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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matter: Reality versus imagination

Monday, August 6, 2007

(Photo)
Does it sometimes seem that life for today's children is almost too much of a "reality" show?

I usually try to avoid touting the good old days, because I really dislike sounding like an old lady. What else should I expect at my ripe age, you might ask, but you know what I mean. Still, in our childhood, in the middle of the great depression, my sister and I had a few dolls, even fewer other toys and probably less than a dozen books.

But I'm beginning to think that was not all bad, for it forced us to depend on our own imaginations for entertainment. We read those few good books over and over, by the way. My sister was pretty much the indoor type. She designed paper dolls, complete with wardrobes, and made furniture for them from match boxes, spools, and the like. Meanwhile, being an inveterate tomboy, I played outside.

We lived in that central Iowa area where the last glacier melted, depositing the rocks it brought with it. So every farmer had to bring them in from his fields and pile them in his barnyard. I suppose it was a real annoyance for my dad, but it was perfect "playground equipment" for me. I spent hours pretending to be a pirate, stashing loot in secluded nooks. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, imagining myself a queen reigning from her throne-- the topmost rock on the pile.

Then there was the grove, the windbreak planted to protect the farm site. That's where I went hunting with my stick-musket. If I happened to scare up a rabbit, I could easily imagine it was a bear, or at least a deer. In a more domestic mood, I crafted a playhouse each summer. I would choose a likely site, drag away the fallen branches and pull the few weeds that thrived in the shade. Next, with an old broom, I swept the area clean -- if you could call a dirt floor "clean". Then I outlined rooms with all the straight sticks I could find -- a living room, a bedroom and a kitchen. Furnishing my "digs" took even more ingenuity. Peach crates were most useful. Mother never tossed anything, so all the crates and cardboard boxes that came our way were available.

Though my sister seldom got involved, I did have a playmate. A couple of years younger than I, she lived with her grandparents about a mile down the road. It was a bit of a concession for me, but we usually played indoors at her house. She had two aunts, very stylish ladies, living in Des Moines, who came back to the farm for their vacation each summer. They often brought clothes along which they were ready to discard. We could play "dress up" for hours. At my place, though, we concentrated on our windbreak dwelling. I don't remember much of what we did after building it. Probably it wasn't long before we went into a remodeling mode.

If you have stayed with me through these ramblings, I'm now going to ask your opinion. Honestly, don't you think something's been lost, with all the realistic toys as well as the electronic devices kids have today, or am I just coming across as a cranky old lady?