‘Childish’ Visions Linger Gentle on my Mind
Column by Jim Bishop
When I was a child, I thought as a child. When I became an adult, well …
This adult, a senior citizen still reliving his second childhood, often reflects upon that early, formative period of life.
Recently, in the church small group I belong to, we spent time responding to a question posed by one of our members – what are the earliest recollections you have as a child? Of your home? family? church?
Several of us were able to rekindle images and feelings from as early as 2 years or under.
I was one of those. I happen to have a photo from 1946 of me sitting on a platform and holding Cinder, my first pet, with another faithful companion, a teddy bear, looking on. I was a year-and-a-half old, and can remember that photo being taken, although I couldn’t say where. I’m not sure everyone believed me. So, here’s proof.
I loved that cat. We have a home movie that Dad took with his Keystone 8mm camera of me hauling Cinder around in a little wooden wheelbarrow. The tolerant feline never jumped out, regardless of how fast or jerky my motions.
Never will I forget that awful day I went down into our basement and found Cinder lying next to our coal furnace, dead (it chose an appropriate spot for its demise, anyway).
Another vivid memory from the same time frame: sitting on the kitchen counter at our home along the Old Dublin Pike (Rt. 313) adjacent to the Bishop homestead, Harmony Hill Farm, clutching a wooden set of colorful round blocks that formed a tree. I would place my stubby finger on a circular block, spin it around on the shaft and hum, pretending it was a record player.
I take from this recurring activity that I was destined to become a disc jockey someday.
Thanks to my mom, I still have that treasured toy among a collection of early playthings. Many years later, our grandkids have found it equally fascinating, selecting it over the many plastic gadgets that require batteries or computer chips to operate.
As echoed by most others in our group that evening, our earliest recollections centered around the local church and activities related to Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings and summer Bible school. We shared myriad memories of Sunday school, huddled in tiny classrooms with loving teachers who directed us in drawing and cutting out figures and attaching to worksheets with gobs of white odorous paste drawn from large containers.
Much emphasis was given to memorizing scripture verses. For correct recitations, we’d receive blue tickets with the verse on it. Three tickets could be exchanged for a “birdie card.” Three birdie cards were worth one big card that could be turned in for various paraphernalia – pencils or plastic rulers or other trinkets bearing scripture verses.
I still have the leather-bound King James Version of the Bible with my name embossed on the cover in fake gold leaf that I received in 1956 for reciting from memory John 14:1-6 in front of my peers (with many sitting there hoping I’d blow it – I didn’t). I can still recite that – and other selected passages – from memory in my best King James English today.
In my mind’s eye I remember traveling around Doylestown and venturing into the wide wonderful world beyond in my parents’ two-tone 1947 Chevrolet. Dad was always a Chevy man. He replaced that massive chariot with a black 1951 Chevy with a sloping rear roof. That chariot blew a rod on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1955 on a trip to West Virginia, and after being told what it would cost to repair, he bought a new car on the spot – with money I’m sure we didn’t have.
For three years, life as this lad knew it was unalloyed bliss. Mom and Dad bathed me in love and undivided attention, meeting my every need. Then, it happened – an intruder arrived. Brother Bob burst upon the scene, and suddenly, someone else needed their affections. It was too good to last.
Not really. My parents’ boundless love swelled to encompass this new life form, as it did several more times as our family circle expanded over the next decade.
This I know – the Bishop abode of my birth was saturated with a steady shower of unconditional love and support, in both good and stressful times, And, these many years later, that is what I treasure and have sought to replicate in my own family.
Jm Bishop is public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at email@example.com.