When Tina and I were kids, we grew up next to a wooded area that we fondly referred to as simply “the woods.” We spent a LOT of time down in the woods. A LOT! There was a huge tree that had fallen over that we would hoist ourselves upon and play for hours with the other neighbor kids. Oh. Did I mention the vine that dangled precariously from a nearby tree? You know where this is going! We would take turns jumping off the fallen tree onto the vine and swinging wildly through the trees until one day it snapped on one of our friends. Instead of fearing for her safety, we were just mad that the vine broke. And during the winter after a good snowfall, we would carve a sledding track through the trees and down to the bottom of the woods. Then we would drag a neighbor’s hose to the track and wet it down so that it would freeze into our own bobsled run. Genius! We’d grab our sleds, take a running start, jump on our stomachs and go. Wheeeeee! Nine times out of 10 we’d fly off the track and slide dangerously to the bottom narrowly missing (and sometimes hitting) trees along the way. Total. Blast! Oh. One more thing. I have absolutely NO memory of ANY parental guidance during our times in the woods. NONE. Or helmets. Definitely no helmets. Helmets were for nerds!
I was recently walking my dogs through a park down the street from my house, and I started taking notice of the playground equipment the kids were playing on. It was mostly made of heavy plastic or wood and it all sat on a pile of recycled rubber. LAME!! In the 70’s, our playground equipment was METAL and built on CONCRETE. We’d burn the crap out of our legs on the slide right before we crashed onto the concrete. Pass the burn cream, and let’s have another go at it! And teeter tottering was more of a death defying sport than a leisurely activity. Hold on tight, because the person opposite of you would slam their seat into the ground as hard as they could in the hopes that you’d pop off your seat high in the air and hit the dust. FUN! And why not throw around some lawn darts afterwards? Nothing quite as entertaining as throwing heavy, metal spears in the air and then trying not to get hit as they plummeted to the ground. Hours of fun for all of the kids!
Seatbelts were another story. As soon as our car hit the highway, Dad would yell back to us to let us know that it was now safe to remove our seatbelts. No need for seatbelts when traveling over 55 mph! When I was very young, I remember asking him why he never wore a seatbelt. “If we got into an accident,” he said, “I would be fine. My hands are on the wheel! I’m always holding on!” Made perfect sense. AT THE TIME. I’ll tell you what every kid loved in the 70’s, though. Station wagons! You could fit 4-6 kids and a game of Monopoly comfortably in the way back. Not only weren’t there seatbelts, but there were no SEATS. Who cares? Talk about fun! We’d beg the driver to take the corner with a sharp punch of the gas just so that we’d get flung around like ragdolls. And forget about safety locks. Just knowing that the back hatch could fly open at any moment just made everything that much BETTER!
And when did the term, “play date” come to fruition? What the heck is that? Kids of the 70’s certainly did not need to make a date to play. Saturday mornings would roll around and we’d watch our cartoons while gobbling down some Rice Krispies then OFF we’d go. Byeeeeee! See ya when the street lights come on! Then we’d jump on our bikes or skateboards (no, helmets!) and go find something fun to do. And this is when our little creative minds would run rampant! Ding dong ditch? SURE! King of the hill? YES! Pushing each other in a wagon as hard as we could down a steep hill? WHY NOT? The possibilities were endless! Who needs XBOX? Not us! We’ve got dirt, glue, and unsuspecting neighbors!
I’m not saying that kids of today aren’t as creative and ingenious as we were (yes, I am), but I’m so darn happy that I grew up without all the techy, mind numbing gadgets of today. At my age (46) I’d much rather have memories of my sister eating a giant Hershey’s kiss and rolling down a hill and throwing up than memories of the highest level of Candy Crush I achieved.
As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”