Thanks to the Female Friends of My Youth

I am very grateful to the girls and young women with whom I shared the first twenty-plus years of my life. You meant a lot to me during that time. You contributed much to my development. You had a tremendous impact on my beliefs, my attitudes, and on the person I have become.

Many of you were my closest and most special friends during the years we were together. I bonded with you. I respected you. We worked and played together. We helped each other. We challenged each other. We could share strengths and weaknesses, admit them in ourselves and point them out in each other, and maybe help each other to use that knowledge to build upon.

You demonstrated that you were intelligent, self-confident, caring, sensitive, articulate. We could talk about ideas, cares, concerns, hopes, dreams, sorrows, plans. As you grew into young women, those important characteristics grew as well.

The community where we lived and the schools we attended were major factors in the attitudes we developed and the nature of the relationships that followed.

An important part of the lives of many of us during those earlier years was Park Circle and the variety of programs offered by the community center located there. The playground sports programs which were a popular part of the activities at Park Circle were available for both boys and girls beginning at elementary school age. While the leagues were separated by gender, the girls’ programs were given equal emphasis and were well-supported and well-attended. The girls’ athletic abilities were respected. Boys attended and cheered for the girls’ competitions and the girls did likewise for the boys. When we moved from playground to high school sports, the girls continued their participation and received the boys’ enthusiastic support.

The schools also had a profound influence on our development and our attitudes. North Charleston Elementary School and North Charleston High School valued and encouraged educational achievement. In classes both girls and boys were among the best students. The same group was usually together in most classes, girls and boys together, learning together, challenging each other, helping each other, respecting the abilities and accomplishments of each other. We enjoyed each other. Outside classes both girls and boys were involved in leadership and support roles in school organizations and clubs. The successful functioning of all the school activities depended on the contributions of girls and boys working together.

Because of these and many other early experiences, I never had any question about the equality of the sexes. I knew that females were at least as able as males. Sometimes boys came out ahead at something and sometimes it was girls who were ahead, but usually it was a mixture. It wasn’t one’s gender that made the difference in performance; it was one’s individual abilities and how they were applied that mattered.

When the women’s movement became a prominent force in the 1960s, there was no question in my mind that the changes sought were, of course, long overdue. Too frequently our society has relegated females to second-class status and has made it more difficult for girls and women to gain the recognition, respect, and rewards they merited. I knew that girls and women deserve to have their abilities, achievements, and value acknowledged by all of society. The importance of the girls and women with whom I had lived in North Charleston had always been abundantly clear. And in the years since my youth in North Charleston my spouse, my daughter, my granddaughters, my daughter-in-law, and numerous other girls and women have reinforced the lessons I learned during those early years.

While talking with some friends recently I’ve had the opportunity to tell them about the special relationships I shared with girls and women during my early years in North Charleston. I’ve not been in contact with most of the people I knew back in North Charleston, but I really wanted to tell my female friends and acquaintances from those days how much you have meant to me. I thank all of you and am forever grateful for the influence you have had on my life. I expect you have continued your development into even stronger individuals than you were during the years I was with you in North Charleston. And I hope that you have received appropriate recognition for all your achievements and true respect for your abilities and your contributions to those around you.

Visits from Our Closest Friends and Neighbors

Living here at the end of the road, we can’t see any other houses, except one a few hundred feet away which is only visible in winter when the trees are totally bare. That house is occupied during its owners’ occasional visits, but most of the time we’re the only people around. If a vehicle is coming down our road, either family members are coming for an expected visit, a package is being delivered, or someone is very lost. But we do have plenty of friends and neighbors who come for visits every day.

The first visitors of the morning are the juncos, chickadees, tufted titmice, and nuthatches. No doubt they are close by each night for they are here almost immediately when I replenish their supply of cracked corn first thing each day. Who can tell how many there are; it’s impossible to count them with all the coming and going.

Downy woodpeckers and the larger hairy woodpeckers are soon attracted by the activity and come to join in breakfast at the suet feeder. The red-bellied woodpeckers do not appear quite as early nor do they show up every day (perhaps they have other stops on their rounds to add more variety to their diet), but they are reliable enough that we know there are two pairs.

Usually by now there will be at least one grey squirrel, if not all eight of the nearby clan. Frequently the lovable and less skittish little red squirrels will beat them to the food. The few fox squirrels we’ve seen in the past year have made it to our driveway a time or two, but haven’t come up yet to see what’s available to eat. We look forward to getting a closer view of those rare creatures; most live nearer the coast with smaller populations here and in a couple of adjacent counties.

