Dirt, action figures and growing up

 

When did we get too good to play in the dirt?

You know what I mean. Think back to when we were kids. As non-typical a boy as I was, I still got my hands soiled playing in the dirt a time or two. I remember sailing a leaf down a mountain stream and following it on its amazing adventure into the unknown. Simple things became flights of fancy and hours of entertainment.

What happened?

I’m sure you’ll say that we GREW out of it; that we’re too old for such childish adventures. We, as adults, simply can’t be bothered with such infantile things. Really? Since when? When did it happen? What was the point in time that we deemed making roads across our lawn and moving dirt in our dump truck to be so beyond us?

Baby playing with dirt
Baby girl playing with dirt

How about playing with our action figures. YES, action figures. I’m sorry, I never owned a doll, ever. Even that barbie or two that was around the house had its purpose in the adventure of the day. Those were tough times for female leads in the action adventure of my young mind. #wheresNatasha, right? But we made do. And for almost a decade, I played alone. Well, I’m not sure if you could qualify me as EVER alone. Besides my spiritual relationship with God, I was still never alone. I lived life early on with a cast of thousands. Fed by my consumption of constant cartoons, sitcoms and dramas, my world was inhabited by billions.

I see Spongebob and Patrick sitting in that box right now trying to explain to Squidward that it’s all about ‘IMAGINATION’ in my head right now, because I relate. My imagination kept me occupied. Yes, kids, before Nintendo, Sega, Microsoft and Sony saved us from ourselves (THANKS SO MUCH, BTW), we were left with few alternatives to amuse ourselves. If we got bored, our parents would answer with chores, because there’s always something to do, right. But, now, we as parents have become entertainment managers to our kids that have no reason to imagine anything. How long before this effects the writers and game developers of the future? How long before we see less and less imagination put into the games we play and the stories we consume? Oh, wait, we’re nearly there aren’t we?

There are a few bastions of creative, intelligent storytelling out there, but they’re getting scarce. Even comics are resorting to shock tactics to sell comics instead of writing great stories (*Cough*Captain*cough*America*Cough*). I don’t know. I fear for our literature and entertainment in the near future.

BUT, I digress.

I remember my sister. She was born seven years after me, so for the most part we were from different worlds. She was SO much younger and, well, she was a girl. But, miracles of miracles, I did not find an enemy or competition for my parents affections. No, I found someone to play with. And play, we did. I turned our action figures/dolls into new worlds. We went on adventures beyond either of our wildest dreams. I know it unnerved my old-school father to no end to see his teenage son playing ‘dolls’ in the floor with his sister who was half his age. And I felt that. But it didn’t stop me. It was as if I had all of this creative energy inside me, bubbling up, and it needed an outlet. I cherish my memories of that time. And remembering my sister begging me not to stop, I know she does too.

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Buzz ahead about a decade. Only child with too much imagination goes to college and meets the woman of his dreams. Of course, there was a baby; a son. Hitting my mid-twenties, I should have totally outgrown my desire to play with ‘dolls’…lol…action figures. But this little guy grew up to much the same age as my sister and lightening struck twice. I found not a child, but another companion on yet more adventures into the unknown. Yes, for years, I played with him in the floor. It was as if I never aged. It was like I had reverted back to simpler times when immersing ones self into imaginary worlds was expected and normal. I had such fun. And, once again, I keep those memories close and appreciate them so much.

So, what happens to us?

When do we decide we’re beyond such. I know I didn’t play as much with my other two boys. Of course, the video game industry had invaded like Big Brother and took the minds of our children from such things. Really? Are we loosing that wish to just run around in our own yard and clash with evil agents or super villains? Is that breaking point between ‘childish things’ like playing in the dirt, roleplaying with our friends across the neighborhood or breaking out the action figures one last time and acting mature or ‘normal’ coming earlier and earlier? At what age does imagination lose its appeal?

I’m sure this fear of mine is only because I’m ancient (I turn 53 this year). Please, parents of today, tell me the kids still play. Tell me they chase each other and get lost in flights of fantasy! For the love of childhood, tell me they’re not beyond playing in the dirt!

If it seems they have, maybe it’s not too late to introduce them to the art of play. Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for young budding imaginations. And, if those young minds you’ve become custodian of need fuel, I have buckets of action figures just waiting for a new generation.

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Never too old!!!

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