A small flame

A small flame

Down Memory Lane - Preschool & Kindegarten

This is the second post in a series of 12 posts scheduled by Mommy's Piggy Tales, which encourages women to record stories from their childhood for future generations to enjoy.

Part 1:
When my doll got leprosy

My parents spent my first year traveling around the United States, visiting churches that supported them financially. When I was a year old, they returned to Papua New Guinea, settling in the coastal town of Madang and beginning new ministries there. They also drove 7-10 hours into the mountains to continue their ministries in some of the villages they lived in pre-me. Some of my earliest snapshot-memories involve those long trips up the rough, unpaved roads and through several rivers without bridges.

'helping' Mom wash diapers

One of the areas we visited regularly was Chuave {pronounced 'shwah-vay'}. We stayed in a hut there and I can remember tossing breadcrumbs to the chickens that clucked around the dirt outside the hut.

feeding the chickens

At night, we would eat our dinner by the light of a kerosene lantern, and bundle into our sleeping bags. As must be expected, we shared our hut with . . . . vermin. To keep the food and other things critter-free, my parents would pile our supplies on top of a small table whose metal legs deterred the mice.

At some point, my mom noticed that the doll I slept with was missing a finger or two. She kept an eye on the doll and discovered that it was progressively becoming more 'holey'. Eventually, to her horror, my mom realized that the mice were visiting my sleeping bag for a midnight snack. From then on, my doll slept on the table!

Mom's favorite flowers, lupine, that grew wild beside the road to Chuave

Part 2:
How I discovered M&Ms
misplaced my parents

When I was five, I embarked on the biggest adventure of my little life, thus far. My parents, my two baby brothers {ages 2 years and 6 weeks} and I boarded an airplane (followed by several more airplanes) and flew to the United States for furlough. What an exciting year of firsts that was for me!

Meeting my grandparents (for the first time that I could remember). . .

riding on escalators (the beginning of a fear/hate relationship that lasted for years). . .

having snow and a tree at Christmas (we never had a tree on the 'field' until much later) . . .

and, of course, Happy Meals at McDonalds.

with Grandpa & Grandma Caron

In the fall I began attending Kindergarten with Mrs. Hodge, whom I absolutely adored! Early in the school year, my parents met with Mrs. Hodge and explained to her that if I said or did something strange, it was probably just my multicultural, MK roots showing.

That advice came in handy a few weeks later when we learned the letter 'm'. Mrs. Hodge announced that she had brought a special treat to share - M&Ms. The class was excited . . . except for me. I am told that I sat quite seriously at my desk, completely disinterested. Mrs. Hodge's first thought that I did not like M&Ms. Then (maybe as she realized how unlikely
that was), she realized that I might not understand what she was offering. She was right. I had never heard of - let alone eaten - M&Ms. Everyone in the class was given some of the treat, including me, and my chocolate addiction was born.

the requisite prayer card picture

It was also during this year that I lost my parents on the way to church.

We were visiting close friends of my parents for a few days. Mr. G was a pastor and the family lived in the parsonage next door to the church. A fact which I missed completely. This turned out to be a very important mis-understanding!

We had had a great time with the family, and when Sunday morning rolled around the house was in a predictable Sunday-morning uproar. My Dad and Pastor G left for the church early to get our family's display table and the slide projector set up. My Mom was busy feeding the baby brother, changing the toddler brother, and getting herself ready too. I was already dressed in my best and spent the time happily looking at picture books. Occasionally I would find something interesting enough to run to show it to Mom. However, when I ran to show her an especially funny picture, she had disappeared. I looked in the next logical room . . . and the next. . . .

Eventually, I had worked my way through the entire house, which was now silent and empty. By the time I reached the back yard, I was terrified to realize that I was completely alone. My dramatic, five-year-old mind believed that I would never see my parents again. I wandered around the back yard, and then out to the front drive way, where I was eventually found, crying and wondering how I could survive on my own. {Like I said - dramatic ;o}

Turns out, Mom had not seen me when she was ready to go to church, and had concluded that I had already gone next door with the pastor's kids. When she checked on me near the beginning of Sunday School, I was no where to be found and a short search ensued before I was found by Mrs. G. I spent a shaky, tearful morning sitting very close to my parents, and for the rest of our time in America I would periodically be filled with panic when my parents weren't where I had expected them to be.


coolestfamilyontheblock said...

I loved these stories! I would've been scared too if I couldn't find my parents...I probably would've thought the rapture happened and I was left behind! Those purple flowers are so beautiful :)

scrapbookeasy said...

What an amazing beginning! You had seen and experienced so much in such a short time, how fun! I especially love the M&M story - imagine not knowing what they were at that young age. Funny!

MrsH said...

Your pool doll, I wonder how long she survived after the mice attacked? It's amazing to think how different not only the times were then, but the culture where you were as well. Thanks for sharing!

Lolli said...

I love the doll story (eww about the mice visiting you at night!) and the story of losing your parents. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for you!

Gretchen said...

Your memories are awesome! Seriously, so unique. I'm really really glad you are writing this -- so helpful to those of us who great up all-american, you know? I have friends who are in PNG, and the first time they came home on furlough, their youngest daughter's feet did not fit shoes because they had grown so wide and flat because she lived JUST like children in their tribe did, and climbed the trees, weilded a mechete, etc. Their girls go to boarding school now because their friends in the tribe were all getting married, so they were starting to lose their place (they are like 12 and 15 I think). Anyway, I am enthralled by your memories and your photos!

Rachel said...

Gretchen - I grew up bare-footed too . . . well, I dressed up in flip flops to go to town or church. Anyway, MY flat, wide feet have often been a source of frustration to me ;o)

Mom2three said...

Wow! I loved your story today! Some of it was very familiar as we knew a family from church that spent 20 years in PNG (John and Marsh Relyea) What memories and experiences you have tucked away. I am so looking forward to hearing more. When we came back from Okinawa, my cousin said she remembers us being terrified of trains and thunderstorm because we didn't know what they were.

Laura T said...

Great story, Rachel! I love reading about your exciting childhood!

Janna said...

I'm cheering for me that I get to read your fascinating stories but even more for your boys to have such fun details of your life!

mice, a hut, M&Ms, happy meals, it's all so cool!

Jessica said...

How interesting for America to be a second home. I wonder how your world view differs from the average American.