Peacocks and Virden memories

Last week I visited family in Arizona. Somehow, one of my childhood memories came up in our conversation. My memory was fairly vague: We were visiting the small town of Virden (my mom’s hometown) when I was a young girl. My sister and I stayed in a small house by ourselves, and we were terrified of leaving the next morning because of the big, mean birds outside.

My sister remembered that we were about 10, the big birds were peacocks and that they butted their heads against the door all night. My mom was aghast that she would leave us alone all night at a stranger’s home.



We spoke with my mom’s sisters and parents about who might own peacocks in Virden. My mom also considered the families she would leave us with in Virden. After much conversation and a hand-drawn map we arrived at the following: we stayed at Grandma Gruel’s house (a grandmother’s small house next to my mom’s relatives Donald and Myrtle) on the lot adjoining my grandparent’s home. The peacocks belonged to the Hatch family and must have gotten loose. The occasion was either my grandmother Elizabeth’s funeral in November, 1983 or my grandfather’s marriage to my stepgrandmother in June, 1984.

The map, while not drawn to scale, shows all the relevant info. My grandparent’s house is at the bottom (labeled Elizabeth and LeRoss). The Hatch family lived next to them, and Donald and Myrtle lived behind my grandparents.


At the end of our conversation, my mother decided she wasn’t such a bad mother after all since (in her adult mind) Donald and Myrtle’s house and the nearby grandmother’s house was not that far away. However, there was a barn and a big pasture (at least to young city girls) in between the house where we stayed and my grandparent’s house where my parents likely stayed with my younger sisters. To city girls, crossing a pasture was kind of scary, even if peacocks weren’t around. When peacocks were around and seemed intent on chasing us, staying in that little house, and especially coming out the next morning, was terrifying.

It was only through involving lots of people that we were able to reconstruct one of my childhood memories and get a variety of perspectives on what happened. In another post, I will talk about reconstructing my earliest childhood memories involving frogs in our basement.

Have you tried to create one of your childhood memories by talking with others who were there?

Photo of peacock courtesy of Alex Pronove at WikiMedia Commons

One thought on “Peacocks and Virden memories

  1. Your Grandma Elizabeth was an amazing woman. She was short to the point of rudeness now and then, but I think only because she had much to do. Her heart was big and kind. I am a year or two older than Dawnell and played at their house often, when we weren’t all at Hatchs’ house or Crums’, or ours. Your grandmother was very welcoming to the town kids, but we had to be quiet until piano practice was through. She would cook taffy for us to pull, popcorn to eat, keep dress-ups in the camper and always kept her house clean. It smelled clean all. of. the. time!

    When I was very little, my parents moved into my great grandparents house, (Harry and Ruth Payne). It had not been lived in for years and was in pretty bad shape. There was my mother, with little kids to tend, trying to get that old house clean and livable before Sunday. She tells the story of someone knocking at the door. It was Beep, your aunt Bethleen. She had cleaning supplies and had been sent by Aunt Elizabeth to help my mom out. Mom says she never had a more welcome gift. After the house had been set to rights, your grandmother showed up with a hot casserole. Mama has never forgotten that day and she still uses it as an example of how to serve.

    Once, when we were raising our kids in Virden, Bethleen brought a casserole to some event. It was in a pan with your grandma Elizabeth’s name on it. It made me cry. You come from women of service! -your cousin, Alice Webb

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