Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Playtime Reminisce

I was walking the Cockers a while back on a nice sunny morning. Hadn't gotten too hot yet. We strolled down a sidewalk that ran behind a row of fairly new homes that backed up to a wash and a children's park. A ball field and basketball court were nearby.

But no little voices came from any of the backyards - none of them. It was very quiet walking down that row and I purposely looked for children - I was intent. I checked my watch - it wasn't too early for kids to out. Where were they?

It made me think back to when I was 9, 10, 11 years old or so and how I hit the door after breakfast and only stopped playing outdoors to grab lunch and then back out again. Sometimes I'd be with friends and sometimes I'd be alone, but it was always fun. Playing in the woods, climbing trees, catching frogs and grasshoppers, and picking berries were just a few things that entertained us endlessly. When new homes were being built in our neighborhood, it was great fun to roam around inside (where we weren't supposed to be), trying to figure out which room was which or playing hide and seek. I also had a big collection of Matchbox cars that I would have routinely outside in the dirt. And when it rained, I'd sail clothespins with little sails on them down the street in the muddy streams of water the downpour had created.

I remember jelly mud and skunk cabbage in the woods and catching bullfrog tadpoles at the little swamp nearby. Oh, they were a challenge and I'd be very proud of myself if I caught one of those little guys. Of course, you had to let them go right away because they didn't seem to survive as long as the tiny ones. But it was a lot of fun.

One winter my mother bought me a plastic winter jacket that looked like cowhide (somewhat). Believe it or not, I picked it out! Well, we quickly discovered that it made a really fast sled if I just laid on my back and slid downhill in it. I don't think I ever used it like that in front of my mother though. But it was slick. Sledding and using our flying saucer at the reservoir was another revered activity, as my sister Barb can attest. Our dad always took us and I think he had fun, too.

I had fun outside all the way through high school whether it was ice skating, walking through the woods, riding bikes to a little carryout nearby, playing kickball or playing detective with my best friend, Judy. As I went off to college, I remember looking at a telephone pole and thinking that I hoped I would never get to a point in my life that I would see a telephone pole only as an object to deliver telephone signals. I hoped I would always see all the possibilities in it that I saw then - a fort, lookout, (that was when they had pegs and you could climb them) holder of secret messages.

Well, I still look at trees for their climbing potential and I poured over the issue of Sunset magazine that featured livable tree houses. I still love the outdoors and have tried to instill a love for it in my children. I know things are different now. There isn't as much wild space as there was and there are scary people out there, but my hope for all children is that they get to discover the wonders of nature and time to do nothing but watch ants crawl in the grass or minnows swim in the shallows of a lake or a spider weave a web. It is enriching and calming and oh, so necessary in my life.

One of these days, I hope to hear little voices in those backyards, kids swinging on the swings in that park and dirty dump trucks in the wash. I know I will.


  1. Oh Anne..what wonderful memories you brought back to me this morning!!! I loved that neighborhood!! Me too, me too, all of those things!!
    Do you remember the quart canning jar full of minnows and pollywogs I brought home that time..Mom sent me right back to the creek to release every single one!!
    The Halloweens with donut holes and cider?? Wonderful!!
    You know I love the kiddos playin'. My yard is still packed with bubble blowers, trucks and digging items. Oh and the cars - for me it was little plasic animals!!
    Loved the post hon..just loved it!!
    Love you, Sarah

  2. You brought back so many fond memories for me - I remember those discovery days!
    I tried to let my children have the same - but they are in their 20s now - so we were still letting them go and enjoy themselves. I feel sorry forchildren who are not allowed to explore/have fun/just be.

  3. Hey, Sarah! Yes, I had brought buckets of tadpoles and baby toads home for years before you brought yours home and mom no doubt knew what would happen by then. We (she) would be stuck figuring out how to keep them alive and there were always casualties. So by the time you discovered pollywogs, she had wised up - veteran toad raiser that she was! Good times weren't they?

  4. Ah Anne, You really took me back with this post, too. You and I were practically twins so we saw the same things. That jelly mud and skunk cabbage! What a great time that was. Seemed so dangerous then, but so fun. And our oak tree swing and the willow tree at Ruth's house we used to climb? Yes, outdoors is the way for kids to grow. But these days are so different in so many ways. Mostly, no kids ever home in the neighborhoods, all in day care or after school programs. But now that I have a grandson, I hope to introduce him to so many things like that. Can't wait. Thanks for this little memory! Hugs Barbara

  5. Great post with great memories! Your mention of skunk cabbage brought to mind the herbariums we all had to make in school: putting the leaves of trees and plants into a hand made book, identifying them and then saying something about them. Well, my uncle got some skunk cabbage leaves for his and was too lazy to look up the name. So he labeled it : Cabbiginea skunkafolio! I love that name! I think the teacher should have given him an A for originality!!!! Thanks for the fun memories! xo

  6. How fun was this!!!! Wonderful to talk about the past with you both!!! Hugs, Sarah