The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.


on May 25, 2012



I have a lousy memory.  The book I’m now reading is likely to be forgotten next week. I don’t  remember the addresses of all the places I’ve lived nor the names of childhood classmates.  I am attentive and take copious notes when attending a lecture but the words float through my mind like wisps of smoke. It embarrasses me to ask my son – who remembers EVERYTHING – when specific events occurred in our family.


There are however a few things I remember quite well. In this poem  it seems I’ve been bitten by a nostalgia bug and remembering those days reminds me of this as well Sing along with me.


Those were the days my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose,

We’d fight and never lose,

For we were young and sure to have our way.”

                                    (Artist: Mary Hopkins)




My sister and I spent our first sixteen years

At a small cottage near aWisconsinlake.

What looms large in my memory

Is the freedom we had had then

Freedom no responsible parent today would accord a child

Freedom to come and go, from dawn ‘til dusk

With no fear of danger by day or by night.


We ate warm tomatoes from the garden for breakfast.

Stole apples and blueberries from neighbors.

Hung clothes to dry in the sun.

Dug fat night crawlers out of the mud.

Climbed into a sacrosanct rowboat

Where no noise was permitted,

Bamboo fishing poles in hand.


We left early each day for the beach.

Spent days with minnows swirling round our feet,

Ducklings trailed us as we swam out to a raft,

Turtles sunned on the banks of the lake

Profuse with sweet-smelling water lilies.


We applied baby oil mixed with iodine for tans.

Shared one apple among three and nobody died.

Taught swimming to toddlers,

Built thousands of sand castles,

Carved our initials into picnic tables.


A weeping willow tree hung over the water.

We swung from its branches like monkeys.

Dove from a bridge over a channel

Higher than an eight year old should attempt.

A young friend drove his own speedboat.

Dragged us behind him on water skis.

Did that on one ski by the time I was nine.


We rode rusty Schwinns through the woods

Caught butterflies and fireflies.

Plucked handfuls of wild flowers,

Sought out wild blackberry bushes,

Tracked down rabbit holes,

Learned where the owls hung out.


No computers or cell phones for us.

Our evening entertainment was each other.

Kids gathered and played Red Rover,

Kick-The-Can, Marbles and Pick-Up-Sticks.

Some nights we hiked up a cobbled road

Shared Black Cows at the Dairy Queen.


To escape hordes of  hungry mosquitoes

We gathered on someone’s porch,

Played Monopoly ‘til the banker went broke.

Listened for the tinkling bell

That announced the Good Humor man.


One friend lived on a nearby farm

The barn’s loft was our sleep-over party bedroom

Bales of freshly cut hay our pillows.

There we prayed to be witness to a bull

Breaking loose and mounting a cow.


No one questioned our whereabouts, our activities.

Yet neither of us ever got hurt or get lost.

Found our way home for dinner,

Corn on the cob dripping in butter,

Gabriel Heater and the News in the background.


When the stars appeared

A warm summer’s night sleep beckoned

On a screened porch in a swing

Rocked gently by evening breezes,

The aroma of peonies in the air.


I pined for the last day of school

For I knew that on the morrow

I’d be taken to the cottage

To again spend three months

With nobody asking:


Where were you?  What did you do?

Where did you go?  Who were you with?

Why are you late for dinner?

What are you doing tomorrow?


I leave you to draw your own conclusions

About what that kind of freedom meant

To two little girls from the city

And how it affected the women they became.




(Simcha is the Hebrew word for Joy – my middle name is Joy – Not Julie Joy which sounds like a Hooker – Juleanne Joy, named, I was told, for a Queen of Sweden. Why anyone would name a child of Norwegian ancestry after a Swede escapes me.)


Post a comment.


Julie Rose


One response to “FREEDOM

  1. janet says:

    You have hit a nerve here, Julie. I. too, am often moved to tears by our National Anthem, and that wonderful folk song, This Land is My Land. and I love the poem you quoted. The work ‘pelf’ refers to money gained in a questionable way. And I often think of our grandparents, all four of them, who left their homeland and family and friends for the unknown ‘promised land’. How courageous and terrifying. But I’m glad they did!

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