“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.”

Today is a favorite sort of days. Earlier, I was awakened by the sound of a torrential rain storm. The rain came straight down and pounded the deck and umbrellas. That was the sound I heard: rain hitting the umbrellas, almost as good as rain on a tin roof. The rain stopped quickly giving me enough time to run for the papers. In a bit after that, it started again but far more gently. The day is dark, and I have turned on a light. Sitting in my house surrounded by rain with a single light brightening the room gives me a cozy feeling, a feeling of being safe and warm and dry. Those feelings coupled with the wonderful sounds of rain are why this sort of day is a favorite.

Yesterday a giant crow used my deck as a perch. I heard him first and looked out the window to investigate the sounds I was hearing. He was strutting up and down and stopping occasionally to caw. I think it’s the same crow who visits often. He never eats from the feeders but just sits on a branch near the deck making noise or preening his feathers. I think he’s beautiful. I also think he’s huge.

As a kid, I don’t remember ever watching birds, except seagulls. Flowers and gardens went unnoticed, but the garbage truck got a great deal of attention as did the garbage man. The rag man too was a favorite with his horse and wagon. Back then, my world was filled with people who did the neatest things and roamed the neighborhoods offering their services. The sharpening knives and scissors man rode a bicycle and shouted as he pedaled through. My mother sometimes sent me with her knives. The milk man came every other day, and I could hear the clinking of the bottles and the sound of his truck left running as he went from neighbor to neighbor. The trash truck came once a week, and my dad dragged his barrels to the sidewalk before he left for work. The ice cream man came about the same time every afternoon. He had a bell, a sound we all recognized as belonging to Johnny and his truck. The paperboy threw our paper against the front door usually about an hour before school. He came around himself to collect for the paper every week. We knew the mailman. He was on our route for years. Around my birthday, I’d sit on the steps and wait for him to come hoping he was bringing cards with a bit of cash inside.

I have a newspaper person who delivers before I’m awake. I’ve never seen her even though she’s delivered my papers for years. Bill is my mailman, and he waves from his truck as he leaves the mail in the box across the street. If I have a package, he’ll walk it over to my house. My landscaper lives next door.

My childhood was wonderfully filled with the most interesting people who were pieces in the fabric of my life. Some came every day, some less often, but I knew them. They were like friends in an odd sort of way. Now I only have two I know and one I don’t. It makes my world emptier and far less interesting.

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15 Comments on ““Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.””

  1. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    We didn’t have the rag man and horse. That would’ve been cool. We had other horses that occasionally got loose in the neighborhood. We had the scissor man who rode on his little sharpening wheel vehicle. It had a bell and looked a bit like a mini zamboni. We also had the milk man with his lovely chunks of ice in summertime. They tasted awful but we loved having them anyway. There was the bread man and the man who sold miscellaneous items out of his car. Oh, yeah, and the Fuller Brush man.
    Are all ice cream truck drivers named Johnny? 🙂

    I like crows. They are my guardian birds. I have no idea why they are but they are. They are sometimes not very nice birds but, hey, that’s how they make their living. 🙂

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      There were horses in a field that was through the woods from our house but they never escaped. We did try to ride them, but we were never successful.

      When I was really young, the town barn still had horses in it. It was around the corner from the rag man’s house and barn. I loved it when the rag man drove his wagon on our street and yelled for papers and rags.

      You would love this crow. He seems right at home.

  2. olof1 Says:

    I do remember all those people too 🙂 I was always a bit afraid of the sharpening knife and scissors man 🙂 He had pitch black hair and eyes in the same color 🙂 But we didn´t have a rag man though. The ones I remember best is the organ-grinders.

    They used to come once a month during summer and I think they came because even if people were poor they still always threw out some coins wrapped in toilet paper to them, 🙂 I loved listening to that music.

    But I think my generation was the last to have the chance to see them. I do miss all those people that wasn´t like all other around us.

    Cloudy all day here and now it drizzles. They say thunder will come tonight and I wouldn´t mind, the flies will be so much easier to deal with if it does, they are nasty at the moment. So nasty that I refuse to go outdoors 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      We never had an organ grinder. Did yours have a monkey? All I have ever seen have been pictures and those organ grinders had monkeys.

