I used to hate it when my elders would lament the, Good old days. Well, guess what? I’ve been doing the same thing…in my mind, of course.
What I observe, these days, often makes me yearn… just a little for the simplicity and free play that I enjoyed as a child.
The picture is of my Dad when he was two or three years old. He looks happy, doesn’t he? And yet it’s just a tricycle that makes him smile and I’m sure my doting grandmother on the other end of the camera. He was the youngest of her eight, and her baby, I might add.
What I mean by free-play is, unscheduled play—play that the child is responsible for—make-believe, whatever you want to call it. I’m not against organized sports, but I often think we fill our children’s lives with meaningless competition that will come to them soon enough.
Let’s see…what did I do as a child to keep myself occupied? I didn’t dare say, “I’m bored!” That would be remedied in an instant with household chores or helping in the garden. So, I kept my mouth shut. I would cut out paper dolls, make paste out of flour and water, and then glue something. The abandon chicken house, that sat under an apple tree, became a project. I collected fabric, discarded furniture, and junk. I made it my make-believe mansion. I would gallop away to a make-believe town on my make-believe prize stallion—really, an old mop.
My cousin, Lucy and I would pretend that the huge gas barrel in my grandparent’s side yard was an elephant. We were Tarzan’s Jane’s, and we’d ride that barrel holding the barnyard cats, pretending they were our pet tigers. To top it off… we made grass skirts out of willow branches by tucking them in and around the waistband of our shorts.
We swam in our farm pond when the weather was unbearably hot—no life jackets just a, “Be careful and don’t dunk your sister!” We would laugh and frolic as we smeared each other with the muddy slime we’d grab from the pond’s murky bottom.
I wasn’t allowed to watch soap operas because I might be corrupted by all that passionate kissing and cavorting with someone else’s husband, if the episode called for it, were what my mother considered inappropriate stimulation for my young, impressionable mind. An evening spent watching Mitch Miller’s sing-a-long band or a Billy Graham Crusade, seem a better choice. I did manage to watch bandstand after school, if I got all my chores done.
There was so much involved in keeping the family farm going— little time for “What should I do now?” It wasn’t always fun and there were times I envied my friends who lived in town, especially if they had a new window air-conditioner, and… Ohm’gosh…maybe a colored TV!
I guess what I’m getting at is… we’ve managed to make such a better life for our children; they no longer use their imagination or creativity to occupy their free time.
Now where’s my Kindle?