Bluejays swoop in usually by mid-morning, one whole family of six and sometimes their relatives. They can be a greedy and fussy crowd, trying to dominate the available food. The squirrels are pretty good at holding their places though and the smaller birds are fast enough to dart in to grab a bit and fly off to a quieter spot to eat.

The bluejays stir up enough commotion to capture the attention of our wonderful crows if these smartest of birds haven’t spotted the spread earlier while flying over or surveying the scene from one of their nearby perches in the treetops. We love to hear their varied calls announcing to the family that it’s time to dine. At least one crow always sits apart to watch for danger while the others strut around or hop over each other to get to what is perceived as a better spot to get at the food.

Each group takes its turn at the table, some staying all day, others coming and going as their appetites dictate. In the past year 2 to 24 doves have joined in the gathering, though they are much more gentle and definitely less pushy than many of the others. They tend to wait until things clear out a bit and then cautiously come to pick through the remnants for their part of the feast.

Depending on the time of year, the year-round crowd is joined on the deck by Carolina wrens, warblers of various sorts, eastern phoebes, goldfinches, purple finches, evening grosbeaks, rose-breasted grosbeaks, catbirds, thrushes, towhees, song sparrows, cowbirds, starlings, indigo buntings, grackles, and hummingbirds. We’ve even had hawks sit on the corner of the deck or in a tree a few feet away to see if a squirrel was foolish enough to venture out at the same time, but they have always flown away after a few minutes when no one showed up.

In winter the birds have always been our main feeding population. The healthy chipmunk tribe we have around in all other seasons is no doubt snuggled away in their numerous underground burrows, enjoying the sunflower seeds and corn they hauled away in preparation for the cold weather. When they were out gathering, there were usually three or four at once at the food bowls stuffing their cheeks to maximum capacity, then running off to sequester their supplies in their winter homes. They are also thoughtful enough to plant some of the seeds (especially sunflowers) in lots of spots in our garden for us to enjoy the beautiful golden blooms in the summer and fall and for the birds to have some extra sunflower seed heads as well.

Raccoon families have joined us on our deck since we first built it many years ago, usually coming after dark, though one young raccoon mama and her kids started coming as early as 1:00 pm this past year to avoid the rush and the bigger, grumpier older raccoons. They would even dine on one end of the deck while we sat fifteen feet away on the other end and enjoyed watching their antics. Over the years we’ve had as many as thirteen eating at once. Younger generations appear to come back in subsequent years, bringing along their kids to a favorite place to eat out.

Possums also come to visit with their unexpectedly charming pink ear tips, noses, and tiny little feet and toes. They enjoy most foods that they find waiting for them, but are especially fond of leftover baked sweet potatoes and baked butternut squash or pumpkin with remnants of butter and brown sugar.

This past summer at least three different adult skunks also started checking us out. Each had different coloration and markings: one black with a few white markings vertical on its sides, one white with black stripe down its back, and one black with a white stripe down each side of its back. One of these was kind enough to grace us with bringing her two babies for visits. All were some of the most beautiful animals you could imagine.

We see plenty of rabbits around, but only one ventures onto the deck from time to time to get a little snack. Less frequently seen, but ever present and often heard moving through the meadow and woods are wild turkeys; if we are very fortunate, we get to see two or three adults leading up to a dozen young ones on a foraging expedition. As might be expected, there are also lots of deer hereabouts, but they are so stealthy and so well camouflaged that we don’t catch sight of them very often. However, a few years ago during a particularly difficult winter when lots of lingering snow made it hard for the deer to find food, we saw nine searching to the east of the house and nine more on the west side of the house. We put corn out overnight and the next day at least eight came again, ate the corn, then lay down in the sun and rested for several hours about fifty to seventy-five feet from the house, a treat for them and us. And while we have made no effort to feed the black bears, on at least two occasions we had a bear enjoying the contents of a bird feeder in the front yard about fifteen feet from the house. Then there was the time a bear was on the deck while I was in the living room about ten feet away separated only by the sliding glass doors; needless to say the bear and I were both startled.

So while we may not have many people coming by the house daily or stopping in for a visit, we have lots of company. We could enjoy watching them for hours and do whenever other things don’t keep us from doing so. We absolutely love being able to share this place with our delightful friends and neighbors. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully they wouldn’t either.