When I was a kid, my brother and I had the greatest toy of all: Outside. The coolest part of having Outside as a toy? All the other toys that came with Outside. Animals was cool, and there were a lot of those. Trees was awfully neat too, because there was a lot of variety within the same sort of basic shape. There was even Wind which could be tricky to play with because it wasn't around nearly as often as Trees and only slightly less available than Animals but the best of all the toys that came with Outside was Rain.
Rain would sometimes be there and sometimes not. There were times when we had it to play with for days on end, and there were times that whole weeks would go by and it would not be there, and we'd start to think that maybe we'd done something wrong and it had been taken away from us. But our fears were always misplaced, because Rain always showed up again.
I can't begin to count all the times my brother and I would run around in Rain naked, or as naked as a pair of tightey-whiteys could make you. Warm or cold, with or without the rather scary add-on features Lightning and Thunder we'd be out there, running, splashing, playing with the water that poured from the eaves or in the ditches that would, if were really lucky, fill quickly. Then was the time that formerly empty holes and trenches would become swimming pools and mighty inland seas and so many other things.
One of my favourite toys from Outside was something that'd been put there by accident, I think. It wasn't so much a part of Outside as it was sort of just there. It was an old wooden Post from back when they were still made of wood and not aluminum or steel. It had been square-shaped at one time but had been Outside for so long it had rotted on one face, becoming a long, roughly cone-shaped thing, square at the back still but nearly pointed at the front. When we played with Rain and the ditches would fill sooner or later I'd separate from my brother to go and find Post from wherever I'd left it the last time.
A lot of factors went into how I played with Post in the Rain but invariably it was around the idea of it being a ship. At times it was a rescue vessel, slowing it's progression down the muddy brown river to pick up spiders, roly-polies or whatever other Animal had happened to be caught in the deluge. I'd have the ship hold it's position with a long, slender branch and assist the little waterlogged creature on board, and then we'd resume our course, carefully making our way through rapids and wide, slow bits until we reached a patch of higher ground, a mountain perhaps, or a plateau. Beaching the ship carefully I'd assist the creature back to the safety of dry land and, swinging around at the wide spot where two ditches converged I'd turn the ship around and head back upriver, endlessly repeating my patrols as the day ran on and the Rain fell.
Other times, when the water was very deep and the Rain seemed like it was never going to end the yard would flood enough that I could take the ship into new places, visiting strange and unusual ports not often seen by ship traffic. There I'd pick up unusual items of trade or persons of importance and while the Rain came down we'd take long excursions in and around the river, with myself as Captain and Tour Guide in one.
Inevitably though Rain would finally be exhausted and pass on, bringing back other toys like Sun and Puffy Clouds and I'd leave the ship docked safely somewhere on a high patch of ground. It never occurred to me that one day my father might throw it out, or use it, but he never did. I don't know if he knew that it was a ship or that it was one of my toys but it stayed there, ready, until I outgrew the call of the wild river and the seven muddy seas.
I still play with some of the toys from Outside. I've put aside a lot of them as I've grown older and slower, but I still have a few favourites to which I return, like Oak Trees and Bugs. Even though I don't play with them as often as I used to, and not nearly as often as I'd like I still enjoy them. Sometimes they strike me as fresh and new, and sometimes as I play I feel my mind thick with nostalgia's sweet mustiness. I even still play in the rain once in a while. The toys have changed, but the boy is still in there, shrieking delightedly at the patter and the roar, the cool and the dampness and the sensation of water on skin.
I don't think I will ever outgrow playing with that particular toy.
Don't forget, this Sunday afternoon will be the triumphant re-return of The Irrelephant Show. This week's guest will be none other than the irascible giantess herself, meno! A banner day indeed for the show, and probably a minor blip on meno's sonar. Be sure and join us! Simply click the white button on the left during the show (6-7 pm CST) or the blue box below that anytime after to listen to an archived edition.
HOPEFULLY the weekend after that we'll have Batgirl from The Legend of Batgirl in the secret underground (bat-filled) broadcast studio. Another can't miss!