Monday, May 25, 2009

Harry Potter and the Storm Troopers

A vegetable garden is about experiencing the obvious, simple pleasures in life, the very elements that many of us neglect in the hurly-burly of daily with homegrown herbs, fresh tomato salads, and the sheer peace of growing your own food.

This is where my story begins, in my small utilitarian vegetable patch, tilling the rich earth...

I heard a strange noise. A noise I hadn't heard in years, outside. Children laughing. I stood up, raised the brim on my floppy straw hat, and peered over my Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses at the commotion coming from down the way. My Hispanic neighbor in the gray bungalow across the street was shooing her children out the door to play. Just then the front door of the house four lots down swung open and Sudanese kids (draped head to toe in full burkas) came running out. Soon, kids were playing up and down the block. They were running and jumping, lost in some game that involved one of them being Harry Potter and a bicycle as a space ship. A lost art form was being revitalized on our block, the art of summer-time playing.

As I crouched down and started to thin the radish sprouts, I thought to myself..."Why is this so strange to me?" and, "does this floral caftan make me look fat?" Well, I thought, we now live in a society where children get caught up in a fast-paced life by staying inside watching television for hours, pacified with XBoxes and Gameboys, and losing there imaginations inside a bag of potato chips. The knack of make believe has died.

I remember as a child (a child in the 70's), my mother would shove me out our front door early in the morning and tell me not to return until lunch. After a lunch of a dollop of cottage cheese and a ham sandwich, washed down with a Tab, I was back outside until dusk hit and my mom could be heard yelling from the front stoop,
"Ronnie, time to come in for dinner!"

Oh, those summers were magical. We would start out on our banana-seat bike, zooming to the TG&Y 6 blocks away, and buy our supplies for the day. These consisted of Bottle Caps, Chick O-Sticks, Pop Rocks, and Now & Laters, then ride down to the "concrete river", looking for items washed down the viaduct. Right before lunch, we would pull out all of our hot wheels and matchbox cars, and set up a demolition derby. The afternoon was set aside to pretend I was a Stormtrooper and the big tree by our house was the Death Star.

Were there injuries? Well, yes. That was part of it. They were your wounds of passage. I fell out of a tree, broke my arm roller skating, lodged a rock in my nose, ripped my scull open playing Batman, and once got splinters in my, well lets just say a bad area for a boy, while trying to scoot across a fallen telephone pole. And yes, my mom had to pull them out with tweezers.

I just read an interesting article in the magazine THE WEEK about the journalist Lenore Skenazy. She has been dubbed the worst mom in America because she let her 9 year old son ride the subway alone, and she explains why she has no regrets. To paraphrase her: (It is a great article) she says America has a total obsession of making childhood independence taboo. Google her if you want to read more. Skenazy says, "We have to be less afraid of nature and more willing to embrace the idea that some rashes and bites are a fair price to pay in exchange for appreciating the wonder of a cool-looking rock or an unforgettable fern."

So, as I finished watering my small raised vegetable bed, enjoying the carefree summer day, Jon called me in for breakfast.

"Ron...time for breakfast!"

I cut some basil off a plant to add to our eggs and thought about my neighbors, I commend them for allowing their kids to experience the simple pleasures in life.


Ron (and Jon and Atticus)


Tara said...

Henry plays outside more than any kid in our neighborhood. Poor guy is constantly making believe by himself because all the other kids HAVE to stay inside under constant watch. He's resorted to wrestling his life-size clown in his make-shift clubhouse but it's fine by me :)


matthew collins said...

I totally forgot all about TG&Y!