I grew up with a single parent back in the days when such family configurations were uncommon. To keep a roof over our heads, Mother worked five and a half days a week for a seed company in Twin Falls, Idaho. We would have had a hard time surviving on her meager salary, but she provided us with the proverbial village it takes to rear a child.
Her oldest sister, Grace, and her brother-in-law, Dewey, would have been quite happy to feed us every day of the week. Aunt Grace loved to cook. Uncle Dewey enjoyed the company. Aunt Grace sewed most of my clothes. Uncle Dewey slipped us a fiver when we were heading off to camp, always with the admonition: “Now don’t tell your mother.”
Next door to them were Grandma and Grandpa Matthews. They were connected by love rather than blood and often looked after us when our “real” relatives were working. The Childress family lived nearby. They were another of the families that loved us best of all, along with whatever other children came their way.
At the end of our street was Paul Friend, a sharecropper who filled our arms with melons and our ears with stories. Then there were the neighbours and friends and cousins who were like an extended family.
They were our circle of love. We never had to earn their approval nor fear losing it. They kept an eye on us, listened to us, and encouraged us. They probably warned and occasionally chided us, but what I remember is the love. Lots of it.
Those loving adults gave me hope. They did not have easy lives. Wealth and power were never on the horizon. What they had was big hearts, and that was more than enough.