When someone asks me where I’m from, I always say St. Louis---and I have the Midwest accent to prove it. Technically, I am from St. Louis---but where I grew up was not nearly as cosmopolitan as it sounds. I grew up 12.7 miles north of downtown St.. Louis. Specifically---Spanish Lake. Although still part of metropolitan St. Louis, Spanish Lake was the “boonies”, the “sticks”, the country. Spanish Lake is a farming community. My great-grandparents raised their family here. My grandmother and her siblings went to St. Aloysius Church and School. They had long moved away by the time my mom and dad built their house in Spanish Lake and sent us kids to St. Aloysius.
Growing up in Spanish Lake was an idyllic childhood. It was a much simpler time---screen doors and window fans---one car families---which the dads took to work. We rode our bikes all over tarnation. We traipsed through the woods on our many incredible journeys complete with packed lunches and walking sticks. We swam in the lake where we defied the “no trespassing” signs. We called our friends by standing outside their back door and yelling their name---“Ohhhhh Reeenieeee!” We left the house early in the morning with our packed lunch and wouldn’t be seen again until dinner time. Our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing. We just had to be home for dinner. Of course, there were no electronics back then. We spent all day outside, playing ball, mumblety peg, mother may I, red rover, red light green light, wall ball, jacks, run-ups, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians and assorted “made up” games. We sledded and skated in the winter. We built tree houses and dug underground forts. We went anywhere our imagination took us. Honestly, I can’t think of a single disadvantage to growing up in the country. It’s just a shame that Spanish Lake is no longer the peaceful place it once was. But that’s another story.