Childhood memories

Adult and child riding bicycles

Childhood memories

Recently I was thinking about icebreakers… those little questions or activities used at meetings and trainings, meant to lighten the mood, build a connection, or get to know each other.  Last year when I was presenting training for a group of new CASA advocates, I decided to ask each of them to share a childhood memory.  I didn’t really think too deeply about what I was asking.  I just thought since we represent children it would be a good way to share a little about ourselves and focus our minds on the reason we were there – children.  What quickly became apparent, was that every memory included family.  June is National Reunification Month and as we celebrate the reunification and strengthening of families, my mind kept wandering back to that icebreaker.

So, I took the same question to Facebook and the results were remarkably similar.  Lauren Geier, Arkansas CASA Association Director, shared “One of my favorite childhood memories was learning to ride my bike without training wheels.  I was frustrated and ready to give up.  Rather than admit that my skills were the problem, I declared that my bike was broken and not able to be ridden.  My grandpa got on my little purple Cabbage Patch bike and rode around the block to prove me wrong.  The image of his long body folded onto that bike, knees to his ears, and feet hanging off the pedals will forever be etched into my mind!”  As I read Lauren’s story, I found myself not only a little jealous of her Cabbage Patch bicycle but also laughing at the image her words created.

Bikes showed up in other childhood memories, too.  CASA Advocate, Tammy Waggoner, shared a memory of when she and her sister got brand new bicycles for Christmas.  “I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom and saw them by the tree.  I woke my sister up and we slept by them until our dad found us and made us go back to bed. It was cold that Christmas, but we rode those bicycles in coats, hats, and gloves!  I think I was 10 and she was six.”

Others reminisced about camping with their families.  Like my sweet friend, Margaret Stewart, who remembered regular camping trips.  “We always went with another family with 4 kids and we got to hike and play and pretty much do what we wanted while the adults hung out.  Then in the evenings everyone sat around the big fire and ate dinner and smores.  We did this almost every weekend until we where teenagers. At the time it seemed like a drag going every weekend but looking back we truly had lots of fun taking vacations every weekend.”

Pamula Stanley, an adoptive parent and teacher, still does a lot of camping today.  Her family is heavily involved with Boy Scouts and she and her husband spend time building memories with their children at campgrounds around Arkansas. Pamula didn’t grow up in Arkansas, though.  Her favorite memory was camping on the cliffs of the California beaches.  “We would always have a watermelon seed spit contest.  We would see who could be the farthest from the fire pit and get their seeds in the fire.  My sissy and I would also wake up early the next morning and hunt for seashells and sand dollars.  I still have some of them.”

Not only does family tie into the memories, but my family decided to share a little also.  Before I share this little gem of a memory, I have to preface it with an explanation.  We live in the South so we often invent family relationships.  With that being said, the definition of sister cousin is a cousin who has such an extraordinarily close relationship that she is basically a sister.  I am the sister cousin in this little memory.  My sister cousin, Sam Ellis, simply shared one of her favorite memories was “Hiding in the apple tree while my sister cousin looks for me and thinks she missed the rapture.”  She followed this with some laughing emojis.  I paid her back though.  During an argument when we were alone at her house, I said I was walking to our grandparents’ home several miles away.  I stomped outside and slammed the door.  Rather than take off on a long walk, I climbed up that apple tree and sat there eating a sour apple as she frantically looked for me.  I didn’t come out of that tree until my grandparents pulled up in the driveway, either. 

My memory bank is full of precious memories of those grandparents.  Going to the strawberry field with them and picking our own berries – I’m sure I ate as many as I picked!  My grandpa growing me cherry tomatoes every year and popping them in my mouth warm off the vine.  My grandpa cleaning fish after fish on his table behind the house.  My grandma dancing in the kitchen.  Sitting beside them and watching the dominos line up on the kitchen table.  And so many more.

Memories like these clearly demonstrate the importance of family.  As we recognize National Reunification Month, we at CASA recognize that restoring and preserving family relationships for children that enter foster care is of the utmost importance.  We diligently seek to reunify families whenever it can be safely accomplished and to seek out family connections with extended families for children who enter foster care.  Because all the children we serve deserve to have a childhood that can be fondly remembered.

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