I just read an article in the Huffington Post entitled “I Miss the Village” by Bunmi Laditan. She misses the village that she never had where women worked side by side, telling stories, sharing their children and helping each other without having to be asked. It is a good thought, but as I read her article another picture of a village kept getting in the way of this wonderful romantic notion.
I do a lot of genealogy, and my first thoughts were about those early ancestors of mine who migrated into Florida in the 1830s. As I read the young woman’s romanticized description of how mothers would take care of each other and their children, I also thought about my fifth great grandmother who moved with her husband and family along with several of their older sons and their families.
They pushed back the briars, palmettos, native people and the jungle-like vegetation to plant their crops and build their homes. Their homes were made of logs and their ceilings were high because hot air rises and that was what Florida was back then–hot, sweltering heat.
Florida Memory Photographic Collection
I remember my mother talking about how the older ones swept the sand around the outside of their home to the edge of the woods. Their yards were made of sand, and they swept it much like we rake our yards. The sweeping served two purposes. One was the threat of fire, which would strike from the pine woods after the frequent lightning storms. The sandy barrier around the house gave them some sort of fire lane protection. The other purpose was so you could see the tracks of a snake or other animal that had made it way under and sometimes into the house.
My fifth great grandmother’s husband died shortly after they moved here. The probate papers had a doctor’s bill that showed where quinine and sulfa were used, so we’re fairly sure it was malaria or some other type of fever. All of a sudden, she was alone in her home with the last of your children. Thankfully, her sons and daughters were nearby with children of their own. As a grandmother and a mother, there probably wasn’t much time for fresh bread and tea in the afternoons.
My Great Great Grandmother
You see, women back then were pregnant from the time they married until they either stopped ovulating or died.
My grandmother’s mother died shortly after the fifth baby was born. She hemorrhaged while standing over her newborn baby. She was changing his diaper, and she started bleeding uncontrollably. She died before they could get help.
Another third great grandfather died while the natives were trying to regain their lands. There were reports in the territorial Tallahassee paper of many burnings and massacres in his area. We have no proof he lost his life in one of these, but the probate began just after the massacres ended. The massacres lasted for several weeks, where homes were burned, people were killed and crops were destroyed. He must have died suddenly, because there were no doctor bills in his probate file.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t miss this village. I am thankful that I had ancestors who were so strong willed and diligent, and that I didn’t have to do this.
The village in my past was a difficult place to live, raise children and survive. I’m wondering if hers was probably not much better.
So instead, I’m hesitant to mention the shortcomings of life as we know it today, because what my ancestors lived through was nothing short of a miracle. They survived.
My Great Great Grandparents and their adult children,
However, I still see Mrs. Laditan’s point; and I too would have liked to have had someone close by to help.
So let’s cut to the chase. It would be wonderful if we could reach out more and help each other. So what is keeping us apart?
I imagine that the very things that make our great state so livable now days are the same things that make us wrap ourselves into our own little cocoons of living space.
Air conditioning and television are two examples that come to mind. We spend hours watching TV instead of visiting our neighbors. We lock our doors and windows, and the world passes by.
To get the feeling of what it was like to raise children fifty years ago or more, turn off your TV, open your windows and send your kids outside. That is what my mom did.
Florida Memory Photographic Collection
But……..yes, I can hear you from here! We wouldn’t do this. Children have to be watched closely. They cannot grow up on their own like we used to do. And there is the safety issue.
Let’s face it. Most of us live where we cannot let our children roam freely.
The village where I was raised and the one I raised my children in was exactly like that, except we did have air conditioning and TVs. However, I was raised to get the kids out of the house, and I did. The difference was where I lived. Small towns are great places to raise kids.
Most people live in cities today, though; and the village we romanticize isn’t an option. And that is a sad thought.