The Uncomplicated Pleasures of Childhood
Looking back, life as a kid seemed uncomplicated. I know at the time it seemed tough, and some thigs about childhood and growing up were hard, but for the most part things were relatively easy.
Every kid is different, and some are certainly the exception. But most kids don't have to worry about money, where they're going to live, or what they're going to eat. As for the ones that do worry, and who do not always have a home, or food, or even love, my heart goes out to them.
Our job as a kid was just to learn, to go to school, to grow, and to play. There were so many things to do in a world that was so new and full of opportunity and wonder. I would like to dwell on some of the things that were so fun as a child. If you will, go on this journey through time, and remember what it's like to be a child again.
In the Summertime:
When we were kids, we had the whole Summer off from school, about 2 months of freedom! Sometimes we got bored, but we were pretty creative about finding things to do!
I loved to go swimming: On Memorial Day, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and parents would all go on our first picnic of the season. Living in the North, it wasn't usually quite warm enough to swim (I never understood why we couldn't go in when it was in the 80's, not realizing the water would still be very cold), or else it would be cloudy, and my parents would point out that if there's a thunderstorm, it could be deadly to swim. I remember nagging my parents about it, and being excited when the time came to go on our first swim of the year. Many times it was a couple of weeks later, and it was always accompanied by a trip to an ice cream stand for a cold treat.
Beaches in general: Meaning, there's more to do at the beach than swim! Build snow castles, or whatever our imagination called for. When I was young, there were these orange salamanders (I think they're called Newts) in the lake. As I got older, they disappeared, but when we were younger, we had so much fun catching them. Unfortunately, I snuck one home one time, without having any idea what they eat. R.I.P., poor salamander. I didn't mean any harm, I just didn't know better. But I did learn that they don't eat ants, and they don't eat lettuce, or grass.
Picnics: Even when we couldn't go swimming, going on a picnic or cookout was so much fun! There were several places we went to, but the one that tugs at my heart most is Laurel Lake in the Erving State Forest. We went there quite often throughout my childhood, and I have so many memories! My mother is great at cooking, so she would pack up homemade salads and cookies, and we would have hamburgers and hot dogs, chips, in addition to the goodies my mom brought. I enjoyed the smoky smell of the food on the grill, the wonderful food, exploring the woods, playing in the creek, and watching the bugs and frogs. At that particular place, we would usually get to go swimming after about 30-45 minutes. We always had to wait a while after we ate, and we were always impatient to get in!
Camping: When I was a kid, there were two types of camping: 1) Going to a campsite, which was lots of fun. My family went camping almost every year until I was a teenager. We used to have cookouts, roast marshmallows, go swimming, play in the woods, jump across the creek and catch frogs. Once I remember having a "water bomb" (balloon) fight with my brothers and father in the woods! One of my fondest memories of my brother as a pre-teen was when we would go on a long walk down the campground road, and we would sit and look at comic books together at the creek. One of the times we went on a walk that year wasn't quite so fun, though. We walked too far, forgot what direction we had come from, and got lost. We ended up walking out of the campgrounds entirely, onto a town road! Fortunately, a ranger found us, and brought us to the ranger station at the beginning of the park. 2) Setting our tents up in the backyard and sleeping out there, many times with a friend. If we were in the mood to go camping, but couldn't, we would make it FEEL like we were camping! We had fun, unless it was cold. One year we just kept the tents set up for several weeks, so we could spontaneously spend the night out there when we desired, and also because we were too lazy to take them down and put them back up every time. That was good until we had a storm with heavy winds, which tore the tents into shreds!
Sprinklers: As an adult, have you ever run through a sprinkler, or gone under a water hose (on purpose)? I remember it as being so refreshing and thrilling. It felt so good on a hot day! Have you ever used a slip-and-slide? They were popular at one point during my childhood. We didn't have one, but I remember using one at someone else's house!
Amusement parks and fairs: There was an expensive one we would go to on occasion, and there was a more local one that was only a few dollars if you went in the evening, after dark. I thought it was so much fun to be there at night! It was cooler, the lines were shorter, and there's a certain feel to being outside after dusk! At the end of the season, there were fairs. They were exciting, too, although it's always sad to see Summer end.
Rollerskating: I would go to the community center and rollerskate with my best friend. Music, skating, games, and snacks- we had a blast! When I was first in 5th grade, my family briefly lived in New Hampshire. Our school had a fundraiser, and as a result of the money everyone raised, there was an incredible reward: During the school year we could go to one of several types of places (I chose the rollerskating rink) for 1/2 of a day once a week for about 4 weeks. It was so fun to only have half a day of school, and to have some fun for "free" when we would normally be doing our studies.
Flying kites: My Grandparents lived out in the country, and sometimes we would go to what we called "Grandpa's Farm", which wasn't his anymore- it used to be. When my dad was a young adult, the farm burned down, and the family moved down the road. But no one lived in that huge field beside the mountain any more, so we had fun there often. We would fly kites there, because their wasn't much there that you could run into, as long as you didn't go toward the trees. It is so much fun to make it soar high in the sky, and wonder what the view must be like, or if it would hit an airplane (kids don't always know better)! We would also fly those "wooden" airplanes. Or maybe they were gliders. And we would throw those little parachute soldiers in the air, and see the little 'chute open up. It was fascinating.
