Once I thought I was going to write a thesis on how their environments differentiated southern writers from northern writers. Fortunately I never did, and saved myself from being found guilty of terminal pretension.
I grew up easily classified as a tomboy, and I do have some theories on what makes a tomboy.
1. The neighborhood is populated almost exclusively by boys. On looking around, the tomboy finds no one to play with but boys, excepting the sissy girl next door who won’t play with you anyway because you play with the boys.
2. The tomboy realizes early on to be part of the gang you have to play fair, not rat anyone out and take a hit on occasion.
3. The tomboy is rational about not being a boy. I almost quit being a tomboy when I got glasses in the fifth grade. We settled it as follows: someone held my glasses and I wrassled my challenger to the ground. Having settled there was no need to do that again and risk breaking my glasses, I remained a tomboy for another few years.
4. The tomboy’s parents have few expectations past doing well in school, helping around the house and staying out of trouble in the neighborhood. And coming straight home when you need the emergency room for stitches. It may have helped my mother was a tomboy with only a brother and boy cousins.
5. The tomboy knows when to exit the field. There’s a change in the air. The side lot fills up for a pick up game, but the only hearts really in the game belong to the little kids who have been coming up. Their big brothers would rather be under a car hood, and to tell the truth, you are packing your pj’s for a sleep over with the girls you’ve meet in ninth grade.
It’s sad that children don’t know childhood until they look back on it. Hopefully they can appreciate it. The concept of childhood didn’t exist until the late 19th century, and even then, as now, not for all the children in the country and the world. Children have the same amount of time free today as in my childhood, but it seems filled with endless structured activity. I won’t be around to see how that turns out. Probably just fine; they’re all in it together. And there will be a new generation of grandmothers fussing about the past.
Jan and neighborhood buddies enjoying an apple on a fall afternoon.