The Way We Played

Whenever I catch the aroma of a neighborhood barbeque with burgers and dogs on the grille and feel the warm sun on my face, I bask in the sweet memories of late summer and that hint of fall in the air so long ago. A late summer fantasy to remember – longing for a period of time so long ago.

Do you remember?

Memories of “Back To School…” were bittersweet.  Fall was always my favorite season and yet I was a terrible student.  I hated school.  With the seasons come a variety of complex emotions.  Each season affects us differently.  In the late dog days of hot summer when we were kids, our minds turned to the anticipation of autumn and back to school—and also the dread of winter. 

Winter, like summer, brings its own share of dread.  It is charming at first when the furnace is lit for the first time and there’s the aroma of dust burning off the combustors.  It always made me think of the forthcoming holidays.  However, it isn’t long before we grow tired of being couped up inside with the heat on just like when we become exhausted with the intense humid heat of summertime.

We grow tired of the seasons…yet we welcome them. Strange irony…

During the winter months, we found imaginative ways to play inside.  My sisters and I would play “My Friend Flicka” with our grandfather’s plastic horses.  He loved horses.  We’d break out board games (“bored” games!) like Parcheesi, Clue, and Monopoly.  We had a sheet that looked like a house you could hang over a card table and hide from the parents.  Toward the end of winter when it was still chilly outside, we couldn’t wait to get outside, air up the tires, and go bike riding for hours on end. Sometimes, January would bring a brief respite from winter, only to wind up in hip-deep snowfall in February.

I was born amid a rare March blizzard in Washington, D.C. in 1956.  

I remember taking toys designed for one purpose and using them for another.  Turning a bicycle upside down and cranking the pedals hard was good for just watching the wheels spin.  If you had a generator light set, there was joy in watching the lights come on.  A buddy of mine would crank the pedal so fast it blew the light bulbs. 

He’d smile and head home.

Kids today play differently than we did a half-century ago.  I still feel like they don’t know what they’re missing.  Yet, if we’d had the groovy playthings they have today, we would have retreated into the world of virtual reality and video games.  We’d have been all over it like stink. We just didn’t have the technology then.  And what a terrific escape it would have been.

Darned kids…

We did have the gift of imagination—which was better than any video game imaginable because we could mentally escape into a world all our own—which could be anything we wanted it to be. 

I think I’ll try that now… 

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