Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Red Rubber Ball and Other Ephemera

Catherine had one of my husband's little blue raquetballs the other day, bouncing it, bouncing it, bouncing it. And, yeah, it got to be a little annoying... until it jarred a memory out of my head. (I'm having a lot of that lately. Does that mean I'm approaching my dotage, or what?)

When I was about eight years old, I had a red rubber ball. It was summer, we had a big driveway and miles of sidewalk surrounding us, and, for some reason, that summer I was all about that ball. (That and the Gilligin-style hat I incessently wore, but that's another story.)

Anyway, I was all about that ball. And all about bouncing it. Nonstop. Everywhere I went, except in the house, which my mother summarily forbade. But, I remember the addictiveness of the act of bouncing that red ball. There was something about the slight give of the hard rubber, the way it fit in my hand, the satisfying sound of its thud on the concrete, and the accomplishment of catching it hundreds of times in a row.... It just filled some gap in my soul, I guess. Or more likely, it was just something to do with my hands during an awkward season of my adolescence.

But the memory of that red rubber ball is a happy moment in my childhood.

Red Rubber Ball - The Cyrkle

There are a lot of silly little things that go into making memories of a happy childhood. We never went on a fancy vacation in our lives, our parents didn't go in for the latest gadgets or buy us expensive toys, but I remember my childhood through a happy, bazooka-bubble-gum-pink haze. Time passed slowly because we bounced and slinkied and silly-puttied through the years.

Do you remember growing up and going through game fads? We still did in the '70s and early '80s, anyway. There was the yoyo phase, which came on the tails of the Smothers Brothers show. Anybody remember that?

Then there was a marbles phase, and a jumping rope phase (American and Chinese), and throughout grade school, we obsessed at one time or another over jacks, cats cradle, magnifying glasses, and Madlibs. All our recesses and free time were taken up by one or another of these playground passtimes. Becoming proficient was a right of passage.

But, I can't help but wonder, and tell me honestly, do I sound like a hopeless old-timer waxing nostalgic here?

Do kids in general still enjoy these things? My children have, but I worry that it's because they're homeschoolers with a nostalgic mother who encourages it. It would be a sad thing if computers, i-pods, cell phones and wiis took the place of hopscotch, marbles, checkers, and jumprope. I hate to think of a world where a nine-year-old knows how to download a computer game but doesn't know what a cat-eye is, or where little girls text one another, but don't know how to skip in time to the "Cinderella dressed in yella" rhyme.

It's not just a few scattered families that keep these things alive, is it? Will the old playground games fade from the earth, like man's knowledge of the stars and the seasons? Will there be a day when these simple, untechnological pleasures are footnotes on Wikipedia? Tell me we aren't going there.

Because if we are, somebody better stop the merry-go-round; I want to get off.

(Please excuse the really weird formatting here. It would appear that I'm much better suited to playing with yoyos than to tinkering with the html on this silly computer. And now that I've messed it up, I can't seem to fix it. Go figure that! Can we just call it an "artsy" presentation of this post?)


His Servant: Ann Kraeger said...

Did we grow up next door to each other and not know it? You and I enjoyed the same things. Except I have to add an obsession with the book The Once and Future King in high school. I don't know why but for a year we read, reread and discussed that book to death. But the rest is all my growing up. Did you hoola hoop too? My kids have all been introduced to all of the same things just because I think that they are wholesome and simple and good for them. (besides mom enjoys visiting her childhood again)

Soutenus said...

I teach at a private Catholic school. My MA is in Education/Dance/PE so -- you know I ended up with PE classes (which I love)
ALL my kids (k-8th) are jumpin rope and hula hoopin.
We have competitions and cooperative games and encourage them to bring their ropes and hoops to school. Some of these VERY UPPER middle class kids had wiis and motorized toys and numerous laptops but NO jumprope or hula hoop.

Along with the requisite soccer,volleyball, b-ball, track, tennis, gymnastics, etc. I make sure they get the stuff, I believe, a fun childhood is made of!

These are things they can do forever and teach their kids! I also really like to get the parents involved.
I find that the larger families are more in tune with these lesson plans -- the parents just seem to "get it" AND their kids are way more coordinated on average.
Our "elite" small families are more apt to ask for tutors for these basics (really!)

Natalie said...

There are a couple of books I think you would like. The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls. Neither are dangerous or daring, but they have a lot of that good nostalgic information that little boys and girls should come into contact with when growing up. Hope you check them out when you get a chance and let us know what you think.

Marie said...

I can remember playing Red Rover all over, hot and pepper skipping rope, hop scotch, pick up sticks, statues, brandy(wet a tennis ball and then aim to hit the person standing against the wall who has to avoid getting hit..OK that's a deranged game LOL) oh yes the Hula hoop which I never see now in toy stores. and ofcourse marbles. Just a few of our games.

Peace to you Lisa:)

marie xoxoxooxo

MightyMom said...

a hoola hoop tutor? that's what I needed!! Not cuz I didn't have a hoop, but I never could make it go round...or catch that ball a zillion times ina row...or hit the paddle on the stringed-ball...or....well, I'm just a klutz.

not-so-fun-memories. all my happy times were spent sitting on a piano bench.

by the way...I answered your interview questions