September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
My siblings and I were also blessed to grow up without an abundance of technology. My mom especially, understood that children need to play to learn and always gave us space and time to do so. We were great pretenders, from reenacting a scene from a favorite story or something one of us came up with on our own, our imaginations were growing as fast as we were on the farm.
We have a gigantic catalpa tree on the front lawn at the farm, that blooms with these sweet smelling white flowers well after all the other trees have budded out. Dad would give us old tractor inner tubes to bounce on (no trampoline at our place) and those combined with the flowers were the source of much creative play. Two tubes piled one on top of the other with a yellow blanket covering us up made a great tent. Then there was our rendition of 'Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.' The Snow White of the day had to lie across the blanket-covered tire while the dwarfs placed catalpa flowers all around her.
Stacy, Peter, Thomas, and I would construct an obstacle course across the lawn, with anything that was considered safe to sneak away from the shed. I must have had a love of gymnastics at the time because I vaguely remember making a balance beam out of blocks of wood. Bouncing on the tire and trying not to lose your balance, climbing monkey bars, staying on our homemade balance beam; definitely has the making of an Olympic sport.
Water fights were nothing short of crazy when we were younger. The rule was that you had to wait until chores were all done; no one likes to work in soaking wet clothes. Once that last cow was fed, the milkers all in the milkhouse, and the washer started, it was go time. Who needed squirt guns? We had calf pails, water hoses stretched out as far as they could reach, strip cups (remember those nice little metal cups?), maybe even empty ketchup bottles and Hershey syrup containers (they had pretty good range when they were full). There was always access to water, too. You could squeeze through the fence and reload from the cow's water tank, run to the house and use baby pool water, check the pen at the other end of the barn, and of course the milkhouse had an endless water supply. One of our most memorable water fights was with the four of us older kids and Dad after chores one summer evening. We all piled in the milkhouse to fill our water weapons up to prepare for another round of soaking Dad, when he somehow blockaded us in the milkhouse and shut off the main water supply. He made sure not to let us out until he was filled and had some water on stand-by; four against one really wasn't that fair until then.
I think our all-time favorite childhood game was one that we invented ourselves. I believe it was our watching Gladiators on TV that started the idea for this one. We managed to tie 15-gallon drums to the rafters in the shed with braided twine ropes just high enough off the ground for another kid to stand beneath it. These two contraptions faced each other, a few rafters apart, out of the way of the equipment, and our plans looked as though they might work. With one kid on each barrel and their chosen sibling on the ground being their pusher the game was ready. The goal was to knock the other one off of their barrel, but mind you these barrels are swinging at each other, and if you were strong enough to use your legs the barrel may come flipping up in the air as well. Gladiator games farmer style! As luck would have it, crazy as this sounds, I don't remember any of us falling off and having to go tell Mom what happened, I guess we were just that good (or lucky).
The haymow swing was one of the simplest thrills on the farm. We would see if we could spin in circles without hitting the beams, how long you could hold on when you were getting dizzy, and who could swing back and forth using the beams to keep up your momentum. There were years when the hay was piled too high for us to do much swinging, but then there were years when we could climb up the hay bales and stand on the wooden seat of the swing and fly through the air. Thomas and Tony are infamous for their building of hay bale forts and the thoughts to have their own hideout up in the peaked ceiling of the hay loft.
I remind myself constantly of how important it is to their learning that I let the boys concoct their own games and play creatively rough like we did growing up. Particularly when I spy them out the barn window balancing on the bars of the metal swingset reaching up as high as they can so they can take the pieces down and change the position of the swings to their designs. I just take a deep breath and think about how we played Gladiators in the shed, pray they'll be fine, and think this is only the beginning of their imaginations at play!
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