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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In my day, we didn’t have video games.  Although I do remember Pac Man and some other starter arcade games.  But we didn’t have them in our house or in our pocket.  You had to go to the pizza shop or some restaurant and have some change to play the games against the back wall.  In my day, TV was black and white.  We really mainly watched it on Sundays together as a family – the Disney show or National Geographic stories with Jacques Cousteau and cartoons on weekend mornings.  So, what does a kid do with himself if he doesn’t have video games?  That seems to be a big question for many young kids (including my own). The question is:  If not video games, how does one manage through, “I’m bored?”

In my day, if we were underfoot, we were kicked outside to play until it was dark or until my dad whistled us in.  There we either organized for neighborhood play or we used our imaginations to dream up something fun.  Organized play involved gathering all the neighborhood kids together for a rousing game of kick-the-can.  How we all knew that there was to be a game without a cell phone is beyond me.  I think as kids we must have had some type of internal radar.  In no time whatsoever, we would all wind up in one of the backyards arriving on foot, on bike, even on pony.  Yes, a pony! 

Eli Miller, a neighbor boy had a little brown pony which he hopped on barefoot and bareback and trotted across the backyards at a tremendous pace to join the games.  Once there, he would toss his bridle around a tree and park his little pony between the piles of bikes.  The bikes were hand-me-downs and jacked up banana bikes, girl bikes, and boy bikes.  The kids were as different as the bikes:  tall kids, skinny kids, girls, tomboys, big boys, little boys wanting to be big boys, etc.  The oldest boys were team captains and took turns at selecting team members.  Everyone played.  The can was kicked and we all scattered.  We played that game late into the evening, sweaty and sticky and out of breath from running and hiding, and itchy from hungry mosquitoes that followed you everywhere.  

Other days, my sisters and I would get together with the other young girls and would take our bikes out in the woods.  There on the well-worn bike trails, we would make houses from wild grapevines.  The grapevines hung down thick, stringy and heavy from the trees to the ground and formed little nooks within their viney arms.  We would sweep out these homegrown nooks and assign them as our houses.  We would bring along snacks or make pretend snacks from the vegetation around us.  In our minds, our houses were real and the trails were our streets, and our bikes were cars.  And we lived and visited each other in our make believe suburbia.

My dad planted small pine trees along the border of our yard.  Today they’re twice as tall as a two story home.  Then, they were just big enough for a 12 year old girl to hop over, one at a time.  In between the trees were stalls.  Well they really weren’t “stalls.”  But to my sisters and me, they were stalls.  We had imaginary horses.  Mine was Trixie, my sister's was Dixie (are you sensing a theme here?) and my other sister named her's Pixie (I’m guessing on that one).  We pranced around the yard on our wild wild horses.  We raced them.  They were fast.  We took very good care of them.  We brushed our horses and fed them grass and tucked them into their stalls to rest. 

At the bottom of the hill, over the bridge by the river, lived another large family, the Zins’, with a troupe of kids around our ages.  I believe I can still name them all in order…Tom, Mary Ellen, Maureen, Marie, Guy, Cyr, Marlene, Mary Catherine (I hope I didn’t forget anyone).  My family had five kids at the time (a sixth came later on).  It was a natural fit for our big families to bond. Behind their house in the valley, the river split and in between was a perfect little island.  There was a log that spanned one leg of the river.  We would drag down tents and sleeping bags, blankets, and fishing rods, cross the river and escape civilization.  Girls in one tent.  Boys in the other.  The boys would taunt and scare us girls all night long.  They would catch and cook frog legs and bluegill or bass and we would let them know just how “gross” that was.  However, the legs did taste a lot like chicken.  They would take sticks and play baseball with bats...the ones that fly.  Just as a side note, bats easily get stuck in long hair.  There were scary tales, late night fires, and a lot of “What was that?”  I remember, most of the time, waking up in the basement of the Zins' house with a few other girls or boys who couldn’t quite make it through the night. 

In that house, there was a wall of books. Along the bottom shelves was a complete series (or so it seemed) of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries -- filed separately in numerical order.  They were a dream come true for this voracious reader.  To this day, I swear I ended up in the basement for the books.  It had nothing to do with being afraid of the dark.  Oh, those books were like candy.  I devoured them one at a time, in numerical order, until every last morsel was gone.  Nancy Drew was my hero! 

As I remember it, usually I was lost in my imaginary play, neighborhood games or between the pages of a book. I really don’t remember being bored.  My mother may remember it all differently, but in my mind we were always busy doing chores or playing outside.  We never whined that we had nothing to do.  We didn’t complain.  We didn’t talk back.  And that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it.

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