I wonder what you can learn just by sitting on a park bench. Not long ago I was in Crystal Beach, a local park and pier in the Gulf of Mexico, enjoying the Florida sun and waiting for the sun to go down when I heard some kids bored and they were looking for something to do. During the conversation, they talked about their favorite games; they named Call of Duty, Batman: Arkham City and Portal 2. It was only then that I realized what they were talking about video games, and I must have thought about the games I played as a kid in Connecticut.
Then the emphasis was on getting out of the house and getting some fresh air. We were lucky enough to live in a wooded area with a creek flowing through the backyards of our community. We swam a lot and fished in the creek, where we mostly fished trout. The only organized sport we played at the time was Minor League baseball, but it seemed like we were always playing a recovery game wherever we were.
We rode bikes everywhere; at school, in baseball and in the store. One of our favorite attempts was to draw the surroundings to collect the used soda bottles and take them to the grocery store, where we returned them as collateral (two cents for a regular bottle, three cents or ten cents per gallon bottle). We took money and played golf on a nearby beach, stopping at a country shop to buy candy; for example, beer kegs, strips of paper in peas, candy, cheek crushers, spice straws, wax lollipops, sticks with liquorice and many other goodies.
Living in a wooded area, one of our favorite games was Hide and Seek, and we all learned some pretty tricky places to hide. So much so that you’ll need a few hours to play a few games. We also played Tag, Red Rover and Red Light/Green Light. Our fathers tried to teach us “Buck Buck” (a.g. “Johnny on the Pony”), but he never attacked us.
Once in the neighborhood staged a party with clams, and all adults were assigned different responsibilities, whether it was preparation, cooking, dessert, entertainment, cleaning or something else. Dad next door was responsible for not letting the kids down their hair so adults could do their jobs. To do this, he imagined a treasure hunt, during which he placed clues throughout the area, in certain places in the forest and in our school. He divided us into teams to make the game competitive. The hunt began in the morning with a huge boulder in his garden. After explaining the rules he told us where to find the carefully hidden clues and decipher them, which was quite diabolical, if I remember correctly. This lasted a few hours until late in the evening, when the hunt finally brought us back to his backyard rock, where he enjoyed the afternoon reading a book. It seemed rather ironic to us that the hunt ends where it started. He just laughed.
Then we went to dinner, and now we’re too tired to do anything but go to bed, which parents hoped when their casserole was about to start. Looking back, we realized that it was a brilliant parenting strategy.
At that time we had many other things that occupied our time: we sculpted small pieces, we caught fireflies in stone vessels, built forts in the forest, collected apples in the nearest garden and played. “German Dodge” for some reason). When it rained, we got together to play the Monopoly Marathon.
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