Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 2-4-13
Connie’s husband, Vern, made several wooden hobby horses last fall, and they showed me one in December. It was the kind of toy you’d find in a Victorian museum — simple, beautiful and crafted to last for generations — and for a moment I wished I was kid-sized again so that it could be ridden.
Jody, a coworker of ours, purchased one of them for her granddaughter and had us all laughing last week as she shared stories about how much the baby loved it. Standing in the back room of our pharmacy, the group of us, which included the manager, Lee, spontaneously started reminiscing about our own favorite toys.
“Whatever happened to those old, plastic horses that came on springs?” I asked, recalling how mine got rocked so enthusiastically that it bounced across the basement floor.
“They’re off the market, I think,” Lee pointed out. “Some kids caught their fingers in the springs.”
“I had a farm set,” Connie said from her work table. “I used to play with it for hours and hours!”
My personal favorite was a giant Barbie doll head that Mom bought so that I’d learn to style my own long hair. Instead, it was fascinating to do her make-up. “Do you remember that thing?” I asked my sister during our recent Saturday phone call.
“Oh yes, I certainly do!” Nancy giggled long-distance. “You used to be so quiet when you were painting her face that Mom and I took turns tip-toeing to the top of the staircase and peeking down to make sure you were OK. There you’d be,” she teased, “ever-so-carefully wiping stuff off with a washcloth and then reapplying.” Oh, the countless hours that my friends and I spent in that basement, painting watercolor pictures on lined paper; playing jacks or marbles; sculpting with Play-Doh; or pretending to run a grocery store in the colorful cardboard stand that Dad had put together. And that was just when we weren’t able to go outside.
When the weather was nice, the youngsters in our quiet, southeastern Ohio neighborhood could be found swimming in plastic, backyard pools, playing tag or Hide-and-go-Seek, jumping ropes, twirling Hula Hoops, or bouncing on Pogo sticks. With colored chalk, we drew elaborate streets, signs and parking areas on the Minturn’s huge, smooth driveway, and rode our banana seat bicycles around pretending they were cars. Borrowing a homemade go-cart which had once belonged to somebody’s grandfather, we took turns enthusiastically pushing each other down the gently sloping streets to see who got the fastest times. Often, as the sun was going down, our mothers had to practically drag each of us home by the hair for baths and bedtime — but the moment that the sun came up we’d be hard at it once again.
Along with Lois, Julie and Bobbie we’d hook ropes to a red wagon and pretend to be pioneers blazing the trail. Missy, Leigh, Stacy and I used to canter around and around our back yards, becoming horses. In the 1970s, after our real ones arrived, we switched to racing each other across the open cornfields, imagining that Tee, Dixie, Ralph and Princess were actually Thoroughbreds on the track. During the babysitting years, there were countless games of Candyland, Mousetrap and Battleship, not to mention a thousand puzzles and story time books. While in college, my dorm mates taught me how to play Backgammon, Parcheesi and pool. In hunting camp, it was Poker, using toothpicks instead of money, and at family gatherings or potlucks, Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary. But the one game that I’d almost forgotten was mentioned recently, at a wedding celebration of all places.
While toasting Laura, the bride, the best man mentioned that she was the only girl he’d ever known who’d played Twister in an airport. When I asked about it, she said that it had happened when her chamber orchestra (she has a Bachelor’s degree in violin) went on a trip to Europe. Someone had brought it along in their carry-on luggage, and since there was a layover at the Seattle airport, “We decided to whip out the Twister game. There were several of us involved and it was really fun.” Aside from a few weird looks from other, waiting passengers, “most people were entertained.” Just hearing about it made me want to start playing like a kid again, too … after all, there’s still time. ❖
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