We've all said it. We've all used my personal favourite, "When I was a kid..." Things always seemed better Back Then, because we were too post-dumb to realise that things could be better. But then again, ARE things all that better now?
I was thinking this morning about games kids play. Young kids, from pre school just into the first year or so. And naturally I was thinking about the games I used to play when I was a kid, growing up in a big house with my younger brother and not a lot of extra money floating around.
Oh, we did the usual kid games: cards, dominoes, I loved playing Parcheesi with my grandmother, puzzles, Tinker Toys, that sort of thing, but what most stands out in my mind is not being skinned alive at Monopoly by my very French and very conniving grandmere, but playing "Pretend." We never had a lot of money when I was growing up, so "Pretend" was the best game going. It was free, you see. We carried all the bits around in our head, and could incorporate whatever we found around the yard or house, and that was it.
I remember an ongoing favourite in winter--there was an area rug in the living room that Mom would put out to keep the floors from being bitter cold, and we would amass stuffed animals and whatnot on it, and the linoleum would become a sea of acid, and the carpet naturally became, by grace of super science, our acid-proof raft. Don't ask me how we came to be adrift on a sea of acid, we just did.
In the den there still stands a post in the center of the room, holding the roof up. Along it's length used to be shelves for potted plants, and at the very top there is still a hook, where a single pot plant used to hang. That hook became the perfect top for an elevator shaft when we were very young; the top of a styrofoam or cardboard egg carton made for a perfect elevator compartment or rescue sling, and all it took was some string, a little basic physics and a ton of plastic army guys, small stuffed animals or really anything and you had an afternoon of adventure.
A roll of masking tape and some old sheets or blankets or both, along with some carefully re-arranged kitchen chairs were the only ingredients for a Tent City. That seemed to be our absolute all-time favourite. We would foray into the hall linen closet for sheets and light blankets, grab a few chairs, and suddenly the rather spacious den would be a big billowy tan and white city, all musty dark and mysterious underneath. Flashlights would occasionally get involved, but it seemed that most times the semi-dark was much more malleable, so that underneath a chair was a shop, under the table was a house, and so on and so forth.
It never seemed to take a lot to get us going. Sticks and cow manure were a regular feature of our childhood summer, as were cicada shells, pecans, acorns, and the acres behind the house, including several old barns and a lot of weeds. Plowed fields were a fun diversion, as were the trailers and other equipment involved in harvesting cotton in late fall. There seemed to always be something to do, something to get involved in. Rain was no barrier--strip down to underwear and out we'd go; find the 10 gallon galvanized tub and we had a boat, or an old fence post became a battle cruier, ready to patrol up and down the mighty river of the side ditch. Rescue a hapless bug along the way and the day was made.
A few Hot Wheels cars and some sand would keep us busy for weeks, and the pine straw that fell from the trees, carefully raked and sculpted would produce cities, roadways, forts, and places for dogs and boisterous young boys to get into tons of mischief. We never seemed to get bored, and the newly-released mysteries of the Atari 2600 Game Console never seemed to keep us much occupied, especially when there were fresh mushrooms to kick over, acorns to slingshot at each other, or a tent city to assemble, there to become ancient Cairo or a scientist's laboratory.
When I was a kid things were better.