While I have read several of Ray's books, I just began Dandelion Wine yesterday. When I read the introduction, I was somewhat saddened. The experiences Ray went through growing up are so rich. It makes me look at my own life and the way I grew up. I grew up in suburban California in condominiums and apartments. My experiences pale in comparison to growing up in the enviroment Ray did.
This made me think. I want my children to be able to experience the wonders and magic of growing up in a somewhat rural town the way Ray did. But with my future husband in entertainment (juggling, balloon animals, magic, stilt walking, actor) it would be hard for us to make a life for ourselves in a rural environment. Green Town seems so fantastical to me. As a child of the city, it is hard for me to imagine that such a wondrous place exists.
Keli, your comments have called up these thoughts:
The reason Dandelion Wine speaks so strongly to my upbringing is because of the Green Town descriptions, its next door families, the businesses in the town, and the fact that everyone pretty much knew one another and their kids (in the surrounding neighborhoods and within the small community schools).
My family had a store which was located in the middle of the main downtown district. Every busy owner knew and exchanged with those on the public square. I grew up barely able to see over the counter and then ran the store alone when I became a teenager.
It was not unusual for someone to come in, get a slip on items needed, and then return a day or so later to pay for the trade. Never any problems. Times gone by...unfortunately.
The open fields behind our home were the center of the universe for dozens of kids - all year round. Baseball games in spring and summer, Football games in the cool and muddy days of autumn (tackle with no pads and no law suits), hide & seek that went on long after dark, dogs of all shapes and sizes chasing boys and girls, kite flying, and pollywog, snake, and frog collecting (in glass jars) from a large run off pond - much like the ravine. True!
At night, the fireflies and peepers took over. As the mist rose from the cooling surface, the paths that led around the banks quickly became hair-raising routes that one did not wish to encounter alone after the sun had set. The smells, sounds, and sights are still very real as I recollect now!
You could knock on your friend's door, enter after a "come on in" was offered, and then be treated to cookies, cake, or a p.b.j. sandwich with the always cold glass of milk -served from thick glass bottles left early that morning by the friendly milk deliveryman who drove a high-sided panel truck. The bottles always clinked and jingled in the metal carrying crate as he hustled out of and back to the open cab of the vehicle.
Fights occurred, trees were climbed, bikes raced around homemade dirt tracks, and we snuck into the fairgrounds to see the circus or county exhibitions, even though we knew we had enough to pay. However, it meant an extra ride, candy apple or side show viewing. (Ah, those huge snakes, sword swallowers, and if we were "really lucky" illustrated men or women!)
In the winter -snowball fights were endless, forts were huge, and shoveling at 9 a.m. meant school had been cancelled (heaven), it always snowed forever and remained below freezing (-20F was common) until spring returned.
Then buds on trees and greenings in the thawing fields brought the smell of soggy old hay and patterns of field mice coming up from deep below ground. We knew something was finally about to happen to the landscape.
The barber, flowershop, butcher, cigar store, grocer, deli, sport shop, hobby store, firehouse, carmel corn shop (et al), and ice cream parlor were just a few haunts where we were all known by our first names and, therefore, were purposefully on our best behavior - or else!
The trouble we did get into (halos were only evident when necessary) was dealt with promptly when we got home. The phone would ring, and we took our medicine without much argument.
The next day we would be friends with those we had recently fisticuffed, sharing an apple or some sour rhubarb, or choosing up teams in the field again because the 12-15 kids who inevitably showed up on any given day were ready to run-yell-hide-laugh until darkness fell and the day -filled to capacity- came to an end.
Dandelion Wine always sets memories racing when I read or teach it. Mr. Bradbury's tales touch the essence of our humanity.
(For the millionth time..."DW needs to be a movie!")
You can share Green Town with your progeny-to-be: some of the vignettes make wonderful bed-time stories, and as the kids grow up, you can bring in the more difficult ones.
You can also cull some "Dandelion Wine"-like stories from Ray's story collections; and, when they're old enough, graduate through "The Halloween Tree" into "Something Wicked This Way Comes." If the "Martian Chronicles" colonists can take bits of Green Town with them to Mars, you should have little trouble.
Concerning environment, Ray is much into urban renewal. He has said we are going to save the small towns and bring them back to life--referring not only to rural communities, but to setting up distinct small communities within urban settings. To some extent this is already being done, but needs to keep happening. Now, a question: anyone ever play "Kick-the-Can"? It is mentioned in at least one of Ray's stories, and is the title of a "Twilight Zone" episode by his friend Charles Beaumont, so must have been a common childhood game. Anyone play it or know rules or variations thereof?
