came down stairs looking a litlle woozy (he was 4) my friend questioned him. Finally, when all he would do was meow like a cat she investigated further and then had to take him to get his stomach pumped. He’s never lived it down!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree since I primarily write family stories. My whole family is hooked on my blog now. Even the kids read it. I am surprised how many stories my kids say they never heard. They must have plugged their ears!

    Liked by 1 person

a penny for your thoughts dear~

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