I read the prompt from RDP Saturday – “Shine”, and my mind did what it always does – – Immediately delivered up songs, experiences, etc., from it’s file cabinets of storage – where ‘shine’ played a part…..
My first memory of “Shine”
A song, learned in Sunday School….long, long ago….
(I can’t tell ya, for sure, what Sunday School flavor, but one of the many, many branches of Protestant religion – most likely Baptist or Methodist – they each had a church in the town closest to us, and we went where my mother liked the preacher. And she, being a Preacher’s Daughter, was rather picky about such things as personal character and how sermons were delivered, more than she cared about ‘what branch’ of Protestant church we attended.)
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! Oh, this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Every day, every way, I'm gonna let it shine!"
This is the version taught to toddlers and pre-schoolers.
I’m fairly certain there are more words and verses to sing, of church hymnal approved, replete with top/bottom music scales, ‘singing parts’, adulting it version – but I ain’t gonna look it up and by doing so, corrupt my early memory of a small room, with green walls, a teacher that I have no other memory of other than her including me in the ‘sing along’ and teaching me the words, (that the others my age knew) and encouraging me to belt it out, whether I was on key or not.
She was young, kind, and she smelled good, didn’t ever scare me, or insist I drink all the juice or eat the snack provided as long as, I just ‘tried a nibble’ to see if I liked it.
Now, there are some who may call this ‘early indoctrination’ for going forth and proselytizing to convert others…
Me? It meant I was supposed to ‘be of good heart, cheerful and helpful to those around me, while also, being me…’
I fully confess, I most likely paid more attention to instructions given at home every day, on multiple fronts, than I did during 30 minutes of Sunday school each week…
At age 3-11, Moonshine meant the summer night sky as dark descended was lit well enough for me, my cousins and neighborhood children to play outdoors, while the adults gathered for evening fun (music, visiting, playing cards) in the small house I lived in.
Since most of my early playmates were male, this usually meant playing “War” or some version of Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians….
Yes, I’m well aware on many, many fronts, how offensive what I just wrote most likely is, to many, who, born in different place, time, family heritage from I, may take offense to…
Not my intent other than to report in on ‘how it was/how I view it today’ fronts –
Can I explain the Reality as I knew it at that time?
If I do, will you truly hear it? Or lump me forever and always into ‘enemy status’?
Thank you! Lemme break it down for ya, what all those ‘shorthand lingo for childhood games’ really meant…for me, at that time/place, with folks known to me and often, I was related too, via blood/DNA…
Rural Childhood – other than yard light, there were no street lights and the yard light only highlighted chicken house and driveway area- where only a fool would choose to ‘do face-to-face battle’ in such games played during night operations, in the game of ‘us vs. them’ play to win war games….I still, however, can’t quickly read a topological map even in the light of day, on the computer no matter how many permaculturists and veterans of military service I count among my family & friends!
No matter what game was played, that I just mentioned, or how it was ‘labeled’, it was just ‘a game of two opposing sides’ – not fought because of nationality, race, gender, opinions or what politics our parents discussed/debated/argued about –
And, sans massive cheating or unnecessary roughness, the game and ‘grudges’ held, were short lived…
Nothing as complicated as Adult World!
Simply two sides, and the object of the game was to run around as if you were playing some pick up game combo of freeze tag & hide-n-seek, and the overall goal was to not get ‘captured’ by the other side – to not injure yourself or another, (cuz then, Parents got called in, and Parents often ruin everything!) and to learn how to ……
Run around in the dark, en masse or alone, dependent upon your age/training and knowledge, move in stealth and balance, with sure footing, through old ‘supply piles’ of barnwood, rusty barb wired replaced in fencing, vehicles no longer running, but still had ‘spare parts’ on them, and drums of used motor oil (because back then, oil changes were done at home by the thrifty, but many folks knew better than to just dump it on the ground), in order to ‘capture’ others via guerilla warfare, attrition rates via ‘captives’ Or to overwhelm the ‘enemy’ through strategic thinking and overwhelming forces.
Da Rules of Childhood War
The Short Game – Who Wins?
The losers of the ‘War’ was determined only if all members of the opposite side, were found/tagged and taken over to the ‘holding area’ (which was determined for that time, by each side, for that game’. )
If the game was called off due to Parents calling children in to bed/going home, a hasty count was made of each ‘holding area’ and all participants had to be hastily found/show up – (Parents FREAK out if anyone is ‘lost’, doncha know and EVERYONE gets in trouble!)
