Monday, February 21, 2011

Childhood Memories

Hi Everyone,
Yesterday Jiří and I had a fun discussion in the afternoon.  While having lunch we were watching an old Czech movie on TV, dating from the 1960s or 1970s.  I can’t remember the name of the movie we were watching, but it was funny.  As we watched the show, Jiří was taken back to his childhood years and how Life was in that time compared to now.  I always enjoy hearing stories from my husband’s childhood because I not only learn more about him.  It’s also an opportunity to see the differences between my own childhood experiences compared to Jiří’s.  These comparisons are not in the range of good vs. evil, or even better vs. worse.  The comparisons are only just that--comparisons, and are interesting to see how our lives were different during our childhood years.  Surprisingly we are even able to find some commonalities between our childhood experiences lived on opposite sides of the world.

Common Bathrooms

One real-life issue we discussed was to do with flats (apartments).  Back when Jiří was a boy, people lived in a block of flats and there was usually one common bathroom per floor.  I can’t imagine having to share a bathroom with my neighbors.  It just doesn’t compute, and yet that was the reality back in the 1950s and 1960s here, in the Czech Republic.  Of course, people in the U.S. have long lived in flats, but I don’t remember, in my Mid-Western upbringing, ever hearing of people in an apartment building having to share one bathroom per floor.  This circumstance may have existed in earlier times and other places, but not in my own experience.  It is just incomprehensible to me how an entire floor of families could share one bathroom. 

When I was growing up, my family of four lived in a small house less than a mile from my grandparents’ home.  Our house was small, but nice.  My brother and I had our own rooms, and my parents had their own bedroom.  We had one bathroom, living room and a kitchen, with a basement used as part laundry room, tech/workshop room, and part that was fixed up to use for a play area and could also be used for parties.  It was a nice house with a yard and trees, flower beds, etc.  We had that one bathroom for all four people, and I can’t imagine having to share that small bathroom with a whole bunch of neighbors.  My mind can’t even get around that idea.  Yet, people here, in the Czech Republic, did share one bathroom per floor with their neighbors, and managed it OK, though I’m sure there were times when it must have been difficult.  I won’t discuss the difficulties of one bathroom per floor shared by neighbors here as it might not be a good topic for polite conversation in the blogosphere.  All I can say is I’m happy things have changed.

Childhood Freedom

My husband’s family spent many years living in beautiful parts of the Czech Republic, often near nature, with sprawling forests, hills and mountains.  Jiří talks about the freedom of his childhood often.  He speaks about how he used to love to wander the forests and hills near where his family lived.  He enjoyed playing the trumpet in that time, and used to take his trumpet to the forest and play for long stretches of time.  When you live in a block of flats, playing the trumpet is not a good thing—most people don’t want to be bothered with the sounds. 

Apples on tree by yellowfang4

Another story Jiří’s shared with me is when he was a boy, living in a small city, he and his friends would enjoy visiting a walled-in garden.  The garden was beautiful, and filled with flowers and even apple trees.  These apple trees were a source of temptation for the boys, and they would try to scale the garden wall, and then race to pick some apples before the garden’s owner could catch them.  The garden was owned by an old man with a cane.  And I am sure this old guy had a lot of exercise racing after these bad boys—threatening to beat them with his cane if he caught them.  Jiří has said it was more in the way of a prank and trying to see if that old man could really catch them.  Now it could be this old guy was having as much fun as the boys, while also getting some exercise and excitement.  I can just see this old guy at the end of the day smiling at the thought of chasing those boys and scaring them with his cane. 

The younger years of my own childhood were spent in a suburb of a big Mid-Western city.  This is where we lived less than a mile from my grandparents.  It was a safe place, with lots of trees, green grass and many adventures for an imaginative girl.  Though we didn’t live near sprawling forests and hills, our family home was not too far from a vast area of open fields.  As a kid, my best friend and I would wander those fields pretending to be pioneers in a wagon train on the way out West.  We would take our stuffed animals and dolls in our “wagons” (red Radio wagons) and travel the West fleeing Indians and other dangers. 

Also in that time, my brother and I walked the six or seven blocks to school during the school year—rain or shine.  In the spring, when the snow melted, I would manage to find and jump in all the icy water puddles on the way back home after school.  My Mom was so mad when I’d come home soaked and my galoshes filled with water.  She was not only mad, but also worried as I had a tendency toward croup and bronchitis.  Back then it was also normal for kids to ramble in the park safely without adult supervision.  My Mom let my brother and I ride our bikes to the city park, near our home, to play on the huge hill and the play equipment.  No one worried about kids being abducted and other tragedies.  We suffered the usual broken bones, scratches and scrapes, but nevertheless my brother and I had a pretty free childhood, though we did have to be back home on time for lunch and supper.

The Advent of Television

Jiří and I had different experiences with TV.  I grew up with a TV in the house, though it was black and white, and we had about four stations that I can remember.  That was great and everyone in the city and suburbs had pretty good reception.  Jiří can remember a time with no TV, but he said they definitely had radio.  Jiří’s family first got a black and white TV in the 1960s.  He told me that their TV was placed on top of a wardrobe, and neighbors (who didn’t have TV) would stand outside the windows watching and listening to the TV programs.  My family had its first color TV when I was about five or six years old.  On the other hand, Jiří said he didn’t have a color TV until the 1990s.  That’s quite a huge difference between our experiences. 

These are only a few of the differences Jiří and I have discussed over the years.  I’m looking forward to more discussions of this type.  Again, it’s fun to learn how things were different for both of us on opposite sides of the ocean.  However, in our differences we still somehow seem to find more commonalities.  This common ground is where we have been able to establish our marriage and it’s a wonderful experience—still progressing and changing us both for the better.

That’s all for today. 

Have a great day!

God bless,

Sher’s Stuff

4 comments: said...

Hi Sher,
I enjoyed this post very much - It is fun comparing childhood experiences.

I never had to share a bathroom with other families but I do remember during my early childhood, that there were people who didn't have a bath or shower in their own homes & would go to a local authority provided facility to take a bath once a week. Also, some houses didn't have inside sanitation. The people who lived in the cottage next door to where I lived in the mid 1960s, used to have to go to the toilet in a small building at the bottom of their garden.

Regarding both yours & Jirka's freedom to play around outside & go back & forth to school unsupervised, one great joy of living in the Czech Republic is that you still see children doing that here today. See my blogpost .

I think I was seven years old when we got a TV. Before that, I used to go and watch TV in the home of the children who lived next door.

Sher said...

@chaplain: Thanks for your comment! It's fun interesting to share childhood memories and experiences.

Thanks for sharing your own memories and experiences with us!

There are people back home who have limited bathroom facilities in their homes, but generally speaking most homes have at least one in-door bathroom.

When I was a kid, visiting my Great Grandma's lake cottage, there was only an outdoor potty. We girls used to hate using it for the daddy-long-leg spiders loved to live in there!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Francesca Thomas said...

I dont live in the Czech repiblic or the USA but I am an expat woman. Like you I married a foreigner and moved to hi s country. My family didnt get a colour television until 1982. Previous to that we had a blck and white TV. The only reason we got the coloir TV was because the picture tube blew on the black and white TV because it couldnt handle all the graphics from the new Atari computer my dad had purchased.

Sher said...

What an interesting story about your black & white TV blowing it's picture tube due to the Atari computer! What a memory! Thanks so much for sharing! It's also great to hear from another expat woman who moved to her husband's country, as I have done. It's not so easy, but it can definitely be done with much patience and adapting on both sides!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)