Thursday, March 29, 2012

What we did: We made our own fun

I've been thinking about schooling, household chores, and habits, but first, I want to talk about fun.  Maybe I am writing this tonight because my brain feels like mush right now and anything particularly orderly is beyond me at the moment.  Why, you might ask, is your brain mush?  Well, today I taught on heredity, genes, homozygous and heterozygous genotypes, alleles and Punnet Squares and tomorrow it's Social Welfare Policy, Social Security, TANF, Medicare, means tests, majoritarian and client politics, blah, blah, blah ...  Wouldn't your brain be fried?  So, let's talk about fun.

What did we do for fun?  How about a hodge podge of memories in no particular chronological order or order of importance. (Is there another way to say that without repeating the word order?  Sorry, just wondering ...)

First of all, we didn't have a television.  Not really.  We were given an old clunker of a TV when Erin was about 6, but we lived in a valley between mountains with little television reception and we didn't want cable so the TV was used for watching an occasional movie. We bought a VCR player and checked kids' movies out of the library from time to time - you know, those old goodies like Winnie the Pooh and Robin Hood.  But screen time was very limited.

Instead of watching television, we had good quality toys that prompted hours of creative play.  Thoughtful grandparents gifted our children with Brio trains and track, legos, playmobil sets, wooden blocks, and other toys that stood the test of time and numbers.  Six kids used most of those toys.  They had to be sturdy and they had to invite imaginative play.  I still have most of those toys and they are still being used by little people who visit our house.  Clara, our granddaughter, was introduced to the trains when she was here last October.  I'm sure they will last through another generation of children.

Clara and Aunt Kay playing with our old trains

Instead of watching television, we went outside.  We lived on a quiet little street off our town's Main Street.  Behind our house were acres and acres of woods, and cornfields, with two rivers and a swamp.  The town tennis court, which was rarely used (because the college courts in town were nicer) was just behind our house.  We built a tree fort and hung tire swings.  We had a huge sandbox.  We had a wagon, trikes, bikes, sleds, ice skates, and cross-country skis.  We had a basketball goal next to the street.  With so much to do outside, why in the world would a kid want to come inside to watch television???

One of the favorite summer activities of my kids was flooding the sandbox.  Our sandbox measured about 12 by 6 feet and when it was filled with water, the kids would spend hours building dams, houses, and towns.  It was a bit of a mess, but oh my, how much fun they had with all that sand and water!  Is there anything more fun for a five year old boy than that?

The kids explored the woods and to this day, laugh about "Camp Dink-a-wawa" and the time their friend, Jonny fell through the ice.  We remember the big snapping turtle and clay covered bodies at the riverside and catching a woodchuck in a trap.

One winter, it rained and rained and our backyard flooded.  Then the weather turned cold and it froze and we had an ice rink that stretched across three backyards.  When it snowed, we could step out our back door and strap on skis and ski right out the backyard through the woods and cornfields.

Coty used to play "sports" with the kids when they were little, mostly baseball in the back yard.  It was all the kids against him and he had to hit and run and post "ghost runners" on the bases when he was at bat; when he was in the field he had to pitch, field, and try to get runners out.  It was great exercise for him and tons of fun for the kids, especially as they got better and could really give their Daddy a run for his money.

When the weather was bad, we had a basement.  It was a great place to play, ride big wheels and even roller blade. We would often go to the appliance store in town and pick up washing machine or refrigerator boxes that became houses or spaceships down in the basement.  Oh, I loved that basement.  Kids could just play and play and play and it never mattered if it was a mess because we never did anything down there but store a few boxes and do laundry.

I wish I could really describe that basement.  It had a big step between the old and new parts of the house aboe and an opening wide enough to serve as a stage.  We hung a curtain across it, lined up chairs in the lower section, and the kids put on plays - The Nutcracker, Aida, and plays they wrote themselves.  It also became the set for movies they filmed when Grammie came with her video camera and cousins were there to collaborate.  The first movie the kids made, "The Jeweled Necklace" is a family classic!

I wish my kids were sitting here beside me to tell me things they remember, because I'm sure they have better memories and stories than me.  The point is, the kids didn't sit in front of screens very much, we didn't pay for entertainment, and we didn't have too many structured activities. They just played, really played, indoors and out.  Looking back on all that, I know that it was a rather idyllic place to grow up - that house, that basement, that yard, that street, those woods and rivers. They had access to so much but really, we spent so little money on "stuff."  We made our own fun in so many ways back then.

There's more to say about friends and hikes and neighbors and our 4th of July parade and parties in the backyard and the library and swimming in ponds ... but I'll save it for another day.


Peg said...

loving these posts beth! :)

Lindele said...

I remember that woodchuck - and our trip to, was it Lowell?

Beth said...

Thanks, Peg.

Yes, Lindele. It was the day we went to the quilt museum in Lowell. When we came back they were full of stories of catching that woodchuck and had video footage to prove it. So funny!