G (Archives)

My father bringing in the sheaves. My mother taking a picture to keep.

Getting the Strap

HARD LESSONS MY FATHER LEARNED AS A CHILD

(excerpts from my Father’s Memoirs.)

I remember standing at the street fence (made of stone) one evening. With some of the others I was watching the herd of livestock coming home from the communal pasture. It was the time of year when the young blades of the village were breaking the young horses to the saddle. Just then one of these troops of young riders had cantered by and my eyes followed them with admiration and longing. I could hardly look over the fence, but what boy would not like to join in such sport? That’s how I felt and asked to be allowed to ride. “Yes,” I was told, “Go to the barn and have them saddle Spotty for you!” (“Spotty” was the oldest cow in the barn). I ran off enthusiastically. What does a four- year old care whether it is cow or horse as long as he can ride! Most important thing was that the animal have four sound legs and a strong back. So I burst into the barn but there things were not so simple. My older cousin, who was staying with the grandparents, was just doing barn chores but he wouldn’t listen to me even when I told him which of my uncles had authorized this ride! The others’ laughter at my eagerness and naivete left me pretty cold and I still regretted not getting my ride.

Uncle Abram Dürksen, whom I’m supposed to resemble quite a bit, had an accordion. He played it well and soon I wanted to make music too. He put me off with the promise that he would give it to me when I was big enough to go to school. He did this to get rid and because he did not expect a child to remember it until the next day. But I remembered because I had taken him seriously and waited longingly for the time when I would go to school and become the owner of the deeply desired instrument. When I entered school at Memrik, I still thought of that promise and occasionally asked someone going to Molochna to bring “my” accordion back. But it never came. I had grown a bit older and I don’t know whether this unfulfilled dream of my childhood disappointed me very much. But I understand it when children have acute memories for promises made to them by adults. What may seem a minor triviality to an older person, may appear as a thing of greatest importance to a child. But a child expects that a promise made by an adult must most certainly be kept.

It was in winter or early spring when one day I received permission to go down to the village to Grandpa’s. I started off but on the road I met some bigger boys who were on their way to the pond to skate. I was enticed to go along with them and ran and slid as well as I could. Suddenly Father stood on the bank. He beckoned me to him and we walked home together. Having arrived there. Father took me across his knew and wrote an “N.B.” across my bottom which I understood well enough even at my tender age. Henceforth I knew that I might go only to the place for which I had permission. All kinds of questionable detours were not permitted without my parents’ prior knowledge.

 

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