I had it great. We lived in a small enough town that I could ride my bike to elementary school, and the Junior High was even closer.
My mom stayed home with me and my sister when we were very young, then worked the same hours as the school for a number of years after that. Later, she went to work in the evenings, which is why I learned to cook, but it was always big fun rather than a tedious chore.
I don’t remember ever seeing my parents fighting. We were well into middle-class - my dad was a big saver, so we didn’t go on fancy vacations, but we went camping for one or two weeks every year, without fail. They drove us all over the West. Some years we had a boat or a camping trailer; some years it was camping out of tents, but I grew up seeing most of the best parts of California.
We had a lot of freedom, compared to what my children are allowed. My friends and I could take our dogs and just take off for the day during the summer, and we couldn’t have been much more than ten. There was an empty field a few blocks over (that’s covered with million-dollar houses now) that we’d spend hours in, completely unsupervised. We belonged to a community pool, and we could ride our bikes there in the summer. The neighbor kids all treated all of the moms as interchangeable. Summers especially were fabulous.
Mom grew a garden, and was totally permissive in letting us have odd pets. Besides the usual cats and dogs, we had all of the small mammals, chickens, ducks, and the odd tarantula or two. Every year, we’d hatch out butterflies, tomato hornworms, preying mantises, pollywogs; you name it. When the third grade hatched eggs as a science project, we were the kids who got to take the chicks home, although we lived in town. I raised a number of baby animals on bottles, including a memorable pair of field mice. Not a lot of moms would put up with that in the house!
My sister and I were both encouraged to go to work after school at a young age, but we weren’t forced to by any means. I started volunteering for a vet at the age of fourteen, because that’s what I wanted to go into, and my folks were totally supportive of this. With the money from that job, I bought my first car, and Dad spent hours helping me fix it up.
My Dad’s thriftiness paid off for him when he paid a thirty-year mortgage off in seventeen years and sent both me and my sister to four years of college each. If I didn’t have that degree, I’d be nowhere near the success that I am today, even though I’m not actually working in my degree field. Dad understood that it’s the paper and effort that counts more than the major, and didn’t discourage me from following my dream. He knew that a course of study that kept me interested would pay off much more than one that would stifle me, and he was right.
The best part I think was that Dad always treated my sister and I as if we had every right and ability do do absolutely anything that we wanted with our lives, and I grew up in the borderline of the time when that wasn’t always the case for girls. They never assumed that we would just get married and go on to be mothers and little else; they always took it for granted that we would want complete education and power over our own lives. They weren’t disappointed when each of us did get married and have children, but they wanted that not to be our only option, and they gave us the skills to back that up. I think Dad’s rather proud that I own my own business now, even if it’s small. He sure supported Mom when she had her businesses.