Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Joy of Playing Outside

Rock Island, June 1970

When I was a kid, I hated bright, sunny days.  I much preferred dark, cloudy, and rainy.

I know, it made me weird.  In People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck states that people who prefer cloudy days are evil, probably demon-possessed.

But I had a good reason for it:

Dark, cloudy days meant that I could stay inside and read, watch tv, or play with my toys.  But the moment the sun came out, my parents would demand "It's a nice day!  Go play outside!"

"But there's nothing to do out there!"

"Nonsense!  Use your imagination!"

They then deposited me on the doorstep with the demand that I not return.

One day in the summer of 1970, Mom deposited me outside at exactly 2:00 pm, and demanded that I not return until 4:00: "Two hours in the sun will do you good."

2:00: Usually I sought refuge with a friend whose parents weren't so unreasonable, but my boyfriend Bill was off visiting his grandmother and Greg (who gave me my first kiss) was sick. I knocked on Joel's door, but he wasn't home. I was stuck "playing outside."

2:10: I walked around, admiring the architecture of the houses, trying to distinguish between types of trees, examining ant hills and dandelions.

That took about 5 minutes.


2:15: I walked to Dewey's Candy Store on 22nd Avenue, avoided Dick the Mean Boy, browsed the aisles carefully, and selected a Mars Bar.  About 15 minutes.

2: 30: I walked to Schneider's Drug Store on 38th Avenue, across from the National Supermarket (now an Aldi's).  I   immersed myself in Donald Duck, Casper, and Little Lulu until the clerk yelled "Buy something or get out!."

2:45.  An hour and 15 minutes to go!




I saw a boy I knew from school, and asked "Want to play?"

Ok, but play what?  All of my games are inside.

Um...when my parents were kids, they divided into groups called "Cowboys" and "Indians" and tried to kill each other.

Sounds gross! I'm a pacifist!

We could race down 41st Street.  Whoever gets to 18th Avenue first wins!

Discussion, walking to the starting line, race, congratulations: 15 minutes total.

3:00.  A whole hour to go.  Would this torture never end?

Then I started noticing things.

A teenage boy mowing his lawn. A short-sleeved shirt open to reveal a patch of his tanned hairless chest, his biceps brown and hard.


Two guys repairing a roof, one older guy, one younger, maybe his son.  Their shirts tucked into their pants pockets.  Rippling muscles in their backs and shoulders.

My neighbor from down the block washing his car, naked except for plaid shorts and tennis shoes, husky, hairy, pale.


Three teenagers playing basketball in the schoolyard, their shirts off, their muscles gleaming in the sun.

Two guys hanging out in their backyard, wearing only swimsuits, probably getting ready to go to Longview Park Pool. One massive and solid, the other slim, with a tight chest and abs.

After that, I loved playing outside, especially during the hot days of midsummer.  It gave me lots of opportunities to use my imagination.

See also: Cruising at the Bookmobile

No comments:

Post a Comment