Archived Story

Growing up in Connecticut

Published 10:09pm Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When I was a kid in grammar school a millennium ago, there were games and activities galore that didn’t require a bit of equipment. Do kids still play hide-and-seek, red rover, statues or climb trees anymore?
Hide-and-seek might vary, but basically a bunch of kids hid themselves while one person (it) counted to a predetermined number before heading out to find them. In red rover, you got to dare someone to “come over,” while statues had one child swinging several others who ended up in distinctive poses. The winning “statue” got to be the “swinger” the next time.
Or how about “Mother, may I?,” ringalievio, giant steps, even ring around a rosy for the little ones? Then there’s hopscotch, in which you need a small stone to toss into the game squares. We’d make a hopscotch outline in the dirt using a stick, or on some concrete if fortunate enough to have a piece of chalk.
As for climbing trees, I had a whole forest of them behind my home, but not all good climbers. My two favorites were a wild cherry (sweet) tree by the side of the highway where we children walked to school and a maple that sat at the edge of my parents’ yard.
(Of course we walked five miles to school, and it was uphill both ways. I exaggerate, but it was more than a mile.)
When that cherry tree came into bloom, we kids waited impatiently for the cherries. We never climbed the tree on the way to school, but coming home we were up there like a bunch of monkeys. I’d arrive home smeared with cherry juice, but I don’t recall my mother ever scolding me. After all, I was expected to wear that same dress to school the next day. Perhaps Mom knew a climbable cherry tree in her youth.
The bottom limb of the maple tree was just right for swinging up into its branches, and you’d often find me and Bobby, the kid from across the street, up there surveying the world. Bobby was a bit older than I, so his ideas seemed like good ideas to me — like the time he talked me into hauling an old mattress up into the tree and laying it across two limbs giving us a comfy spot to watch the clouds. However, the first time we plopped down on the mattress, it folded in two and slipped between the branches falling to the ground with us on it. We were unhurt — just surprised. I don’t think Mom ever knew of this escapade.
Grammar-school kids back then also came up with interesting ideas about recycling discarded items. Bobby found a set of four wheels and decided we could build a go-cart — it takes a boy to come up with an idea like that. He and I scoured the neighborhood and came up with bits of wood, old broom handles, pieces of tin, some fabric and the round bottom of a peach basket for a steering wheel.
We actually put together something that worked, and I was the designated driver. Bobby wasn’t stupid. He strapped me into the contraption — using perhaps the world’s first seat belt — then gave the go-cart a shove down the long, winding hill at the end of our street. All was well until I was about halfway down. Suddenly the peach-basket-bottom-steering-wheel was not working. Before you could say Jack Robinson, I veered off the road and hit a large rock. (Connecticut is famous for its rocks, large and small.) Other than shaking me up a bit, I was unhurt — the seat belt had done its job. I don’t think Mom ever knew about this adventure either.
Then there was a shorter route to school that took us through a neighbor’s yard. We never gave it a thought that the Thompsons might not appreciate us traipsing across their lawn — we actually wore a path. But what was unusual about this yard was that just a few feet from the front porch the lot dropped off into a long, steep hill that was great for winter sledding. We’d all be there sliding down Thompsons’ hill. Having a sled was good, but even a large piece of cardboard or a big, old dish pan worked. And no one ever complained.
Do you reminisce about those long-ago days, the simple games and fun times you enjoyed that made life worth living? If so, like me, you were lucky to be a kid way back then.

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