Great memories. I enjoyed reading them and the images you conjured up. Good writing, too. Mine are not as picturesque, but I have engrained memories of trick or treating (at age 6) until 10 at night. I would fill up a grocery bag full, and then return for another bag to fill again. No worries about knocking on anyone's door. Just wild and care-free greed!
The basic rules that my wife grew up with in her version of "kick the can" was to play the game at night. Have someone be "It" set an old can in a open lot then have a group of kids go hide while they counted to some number while staying next to the can, then the "It" would go looking for the other kids. "It" still had to be within range of the can when spying someone "It" had to run, and jump over the can saying "Over the can on so and so"! The object of the other players is to sneak back,
and kick the can before the "It" spyed you
calling out your name. There are some other fun twists those that are caught now become
"It's", and get to go help search for the others hiding out in the dark. There is also an added incentive if someone can kick the can all of the caught "It's" can go hide
again. The original "It" has to start spying, and hopping over the can again. I asked her when did the game end. She said when every one was caught, then the first one caught was the next it. Or you did'nt want to play it any more. I figure you would have to play this with one old tough steel can. I asked my Wife when she played this game, her whole street of kids would play from dusk until pitch dark, she said all Summer long. She said they loved it.
[This message has been edited by uncle (edited 11-15-2002).]
Uncle: Similarly, without the can, we used a tree as "home free." If you were discovered in your hiding place but were able to run back fast and yell "Home free!" as you touched the tree (before "It" got there and yelled "You're out!" or Gotcha!"), you would still be alive to hide again.
Of those caught, someone would then become the new "It" and the next game began.
The best parts of the game - thumping heart from the excitement of nearly being spotted, the fading away of the day and the complete darkness in which you had to run.
The "Twilight Zone" version had a definite hide-and-seek element. Thanks for the enlightenment.
Your future husband may have a better life and better living in a smaller town than in a city. Some people need to own more than one television; others cannot imagine life without a climbing tree in the yard.
We chose to earn less money and live in a town of less than 5,000 people; smaller than Green Town. Greener too, possibly. We have problems like anyplace; punks and thugs and gangs and even skinheads. But it's easier for the good kids to stay good, because there are friendly and familiar faces almost anywhere you would need one.
There is no symphony or big box superstores, and The Who will not include Ojai on their next tour. One must commute to work, and during floods and fires we can find ourselves quite isolated, but never alone.
There are local bands and a Shakespeare festival and a storytelling festival and a film festival and more. There are trees for kids to climb in and REAL pumpkin patches at halloween.
I grew up in suburban Orange County, believing "blue sky" was just a quaint expression. But my neighborhood still provided most of what counts for an idyllic childhood: a little bit of nature, a lot of mysterious places, and enough adults who behave like adults.
Your family should be able to say along with George Lucas that they lived in California but grew up in the Midwest.
Are you sure that your memories pale in comparison because of WHERE you lived or did you just have an unsatisfying childhood?
Well, how satisfying a childhood does anyone have?
I understand that strange feeling of longing for a time and place you never knew. That's the magic of Bradbury. He made me nostalgic for an era I missed by several decades.
I felt sorry for myself for a while. Why couldn't I have a rich past like that to look back on? The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized what Dandelion Wine was really teaching me: to really live every moment, savor it, and appreciate it for what it is.
After all, the magic of Green Town isn't so much in the place or the time, the magic is in the man or woman who has learned to love and appreciate their own existence for the miracle that it is. Green Town isn't *out there*, Green Town is *in us*--each of us.
Ray explains a bit in "Just This Side of Byzantium":
"I was amused and somewhat astonished at a critic a few years back who wrote an article analyzing Dandelion Wine . . . wondering how I could have been born and raised in Waukegan . . . and not noticed how ugly the harbor was and how depressing the coal docks and railyards down below the town."
"But, of course, I had noticed them and . . . was fascinated by their beauty. Trains and boxcars and the smell of coal and fire are not ugly to children."
"In other words if your boy is a poet, horse manure can only mean flowers to him; which is, of course, what horse manure has always been about."
And we can all be poets. That's what Dandelion Wine has to teach us.
[This message has been edited by WritingReptile (edited 01-18-2003).]
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