Friday, September 25, 2009

Never bored, or, The simple joys of childhood imagination

One of the most common complaints a parent is likely to hear as their children grow is "I'm bored!"

With all of the things that are available to occupy a child's time these days it would seem amazing that a child would even know the meaning of the word. Unfortunately, they do.

I believe it points to a lack of imagination and/or creativity on the part of the child; creativity and imagination should be developed, stimulated and encouraged as much as possible.

I cannot recall ever telling my parents "I'm bored", and if I ever heard them from my children, it was quite rare.

When we were children we did most of our playing in the out-of-doors. We dressed for the weather and headed outside, barring thunderstorms or cold rains. In our early years (pre-March 1967, when we moved) we played mostly by ourselves or with each other from the family, as most of our friends from school lived many blocks away from us. I spent countless hours playing variations of baseball by myself, quite contentedly. I threw a rubber baseball against the front steps of our half-double, calling out the lineups of the teams, describing the plays as I made them, and keeping score of the games. If I was not throwing a ball against our steps, I was throwing it against the steps of the church next door, or against the wall of the apartment building behind us. That must have driven the occupants crazy, hearing a constant themp, thump, thump rattling the walls. The only time anyone complained was when a small child was taking a nap, so I had to stop for awhile.

Robert T and I played together quite often, with "foil baseball" being a constant. Foil baseball took place when we could not find a whiffle ball to use in the backyard, so I would tear off huge chunks of aluminum foil (see! imagination at work!), wad it up, and it became our baseball. I would again do the announcing of the lineups for both teams, a possible foreshadowing of my current-day soccer announcing duties. Little brother still harrumphs to this day that I would intentionally stick in a left-handed batter for him to switch to whenever the score got too close.

I declare here and now that it was only the purest of coincidences that that ever occurred.

Really. I swear. Cross my heart and hope to fly.

We could not use a rubber ball with the wooden bat in the backyard, for fear of destroying windows, but I did once manage to hit a Superball over the roof of the church next door from our home plate spot. I never did find that ball again.

Our backyard was small and entirely made of dirt. Rumor had it that the yard once held grass, and that our constant playing there wore it out. Since I do not recall any grass other than scattered bits along the edges, it must have been Graybeard and The Stache who wore out all the grass.

There was a small crushed gravel driveway next to our backyard that was part of the church property. It had a blue hue, and it was probably Sainted Mother who christened it The Bluepart. We played games there, many involving a ball, and games of Mother May I, Simon Says, one-on-one touch football (me vs Robert T), bike riding, tag, and cowboys & Indians. On the hottest of summer days we would drag the garden hose, put on trunks or old shorts, and happily spray each other, running around until exhaustion. We then would dry off, Sainted Mother would spread a bed sheet out on the living room floor, and we would take a nap.

If there was enough rain we would find popsicle sticks, place them in the street gutter, and watch them negotiate the "rapids" down toward the sewer. What fun! They became our sailboats, sans sail.

If the weather was not conducive to outdoor activities, I spent innumerable hours reading the Hardy Boys books, among others. We made "scribble pictures", in which we took a sheet of paper and rapidly drew a twisting line of inter-crossed circles, spheres, loops, whorls and unnamed shapes with a pencil, followed by taking a box of Crayola 64 crayons and coloring in each and every new loop with a different color. Why? I theorize that Sainted Mother taught us that as a way to keep us busy and quiet.

We would build forts with colored blocks and stick in our army men, cowboys, Indians, and other assorted figures, and then "fight" a brother or sister by shooting rubber bands at the opposing army. Any soldier who was knocked over was dead, but we, for some unknown reason, had to either hit a sniper (aka "laying-down guy") multiple times or flip him over with a shot for him to be dead.

We built model cars, planes, and ships painstakingly and lovingly, and later we would send them zooming down the long linoleum hallway where they would crash into each other, pieces flying everywhere, or else they would go tumbling down the stairs to further destruction. If there were not enough plastic models to use, we supplemented these demolition derbies with metal cars, to the detriment of the plastic models.

We had a dart board in the basement, and for a while we also had a BB gun and target. No eyes were put out during the course of these activities.

We made simple fold-up paper airplanes that we launched into the stratosphere (well, a few feet off the floor anyway), made snowmen, had snowball fights, rode our bicycles a couple of miles to play Little League baseball, ran around in the warmer rains, and generally had a delightful time using our imaginations and 4xercising, all without thinking about it. We simply played and had fun.

Despite the occasional intrusions of The Real World, we had a great time actually playing.

Ahh, those were the days!


  1. And who could forget paper 'swords'? That brings back a wealth of arm burns to memory. Besides, I think you used a rock ball. Rubber hadn't been invented yet.

  2. I was going to bring up the sword - no fair! I'm telling! Don't forgot board games and card games - we played a ton of those and got a new one every Christmas Eve Day to keep us occupied and calmer while we waited. Also there were piano lessons, radios to listen to and building toys to play with. Who can forget sitting on the sides of the swing set while someone with roller skates pumped up high and jumped off to see how far they got and to avoid the rose bush! Don't forget roller skates, hula hoops, jump ropes, chalk and bubbles! Plus the two square tournements - we were sure blessed!

  3. One I forgot about was getting on the swing set and counting my forward swings until I reached 1,000 and then I would jump off.

  4. Some of those things sound interesting, maybe I'll try them. Who knows? Although some of them (such as building snowmen) are impossible to do here in The Land of Fruits and Nuts.

  5. Ig notr MegaByte - she has built a snowman, just had to go further north into the mountains. We have had snow here, but it's only ever just a dusting that lasts momentarily. Our friends at a slightly higher elevation have had snow last for almost a day, and in enough quantities to make small snowmen.
    We all forgot forts in the livingroom.

  6. Well, not in this part of the state, anyway. And that stuff we got shouldn't count as snow, just cold, white stuff.

  7. The only times I ever recall saying "I'm bored" were when I was grounded. Between sports teams and sports with friends I did not have time to be bored.

  8. There is something to be said for such memories, things that can never be taken from us, but which can come rushing back to life when so eloquently put into words. (And, yes, there was grass, and on one occasion a big, sink hole about which I never heard the explanation or a bottom sound).

  9. Perhaps the sink hole was from all the foxholes we used to dig, or it could have been a foreshadowing to the dreaded global warming.