Sometimes, a draw had to be announced –
Strategic use of Forces
Once the first person was ‘captured’ for either side – one was faced with further strategic ‘choices’ – guard them so they didn’t just ‘walk away’ to rejoin the game? (thus, lowering the level of manpower on the ‘battlefield’ needed and….
Who IS My Enemy?
Oh, my! The peer-pressure and lies told in order to get a captured enemy to ‘snitch’/turn spy against his/her previous teammates would boggle your mind and make modern day adulting-it games look ridiculous & cheesy by childhood standards!
The Mid Game (Short & Long Game)
How Troops are Chosen/Amassed
The two oldest (Usually Boys, but as the years progressed, not always) determined ‘which side’ they wanted, either by mutual agreement, or, if both called the same side, it was decided by flip of a coin (if anyone had one in their pocket)….
Anyone with a novelty ‘two headed coin’ in their pocket was soon discovered and no longer trusted to be a ‘general’ due to lack of integrity.
or by that old standby that was always available to anyone lucky enough to be born with/still retain, two hands – which was, in my childhood, everyone….
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Best 2 out of 3, perhaps best 3 out 5 – it depended upon how early in the evening we had been ‘told to ‘go outside and play’ and how much time we figured we had left to ‘play’ in –
If the game played to simply decide the sides for the game played, took too long, the restlessness of the ‘subordinate ‘troops’ to choose for ‘one’s side’ meant dissension in the ranks, and questioning of the ‘seniority authority’ via cat-calls of,
“C’mon! Just pick! The Parents will be done and time for us to go home/go to bed before you all get done messing around… We wanna play!”
Once ‘the generals’ got their shit together and listened to their potential troops desires and quit ‘messin’ around’ stalling in useless power plays via ways that resulted in no one wanting to follow their leadership, Troops were ‘chosen’….
Who chose first usually was determined by either ‘which general won last time’ regardless of side, OR, should last game generals not be both present, by arm-wrassling OR mutual consent of all present if no one had a coin to toss and everyone present was sick and tired of delays, via of the rock, paper, scissor ‘fair’ stuff….
Youngest children were always chosen first – each side had to choose a younger draftee, first –
First one, then the other side, took turns choosing first the youngest, weakest, smallest, most in need of ‘protection/training/learning the rules’ and next turn, the oldest, wisest, bravest, smartest etc.
The older one got, the more times they had played, meant choosing the ‘oldest’ simply by ‘how old’ wasn’t always the rule….
But youngest? Newest members to be invited to the ‘Parent’s get together’?
Chosen First – Early on…
If you’re outside and want to play….
The Long & Infinite Game
Everyone who wants to play are Chosen to Play
If odd number of draftees were present for choosing, whomever chose the smallest, youngest, first, was awarded an ‘extra troop member’ from the older crowd that knew how to play the game, and play it well……
Newcomers are taken ‘under wing’ by old-hands, and looked out for….
Tales of ‘the battle’ are discussed, debated and shared with those sick and inside, left at home, or unable to be on hand, due to other duties, for ‘that war’….
Bullies, Whiners, Snitches & Glory Hounds
The unspoken, yet rigidly enforced, rules of the game, by anyone who had played before, were reinforced via ‘peer pressure’ – it wasn’t, in any way shape or form, ‘spelled out’ for new comers….
Newcomers had to just observe, depend on their teammates/leaders, for guidance on how to play and who to trust….
Bullies who were more harsh than need be on their teammates or ‘enemies’, whether via verbal, emotional or physical fronts, were kept in check by various ways, ranging from a sound chewin out, or beatin’ by a ‘general’ or older teammate (that evenings game) OR simply through quiet non-compliance by both their teammates and their enemies –
Whiners were also ignored unless medical care was deemed necessary, after a fall, trip or ‘oops’ while ‘playing in the dark around junk piles saved for future use’ –
Snitches – –
Ahh….sigh – – – if you had turned spy, double-agent or snitched/ratted out your ‘side’ in past games?
Well, no side, no matter which one you were chosen for, really, actually, trusted you much at all for any reason, once you snitched/betrayed your teammates – you could earn it back, but you had to ‘consistently show up and not be a snitch or spy’ for many, many ‘sessions’ before ever you had re-gained the ‘trust’ of any who played.
I learned this lesson, the hard way, when my favorite cousin, closest in age to me, on the opposing side, captured me, but lured me into thinking I was smart enough to be a ‘spy’ and let me return to my team mates, but with duty to sneak around and report in –
Man! I sure learned that lesson early and well – I cried when I realized no one trusted me….weren’t we just playing a game? Hadn’t I played by the rules?
