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