In addition to playing with the precious babies and toddlers and assisting Martha with chores and errands, during my summer visit, there were several special adventures. John and Martha loaded all of us in the van with lunches, snacks, water and drinks and off we went. Like the explorers of yesteryear, we explored the native land of our first Americans. We traveled to special events in Window Rock, AZ, serving as the seat of government and capital of the Navajo Nation.
Closer to the Barre’s home, I caught a glimpse of the culture of the wonderful Navajo people. John and Martha visited the residents in their homes; hogans. Hogans were built of wooden poles, tree bark and mud. The doorway opened to the east to receive the morning sun as well as good blessings. The hogans of the 1960’s and earlier possessed no running water and seldom was there electricity.
Their homes weren’t decorated with the latest décor, floor coverings or artwork. These homes were basic protection from the elements. Parents and children all slept in one room. There was no option to “slam the door and stomp off” to their room when someone was angry. Conflicts were resolved in one room, among the family members. No one grabbed meals and sat in front of the television. These were homes with only the basic needs and necessities. These were families of meager means, dwelling in nature and by the work of their own hands.
The skills and artistry of many of these residents was reflected with the beautiful handwoven Navajo rugs or the silver and turquoise jewelry. Even as a young teen, I was smitten with the inconceivable exquisiteness of the rugs woven on roughly built looms, occupying some of the living space of their humble homes.
I realized it was those weeks of residing among people of another culture that caused me to desire to learn more about those living in a world far different than mine. I was keenly aware, my world with my own poor family , living in a small, modest rental home was not the “norm.” Yet, we did have running water and electricity. Our floors were cold, bare tile or linoleum. Yet, the Americans residing in the hogans stepped onto dirt floors when they awakened each morning.
There were no lush lawns with abundant landscaping. An occasional wild pinyon pine or juniper tree might provide a small amount of shade in the summer heat. Sagebrush and tumbleweeds were the “in vogue” shrubs of Thoreau. There were advantages to this topography in that no one in the family was “yelling at the other” to mow the lawn.
I saw John and Martha several other times after I returned home that summer. Yet the memories from those few weeks have remained decades later. I learned there is no requirement for family vacations, luxuries of life or “having what the Joneses” have in order to be happy. The Barre home was filled with love which money truly could not buy. That summer of the early 1960’s imprinted my heart and life for an eternity. John 15:12, NKJ, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”