Picking berries: I enjoyed the simple pleasures of picking berries when I had the chance. Actually, I remember picking a neighbor's berries once (there was no fence between the 2 yards), without realizing I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, we lived in a pretty Victorian home that had woods to explore behind the backyard, and there were berry bushes there. Finding them was like finding hidden treasure!
Exploring: As a kid, exploring woods, a neighborhood, or a new house can all be exciting. You never know what you're going to discover. I loved playing in the woods, and I loved moving into a new place, and hoping to find secret passageways, or some kind of secret place. My youngest brother and I would talk about the possibility of finding one. I would have dreams at night of coming across a new place. Actually, I started a story when I was 12 about exploring a hidden world in an alley.I started a more mature version of that story as an adult, and I plan on finishing the fourth and final draft of it this year.
Catching fireflies: Seeing fireflies as a child seemed magical, especially when I didn't know much about them. A bug that makes light is spectacular, is it not?
In the Wintertime:
- Snowball fights!
- Snow forts
- Ice Skating
- Winter vacation!
- Snow days from school. It was always a thrill to hear the school cancelations!
- Building snowmen
- Drinking hot cocoa (fortunately, that is just as satisfying as an adult, and you can indulge any time you want)
- Making snow angels
- Walking through the snow in the comfort of a toasty warm snowsuit
- The Holidays seemed more magical as a child. The stories, the movies on tv, the coziness of the season, the gifts, being with family, helping my mom decorate the Christmas tree (with some of our homemade ornaments, of course), and helping my mom bake and frost sugar cookies.
Just Having Fun:
- Playing outside: sports, tag, hide-and-go-seek, rolling down hills, playing hop scotch. Blowing bubbles.
- Using ordinary items as something different: such as using a paper towel roll as an imaginary telescope, or yelling in it. Or using cans and a string as a telephone.
- Giggling over everything! As a girl, anyway. It seems like boys wouldn't be caught dead giggling. But it is so fun to find things in life to make us laugh, and to do it without being terribly self-conscious.
- Playing board games and card games, or else games that only required pen and paper. Such as M.A.S.H., tic-tac-toe, and "Hang-Man" (that game would probably be frowned upon nowadays).
- Imaginative games. My most thrilling childhood memories involve pretending. I had friends who lived out in the country, and we had a blast basically just acting like we were part of an adventure movie. It was like acting out a story as you think of it. Other than that, "House" and "Doctor" were common games to play.
- Craft projects. I loved arts and crafts, and used whatever we had in the house to make stuff with.
- Coloring. What kid doesn't like to color?! It's so fun to start with a plain picture, or a blank page, and add color. You feel a sense of achievement, and pride that you made something pretty.
- Sleepovers: This is probably my favorite part of being a kid. As an adult, it is not common to have a girl friend sleepover at night. But it was so fun. We would talk and talk, tell scary stories, have snacks late at night, listen to music. We would write notes to each other. My best friend during my teenage years and I actually shared a journal for a while, and we would take turns writing in it, and talking about the boys we had crushes on. When I was older, another of my friends and I would model different clothes, and take photos. It was like a more grown-up version of playing dress-up.
- Writing: I have loved writing since I was old enough to write. I would eat up any time designated to writing, and race my way through without any hesitation. At 12, I would take a thick stack of paper home from school, so I could continue writing a story at home. I loved writing in my journal, and when we went on trips, I would put together my own personalized trip journal, complete with prompts about everything I wanted to record on the trip for every day, a packing list, and even games to play on the trip. It was fun to me!
- Reading, and going to the library. The library is virtually free (after the initial membership cost, and late fees if you're not careful), and I would borrow as many books as I could, and read most of them before the due date. I was interested in so many subjects. Whenever I was curious about something, I would check out a book on whatever it was (as long as it was appropriate, of course)! Back then, there was no internet, and no "Google".
- Speaking of the internet, it came out (or gained popularity) when I was a young teenager, and at one point I got my brother's hand-me-down computer. My father and brothers were really into the internet, but it took a while for me to understand it or the computer.
- Baking with my mom. She even let me start experimenting when I was 10 or 11 (my poor brothers, they were the guinea pigs). Sometimes it came out good, and sometimes it didn't. My first attempt was at some kind of a tortilla, but I misinterpreted the amount of salt to put in. Gag!
- I was always thrilled at the idea of getting school supplies for a new year. The excitement lasted until the second day there.
- Family get-togethers were always fun. Being with my cousins. Eating good food, and getting hugs from my grandparents. Good times!
- Trips, usually to my grandparents on my mother's side. They lived in Virginia, about 9-10 hours away from us. Trips were always fun for at least a few hours. And arriving there, and seeing them after not being around them for a year was so exciting I could barely handle it!
- Toys. Stuffed animals and dolls, cars, Legos, building blocks. Throughout the years, toys changed, but they were fun while I had them. My brothers and I used to trade toys. Mom put a stop to that! But we still would use each others' toys. I was lucky, because I was the only girl, and I didn't receive gifts to share, like my brothers did.
Feel free to reminisce about your childhood, or about what makes life carefree in those early years of life. I enjoy comments and feedback!
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