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Childhood play, different today

Few things in life are as precious as our childhood memories.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to escape our horrible winter temperatures for a few weeks and went to visit my sister in Southern California.  While there I called an old friend, and we went to visit the place where we grew up.  His mother still lives there in the house directly across from the one that belonged to my family.  She has lived there for SIXTY years. My friend’s mom used to take care of me after school.  I remember how she used to have a scarf tied over her head to hide her curlers and how she always seemed to be wearing an apron with clothes pins hooked to the pockets. Today she is elderly with several health issues, but she is and always has been very pleasant to be around.  She is one of those people who is always laughing and loves to have a good time.

I sat in her living room, and we talked and reminisced. We talked about when we were kids and she was the mom who drove us around in a huge station wagon that had paneling on the side. We talked about what the other grown kids are doing now, and of course, we talked about all our former neighbors who have passed away. Then I glanced out her window and stared at what was my childhood home. It looks quite different today, but I could see myself as a child running around that lawn.  I saw the tiny little tree my dad had planted by the curb, now so overgrown it has pushed the curb over and its roots are destroying the street that lay in front of it. I saw the porch were my dad loved to sit, read his paper, and drink his tea; the very same porch where I received my first goodnight kiss.

Seeing those houses and telling stories of our youth sure brought back wonderful memories.  Boy, did we have fun as kids. Though I grew up in different surroundings as most of you and our activities may have been slightly different, I’ll bet we did, basically, the same thing. We PLAYED.  We played outside with the kids next door.  We were not driven across town to play with other children. We just played with who was available and where we were.  We were seldom, if ever, driven to lessons, sports camps, or fancy gymnasiums.  We were left to find things to do on our own.  Sometimes that led to trouble, squabbles, and little fights, but most of the time it led to good wholesome, imaginative, memory-building FUN.

When I was young a typical summer day in my neighborhood went like this:  I would get up around 9:00 and do a few chores. Nothing like you farm kids were used to but I would make my bed, do the dishes, etc.  Then, I would head outside to play.  We would play games like pickle, slow pitch, and red rover. After dark we spent hours playing hide and go seek. We played make-believe games like store, school and house. We played cards and board games, often outside on a blanket stretched out over a lawn. We made forts out of boxes, card tables,and blankets.  A really great day was when a shopping cart, somehow, like magic, appeared in our neighborhood.  We would have a blast with that cart until someone’s mom would do the right thing and bring the cart back to the store to which it belonged.

When it was lunch time we all ran home and got a sack lunch. Then together we would have a picnic in the shade of a tree.

Sometimes, we had special things to share.  I still remember our friend, Alida, who always brought a big jug of lime Kool-Aid, plenty for everyone.  Alida laughed as she told me years later that her mother had won boxes of the powdery substance in some grocery store contest. Well, I told her it sure made me happy.  I still remember it today.

After lunch, because we were in the land of the land of backyard pools, we spent many afternoons swimming.  It’s interesting to note that no one’s parents came out and watched us.  Not, that that was a good thing.  It’s just the way it was.  The older children or teens kept an eye on the younger ones and made sure they had a life vest on.  Once you were tall enough to touch bottom in the shallow end, you were on your own.  Looking back that was probably wasn’t very smart. So, go ahead and gasp, but I have heard stories, from those of you who grew up around here, of things you did as kids that today’s parents would never allow or at least not allow to be done unsupervised.

Good or bad, children’s play just wasn’t as supervised as it is today. Why is that, I wonder?  Certainly, parents cared as much then as they do today?  Are today’s parents wiser or are they more fearful and overly cautious? I don’t presume to know the answers to that question. But, I think it is safe to say that for many reasons kids play differently today than we did.  My kids, for example, who are now teens, didn’t have the experiences I just described but that’s okay because, after all, things change.

Because my children and their peers didn’t spend the amount of time we spent playing with the kids next door it is doubtful that they will be visiting their childhood home 35 years from now.  And, because we live in a much more mobile society, it is even more doubtful that any of our neighbors will still be living here 35 years from now.  I am sure, however, my children and other children of their generation will grow up to have, different, but equally as wonderful childhood memories

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