He sat by me and said,
“Yes, it’s a game, but, well, unless someone is hurt or someone is being mean, we just don’t rat/snitch on each other – and, ya know, ya had a choice – you could have told me to ‘forget it’ – you weren’t in any danger if you had just sat down in the holding area, or found a way to sneak away when I wasn’t looking…..”
Sigh…. that cousin was many years older than I, in child years, but he understood my heart, whether I could verbalize it or not – His parents divorced, split up the ‘kids’, demanded their kids take ‘real war sides’ – He joined the Marines , came home and then committed suicide when I was 22…
But in my mind? He’s still the child general I learned best and first from, right after my Dad…..
He never, while he was around, left me behind, no matter how short my legs were or how tender my heart, before I had learned enough to ‘toughen’ up, as he and Dad continually encouraged me too, for my own good! when facing the ‘outside world’.
Glory hounds that left their teammates behind in hopes to be a hero single handedly, found themselves often, last to be chosen and/or, not given much cooperation by their fellow teammates –
Moonshine at age 12
Meant being a guest at a ‘slumber party’ for a classmate’s 13th birthday, who also knew where the mason jar of ‘grandpa’s homemade ‘shine’ was stored in upper cabinets…. and whose single mom didn’t get home till about an hour after school let out – but we were girls, in town and really, just how much mischief could we get into in view of the neighbors?
Clear as water, but denser it appeared to me, were the contents of that jar – and her teeny-tiny lap dog barked at it when she held it down for the ‘dog’ to smell….
Smelled like paint thinner to me, so I braved being dubbed a coward for not taking a sip – and marveled at the bravery and courage of the other girls, older and more wiser than I…and tougher it seemed, who took a gulp and choked heartily while tears streamed out of their eyes, and their face turned red….
Ah….I guess… I’m just not that ‘brave’, I concluded…..
That classmate I’d known since my earliest memory? Died of brain cancer a few years back, but she, too, was a ‘general’ I followed on many fronts, and braved the battlefield for, whether I deemed myself ‘worthy/capable or not’.
We solemnly vowed support for each other many long years later, when we each learned we were to be single mothers , in a time/place where such things were akin to social/community/family ostracization on many fronts….
Sunshine In Teen Crush Years
Yeah – Somewhere along the line, I had my crushes and a song came out, that spoke mightily to my mooning over unrequited love/puppy love heart – this is my song! It’s OUR song!
I was a fool, he didn’t even really notice me, let alone love me – 🙂
The older I got, the less I understood the rules, and the harder it got to ‘learn ’em’ with any true trust that ‘da rules, were really, da rules…..’
Sunshine in Adulting-It times
Alas, It’s not really titled as Sunshine, but it includes the word in it –
But now? After my first harsh lesson in the ‘ways’ of the world, that include ‘real wars’ fought by adults, in high school society and work place drama, by age 14?
Well, by that time, I rather had a liking for Reba and her music – and it wasn’t about shining on, or letting my lil’ light shine – it was more about “Walk On”
"Walk towards the light, Until you find the sun, You'll be better off, In the Long Run... And Walk On!"
And, to this day – sometimes I gotta remember the childhood version of ‘war’ that often feels kinder and nicer than the adulting versions of it – and remember the core lessons learned in a more kind, gentle, consequences delivered, but not life threatening, way….
I try to let ‘this little light of mine’ shine! without insisting everyone else shine their light exactly like I do mine….but do my best to first try, to let their lil light shine as if they were still a child and had the freedom to be a child full of light, freedom and innocent grace while playing a childhood game of war, unknowing of how ugly the adulting version of it can get….
But also, to speak up when my lil light may have experienced that which isn’t within their experience of ‘shine’ – at all…
And to realize, where I sit in the dark/no information regarding landscape, territory, or what, in the heck, the battlefield REALLY looks like, once I’m running around in it, but still in the ‘dark’ on a myriad of fronts….
To be a child hood teammate for ‘this particular game’ of war…
Lighthouses and Flashlights –
Oh, so many, many lessons, of Shine, witnessed, experienced and played out over the years, but in my soul, I guess, at the end of the day, I mainly care about being a Lighthouse or Flashlight to others, when I can be….
And asking, pleading for someone to show up when I’m lost in rough seas, close to the rocks or lost in the swamp of my own life, or junk-piles of my own mind and really desire a teammate who won’t leave me behind, and who will ensure I’m not left alone in the dark, while injured…
And well…..often, the lil light of others, just shines in bright hope, and brilliance, upon me….
And once more?
I survive ‘today’s game’ to be available for ‘choosing up sides’ for the next ‘game to be played’ – all while I try to navigate between the innocence of the child hood game learned so long ago, and adulting-it versions, all at once…