      Why was the money wrapped in toilet paper?

      I’m sorry all the neighborhood characters have disappeared. They gave color to our world.

      It is now really humid and more rain is expected. We had over 2 inches of rain this morning.

      • olof1 Says:

        No monkey because it has been forbidden for private persons to own monkeys here for a very long time. They do have a tendency to bite people 🙂 🙂

        They wrapped it in toilet paper so the coins wouldn´t spread when they hit the ground.

        Thunder never arrived but it became a bit cooler anyway after a couple of rainfalls.

        Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Minicapt,
      I know this song and think I might have posted it on my former blog. You know I am a Lonnie fan, and this is a great song.

      Thanks for posting it!!

  3. Zoey & Me Says:

    I think it was a much more friendly society back when we grew up. I knew all my neighbors; the adults had block parties and the kids ran from one cookout to the other; people knew who to call for a quick sitter; I always knew everyone on my newspaper route. Times have really changed. Kids are shut in with their pooters and iPods. I hate the music of the day. Can’t stand it especially when those booms in small cars sound off so everyone can hear them in a square mile.

    • katry Says:

      Z&Me,
      It was a more colorful world back then with all the different people who sold from the streets or door to door.

      Like you, I hate the music of the day. Sometimes the music from cars is so loud I want to reach in and turn down the volume. I also want to let the kids know they are courting deafness.

  4. Rob Says:

    In the 1950s in Brooklyn I can remember the rag man, the junk man and the vegetable man all came down the street with a horse and wagon. I even remember the guy with a pickup truck who had a merry go round on the back and cranked the neighborhood around and around for about a dime. When we moved to Texas in the early 50s we would leave the back door unlocked during the night so that the milk man could go into the kitchen and put the milk bottles in our refrigerator. It was a simpler time and people were more trustworthy. I also don’t remember the birds.

    • katry Says:

      Rob,
      I forgot but now you got me to remember the merry-go-round truck. It was never in my town, but I used to see it when I visited my grandparents who lived in the city. I though it was amazing and always begged a dime from my mother. Many times it was my grandfather who gave us each a dime for a ride.

      When my parents moved off the cape in the late 1960’s, they couldn’t even find the key to the house to give to the new owners.

  5. splendid Says:

    Oh how i love to read your stories, all of you! I know that living long ago was different, but it sure seems easier than now.You are correct that our world has become so isolated, not just the children even the adults. We recently have begun meeting in a neighbors yard in the early evenings because we have 3 families with small children who play together. It is wonderful to talk and catch up, like years ago over the clothes line! I am called gramma by the girls because I am the oldest on our block now that they see! When my girls come home from college, they tease about it, but I just tell them there is no hurry…being the neighborhood gramma is enough for now!

    • katry Says:

      splendid,
      Our backyards were filled all summer with kids and, at night, parents too sat outside and talked, drank a beer or two and watched the kids playing. We knew everyone in the neighborhood. Now, at least, I know all the neighbors on my street but no one else, not even the houses behind mine. Tall fences keep Gracie in and conversation over the fence out.

      The houses were always so hot at night when I was young. Outside was the coolest spot to sit. I can still remember seeing the red of my father’s cigarette as he sat on the back steps at night having a smoke.

      • Caryn Says:

        I must live in a time warp. 🙂 All the kids on my street play in the street or in a neighbor’s side yard. The parents sit out on their front steps or porches and chat with each other. We all have A/C but most of us hate to shut up the house and miss the fresh air. The dogs all play with each other as well. Not quite like when I was a child but as close as it’s going to get nowadays.

  6. katry Says:

    Hi Caryn,
    The only neighborhood kids are at the other end of the street, and they do play in one front yard or their back yards, but the oldest is only 5 so they are still pretty sheltered. My friends and I live on our decks, but they’re in the back so we don’t see anyone. Cody, from down the street, is let out and comes to my door and barks so I can let him in the yard to play with Gracie. When she tires him out, I open the door and he runs home.


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